9 Major Chinese Festivals that You Need to Know

Spring Festival - Chinese New Year
Photo By Wikipedia.org

Spring Festival – Chinese New Year (January/February)

It is normally in the winter of a year. The specific date would follow the one in the Lunar Calendar. Going Into the New Year month, every household would clean and tidy both the inside and outside their homes. New Year food would likewise be prepared.  ‘Lin Gao’, the Chinese cake signifying the increase of the family every year, would be a must. New Year couplets would be displayed around the house. All families would be busy till New Year’s Eve and a huge New Year Eve’s dinner would be served for the gathering to welcome the beginning of a New Year. Children and single grownups would love the occasion due to the fact that red envelopes would be provided to them from all married couples and older generations. As a custom, on the very first couple of days of the very first lunar month, individuals would invest their time going to buddies and family members.

Read more about red envelopes in our article: “Hongbao – The Chinese Red Envelopes” Opens in a new tab.

Spring Lantern Celebration/ Yuen Siu Celebration (January/February)

Lantern Festival marks the completion of the Chinese New Year (Spring Festival) period and celebrated on the 15th day of the first Chinese lunar month. It is likewise the very first full moon night in the Chinese calendar, marking the return of spring and representing the reunion of family.

Individuals will go out to look at the moon, send up flying lanterns, fly brilliant drones, eat, and enjoy time together with friends and family in parks and natural locations.

Related Reading: “Chinese Traditional Lanterns: History, Meaning, and How They Are Used” – Opens in a new tab.

Ching Ming Festival (March/April)

It is also called Tomb Sweeping Day and is a day when people visit the tombs of their ancestors. People commemorate and show respect to their ancestors by visiting their graves. Sticks, incense, and joss paper (representing money) offerings would be burnt for the dead individuals. They sweep the tombs, remove the weeds, and add fresh soil. Also, some individuals tend to bring chrysanthemum, so keep in mind not to give chrysanthemum to Chinese people. It is also a day when the dead wander over the ground and so often people bring willow branches or hang them out of their doors to keep the ghosts away.

Flying kites is also an important practice taken pleasure in by lots of people, young and old, during the Qingming Celebration. Its uniqueness lies in that kites are not just flown throughout the day but also at night.

The day prior to Tomb Sweeping Day was the traditional Chinese Cold Food Day. As time passed, the two festivals were slowly integrated into one. On the cold food festival day, people used no fire and just ate cold food.

The traditional Qingming festival foods include sweet green rice balls, Qingming Cakes, peach blossom porridge, Qingming snails, and eggs.

Birthday of Tin Hau (April/May)

It is not a big festival but a really important one for the population of fishing islands. It is an opportunity for them to show respect and gratefulness to the sea goddess, Tin Hau, for their great catches in the sea and to pray for safety, security, good weather, and full fishing nets over the next year.

Cheung Chau Bun Festival (April/May)

This festival belongs to Cheung Chau Island. Everything began with a plague that ravaged Cheung Chau in the late Qing dynasty (1644– 1911). The islanders constructed an altar in front of the Pak Tai Temple and petitioned the god Pak Tai to drive off the evil spirits besieging the island while parading statues of divine beings through the narrow lanes of their village. The plague ended after the efficiency of these Taoist rituals. 100 years later the rituals are still performed in a festival that is listed as a part of China’s cultural heritage. In the past, people were climbing bamboo towers that were covered with blessed cookies outside. The higher one would climb, the more luck would have next year. The competition was banned in 1978 after an accident. People on the island would keep vegetarian for 3 days throughout the celebration.

Dragon Boat Festival
Image by lyingmonkey from Pixabay

Dragon Boat Festival (June)

Also known as Duanwu Festival, is a festival to show respect to the patriotic poet Qu Yuan, who drowned himself to protest against his emperor. Rice dumpling, which is popular throughout the celebration, is made of glutinous rice, salted meat with salted egg yolk, and covered with bamboo leaves. It is thought that these dumplings would frighten any fish which would harm the body of Qu Yuan after jumping into the river. Some think that the dragon boat celebration began prior to the death of Qu Yuan.

The dragon boat has the head and a tail of a dragon. Since the dragon is the god of the water world, after the dragon boats sail in the water, the water will be blessed. It is also a custom for people to clean their hair and body with the blessed water on the day so as to be blessed for the coming year.

Dragon boat racing is the most important activity during the Dragon Boat Festival. Throughout the races, dragon boat groups paddle harmoniously and fast, accompanied by the noise of beating drums. It is stated that the winning group will have the best of luck and a happy life in the following year.

Hungry Ghost Festival  (August/September)

According to traditional Chinese belief,  it is the time when the gate of Hell opens and all and spirits go back to the living world. Household members normally provide a sacrifice to their departed ancestors and loved ones throughout the month and on Ghost day. They are honored with tasty food three times a day on a table. The family’s ancestral tablets and photos will be placed on the table with incense burning near them. Individuals likewise commemorate those unidentified wandering ghosts with food and burn “hell money” (wads of fake paper money) to please them and to prevent get harm by them.

In addition, people must not respond or walk to anyone calling them when strolling in the street at night.

On the evening of Ghost day, people also make lanterns and float them on the river to assist their loved ones to find their way back home.

The month of Hungry Ghost Festival is, typically speaking, an unfavorable time to do anything. Numerous significant milestones are avoided at this time, as individuals believe it’s just bad luck.

Chinese believers prevent traveling or carrying out any substantial events throughout the celebration. Businessmen prevent riding in planes, purchasing a residential or commercial property, or closing company deals during the Hungry Ghost Festival.

Moving house or getting married are discredited throughout this time – it’s believed that ghosts will screw up one’s plans throughout the celebration, so your house or your marriage might be endangered at this time.

Swimming is also a frightening prospect – kids are told that hungry ghosts will pull them under, so they will have a soul to take their place in Hell! The origin of the Hungry Ghost Festival and Ghost Month in China is uncertain.

Mid-autumn Festival (September/October)

Mid-autumn Festival (September/October)
File source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Moon_Cakes.jpg

Mid-Autumn Festival is the second important traditional festival in China. It’s a time of family reunion that makes the festival also called the Reunion Festival. So, People from far away will try to come back home for the family gathering.  On the Mid-Autumn Festival night, the moon is full and bright. So it is called the Moon Festival as well. The Mid-Autumn Festival falls in September or early October in the Gregorian calendar.

People generally celebrate the festival at night. The moon at that night is especially round and bright, symbolizing peace, prosperity, and family reunion. Family members usually talk, drink, and eat under the full moon.

Mooncake is the present you provide to your buddies and family members at the festival.  Usually, they have round shapes which in Chinese culture, symbolizes completeness, and reunion. Therefore, the sharing and consuming of round mooncakes amongst relatives during the week of the celebration symbolizes the completeness and unity of families.

It is a joyful time particularly for the children because they would delight in strolling in the streets with their lanterns.

Click here to see some delicious Moon Cakes or here for Moon Cakes Molds– Opens in new tab.

Watch on the following video the Chinese Legend of Mid-Autumn Moon Festival

Chung Yeung Festival also called the Double Ninth Festival. (October)

There has actually been a legend from the East Han Dynasty. A man (Jing Huan) according to the advice of a wise man, he had to leave the house and go to a hilltop to avoid a catastrophe that would kill all lives there.  So he left the house with his family and consumed chrysanthemum wine as he had actually been told. When he came back, he discovered that the mass slaughter of all had actually happened. Ever since, after almost 2000 years, it is believed that it is a day when people must leave the house in order to show their respect for their forefathers.

Flying kites is another fun tradition at Chung Yeung Festival. While this custom provides entertainment for children has its roots in the sweeping aloft of bad luck. Many Chinese people believe that bad luck will leave on the kite and not return to the earth.

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Featured Image By Wikimedia Commons