China's Festivals and National Holidays
China currently has 7 official national holidays
were major changes made to Chinese public holidays in 2008. The Labor
Day golden week was abandoned and replaced by the three new holidays
named Qingming festival, Duanwu festival and Mid-Autumn festival. A
characteristic of Chinese holidays is that holidays that fall on a
weekend are usually swapped with the closest weekday so that there can
be a longer period of celebration. Like all other country's national
holidays, those of the Chinese often represent their unique culture and
heritage. It's good to be aware of these holidays if you plan to travel to China
so that you can plan appropriately.
New Year's Day (1 Jan)
This is the start of a new Gregorian calendar and is a day for
reflection and relaxation in China. However, keep in mind that this is
not a particularly festive time of the year as it is in the western
world since the Chinese celebrate New Year according to their own lunar calendar
Chinese New Year
Starting with the Chinese New Year, as this
celebration kicks off the events and festivals in China, you will
actually find this referred to as the Spring Festival in China itself.
This is the longest and most important holiday in the country and you
will find that different regions have their own individual ways of
celebrating this important holiday. There are several elements that are
consistent across the country though, so you will get to experience
these wherever you are visiting.
Like Christmas and the New Year in the Western world, the Chinese New Year is a time for families and friends to get together to eat meals, and exchange gifts
The tradition of giving red envelopes (hongbao) is very common, and
inside these red envelopes are monetary gifts. Homes, stores, streets
and offices are decorated with duilian which are lines of poetry that
wish good fortune and health on those who pass by.
The parades that include dragon dances or lion dances are the most
revered by tourists coming to visit China as these dragons and lions
are a very strong part of the identity of the Chinese. Fireworks are
also in abundance, and, in all, the celebrations cover a period of two
weeks, culminating with the Lantern Festival on the fifteenth day.
Thousands of lanterns illuminated in the night makes this a very
beautiful and moving event to witness.
This festival falls on the fifth solar term of the Chinese lunar
calendar and generally takes place on either the 4th or 5th of April on
the Gregorian calendar. This is a day to remember and honor ancestors
at grave sites. Tombs are swept and gifts are offered to these
ancestors in the form of tea, food, wine and more. Willow branches are
sometimes carried or put up outside homes to fend off the evil spirit
wanderer of Qingming. During Qingming, people also go on outings with
their families, sing, dance and enjoy the outdoors. Couples begin to
court and traditionally kites are flown in the shape of characters from
the Chinese opera.
Labor Day (1 May)
Labor Day was initially a three-day holiday in China; however, it was
reduced to a one-day holiday in 2008. Like other countries, Labor Day
in China celebrates the work of the general labor movement.
Dragon Boat Festival
China's Dragon Boat Festival is another of the more famous festivals
celebrated here, largely because dragon boat festivals have become
popular in the Western world too. Officially known as Duanwu in China
, and also sometimes as the "Double Fifth", this festival takes place on the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar.
The Dragon Boat Festival is thought to be an ancient festival in China,
though its origins are debated, with different traditions preferred in
differing regions of the country. The most popular theory is that the
festival commemorates the death of the poet Qu Yuan
The local people of the ancient state of Chu dropped sticky rice
triangles that were wrapped in bamboo leaves into the river so that
they would feed Qu Yuan in the afterlife, and then they paddled out in
boats to scare away the fish. It's the paddling in boats that is
thought to have given birth to the dragon boat festival.
If you're coming to China to experience the Dragon Boat Festival, the
highlight is probably going to be the dragon boat racing, but the
festival also includes the preparation and eating of some very tasty
foods and drinks, along with some ancient rituals that are said to
promote health and wellbeing. The date of the Dragon Boat Festival
changes each year, plus festivities can take place at different times
in different cities.
Known also as the moon and lantern festival
, this holiday is
held during a full moon on the fifteenth day of the eighth month in the
Chinese calendar (generally September or early October). This is a day
to gather families and/or crops, give thanks for unions/harvests and
praying for babies, a spouse, longevity, beauty and other similar
National Day (1 Oct)
This day celebrates China's day of independence. Government-organized
events such as concerts and massive firework shows are hallmarks of the
celebration on this day. Places of public significance are decorated
and portraits of past leaders are displayed.
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