Nine Nines Countdown Calendar + Free Printables

From December 21 to 23, people abandon their nine-to-five jobs to return home for dumpling soup and table games, celebrating Winter Solstice or the commencement of winter.

For ancient Chinese, winter not only brought sore throats and sniffly noses, but represented an illness itself, a glut of boredom and yearning for warmth. Households remedied their seasonal depression by “Counting Nine Nine”, or counting down eighty-one coldest days of the winter season. By identifying winter’s rhythmic progression in different stages, ancient scholars divided the entire winter season into 9 intervals with each interval consisting of 9 days. The book Customs and Folk Arts in Chu Country荆楚岁时记 written during Northern and Southern Dynasties 南北朝 stated that “starting from winter solstice, count nine by nine, that is eighty-one days, then that is the end of winter.”

Why specifically count by nine? To recall the Chinese’s auspicious compulsion, the number nine symbolizes regality and opulence, the prosperity of an empty throne waiting to be conquered. 

As COVID persists, and the winter poses arduous challenges from most across the world, we really need a countdown the days. I present to you three free Nine Nine Calendar printables and their histories; treat these as bullet journals to check in with yourself and stay in-tune with your surrounding climate.

Types of Nine Nine Calendars

Nine by Nine Coins

The Weather Coin Grid is the most universal edition of the Nine Nine advent calendar. Segregated by grids – 3 rows down and 3 columns across –  to make 9 squares, each square hosts 9 ancient paper coins printed in black and white. The 81 total coins represent the tedious 81 days of winter.  Customarily, directions at the bottom of the sheet demonstrates how to color in the coins: for example, ”up cloudy, down sunny, left windy, right rainy, snow frost in the center.” Colors represent different weather patterns: teal for cloudy, orange for sunny, lime for windy, purple for rainy, and light blue for snow and frost.

Instructions: each day, color in the weather following the key below:

  • cloudy = teal
  • sunny = orange
  • windy = lime
  • rainy = purple
  • snow and/or frost = light blue

Plum Blossom Advent Calendar

Instead of nine coins, the plum blossom coloring sheet offers nine petals on a branch. By coloring one petal everyday, the artists completes the painting while plum blossoms begin to sprout from the ground. Not only another a tonic for boredom, the plum blossom advent calendar foreshadows the arrival of spring.

Instructions: each day, color in the weather following the key below:

  • cloudy = teal
  • sunny = orange
  • windy = lime
  • rainy = purple
  • snow and/or frost = light blue

Nine by Nine Calligraphy Calendar

The calligraphy advent activity, also known as “Writing Nine 写九”, fancies artists with a hand for penmanship. Writing nine originates from the pampered Qing Dynasty palace: in The Decrees and Regulations of the Qing Dynasty 养吉斋丛录, author Wu Zhengyu 吴振棫 explained that the Hanlin Academy required all of its elite scholars to complete the Nine Nine Calligraphy Advent Calendar every winter.

By tracing the Chinese characters in “亭前垂柳珍重待春風” one brush stroke a day, the completed sheet of this nine-word poem whispers “the willow in front of the gazebo devoted in wait for spring breeze.” Each Chinese character in this poem consists of no more, no less, but exactly nine calligraphic strokes. One stroke a day for nine days would complete one character. After each finished character, winter ends.  

Instructions: fill in one stroke of each day. Keep in mind that in Mandarin, the line you draw without picking up your pencil constitutes “one stroke.”

While countdown calendars may seem silly, only appropriate around Christmas, each day provides you an opportunity to check in with yourself, to recognize the brevity of now, and the cultivate an hopeful excitement for the future.

Published by holidaysallyearround

For most cultures, holidays serve as the only opportunities in the year in which we come together: to reunite with faraway relatives, reconcile our past ancestors, and refill stomachs. And for most, holidays fall deep into history, myths, or grandma's fictitious tales that dictate the food boiling after a sacrificial ceremony to the decorations adorned on doors.

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