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Chinese Festivals and Holidays

 

January 1st This day is not celebrated as much as it is in other parts of the world because it is overshawdowed by the Chinese New Year (Lunar Festival).

Spring Festival - Chinese New Year

In year 2000, it starts on 5th of February, which is the 4697th Chinese year.

Chinese believe that the first king of China was King Yellow (he was not the first emperor of China who completed the Great Wall). King Yellow became a king in 2697 B.C. , therefore year 2000 is the 4697th Chinese year.

The Chinese New Year is now popularly known as the Spring Festival because it starts from the Begining of Spring (the first of the twenty-four terms in coodination with the changes of Nature). Its origin is too old to be traced. Several explanations are hanging around. All agree, however, that the word Nian, which in modern Chinese solely means "year", was originally the name of a monster beast that started to prey on people the night before the beginning of a new year (We are talking about the new year in terms of the Chinese calendar).

One legend goes that the beast Nian had a very big mouth that would swallow a great many people with one bite. People were very scared. One day, an old man came to their rescue, offering to subdue Nian. To Nian he said, "I hear say that you are very capable, but can you swallow the other beasts of prey on earth instead of people who are by no means of your worthy opponents?" So, swollow it did many of the beasts of prey on earth that also harrassed people and their domestic animals from time to time.

After that, the old man disappeared riding the beast Nian. He turned out to be an immortal god. Now that Nian is gone and other beasts of prey are also scared into forests, people begin to enjoy their peaceful life. Before the old man left, he had told people to put up red paper decorations on their windows and doors at each year's end to scare away Nian in case it sneaked back again, because red is the color the beast feared the most.

From then on, the tradition of observing the conquest of Nian is carried on from generation to generation. The term "Guo Nian", which may mean "Survive the Nian" becomes today "Celebrate the (New) Year" as the word "guo" in Chinese having both the meaning of "pass-over" and "observe". The custom of putting up red paper and firing fire-crackers to scare away Nian should it have a chance to run loose is still around.

However, people today have long forgotten why they are doing all this, except that they feel the color and the sound add to the excitement of the celebration.

The biggest and most celebrated festival in China and south east Asia. New Year's Eve dinner is the most important event when the whole family is present. Special foods are served and more meat than the usual is prepared. Fireworks will break the night, scaring the demons and bad luck away. Pictures of the Door Gods will be posted on the outside door with couples limned in bright red. Folk art poster, paper cutting and lucky wordings on bright red paper will be posted on the wall and windows.

The Lantern Festival

15th of 1st month of Chinese Calender

It marks the end of the Chinese New Year Season, always 15 days after Lunar New Year Day. Lantern exhibits, lion and dragon dances, and eating Tang Yuan (ball-shaped boiled sweet rice dumplings with delicious stuffings) are events today. It is very much celebrated in the rural areas by farmers.

The Eve of the New Year is very carefully observed. Supper is a feast, with all members coming together. One of the most popular course is jiaozi, dumplings boiled in water. "Jiaozi" in Chinese literally mean "sleep together and have sons", a long-lost good wish for a family. After dinner, it is time for the whole family to sit up for the night while having fun playing cards or board games or watching TV programs dedicated to the ocassion. Every light is supposed to be kept on the whole night. At midnight, the whole sky will be lit up by fireworks and firecrackers make everywhere seem like a war zone. People's excitement reach its zenith.

Very early the next morning, children greet their parents and receive their presents in terms of cash wrapped up in red paper packages from them. Then, the family start out to say greetings from door to door, first their relatives and then their neighbors. It is a great time for reconciliation. Old grudges are very easily cast away during the greetings. The air is permeated with warmth and friendliness. During and several days following the New Year's day, people are visiting each other, with a great deal of exchange of gifs. The New Year atmosphere is brought to an anti-climax fifteen days away where the Festival of Lanterns sets in. It is an occasion of lantern shows and folk dances everywhere. One typical food is the Tang Yuan, another kind of dumplings made of sweet rice rolled into balls and stuffed with either sweet or spicy fillings.

The Lantern Festival marks the end of the New Year season and afterwards life becomes daily routines once again. This description is based upon the recollection of my own experience. Customs of observing the New Year vary from place to place, considering that China is a big country not only geographically, but also demographically and ethnically. Yet, the spirit underlying the diverse celebrations of the Chinese New Year is the same: a sincere wish of peace and happiness for the family members and friends.

Women's Day

March 8 International Women's Day

Women employees will get a whole or an half paid day-off on the day.

Chinese QingMing

5th of 3rd Month of Chinese Calender Qing Ming

A day when people visit cemeteries to pay respect to their departed ancestors.

Water Splashing Festival

Mid April Chinese Calender

The most important festival of the year for the Dai people in Xishuangbanna, Yunnan Province. A festival that washes away the demons of the old year and welcomes the joy of the new.

May 1 Labour Day

Employees will enjoy a paid day-off. Celebration parties in parks took place as parades on the day.

May 4th Chinese Youth Day

Commemorating the 1919 student demonstration against foreign aggression.

Dragon Boat Festival

5th of 5th Month of Chinese Calender

It is in memory of a great patriot poet of the State of Chu during the warring States period (475-221 B.C.), Qu Yuan who drowned himself to protest his emperor who gave in to the bully State of Chin. To avoid the fish to consume his body, people of Chin launched their boats and threw rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves into the river where he was drowned to feed the fish. People today still eat the bamboo-leaf rice dumplings (zong zi). Teams of dragon boats, similar to long canoes, train for weeks for the contests in this day, not only in China, but also in other Asian countries with Chinese populations.

Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival

15th of 8th month of Chinese Calender Mid-Autumn Festival

This is a festival for people who love to admire the full moon, while the moon on this day is the fullest and largest to the eye. The whole family gather together, feasting in good wine, fruits, nuts and cakes.

As in most ethnic holidays, there are legends to honor. The most popular legend for this holiday is traced to the year 2000 B.C. This is the story of Hou Yih, an officer of the imperial guards.

One day, ten suns suddenly appeared in the sky. The emperor, greatly perturbed and fearful that this occurrence presaged some great evil to his people, ordered Hou Yih, an expert archer, to shoot nine of the suns out of the sky. The great skills with which Hou Yih accomplished this feat impressed the Goddess of the Western Heaven.

Since Hou Yih was also a talented architect, the Goddess commissioned him to build her a palace made of multicolored jade. His work so pleased the Goddess that she rewarded him with the possibility of everlasting life. She gave him the elixir of immortality in the form of a pill. He was not to swallow the pill until he had undergone a year of prayer and fasting. Hou took the pill home and hid it.

Hou's wife was a divinely beautiful woman named Chang Oh. One day she discovered the hidden pill and she swallowed it. The resulting punishment was immediate and Chang Oh found herself airborne, bound for eternal banishment on the moon. As she soared upwards, her husband, Hou Yih, desperately tried to follow but was swept back to earth by a typhoon. Chang Oh's divine beauty enhanced the brilliance of the moon with her own radiance. Now, Chinese people gather each Moon Festival to admire her.

Nadam Fair

July / August Nadam Fair

A seven-day Mongolian festival featuring horseback riding, archery and wrestling.

National Day

October 1

It is the anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949. Employees enjoy two paid-day off. Celebrations usually take the form of parties in amusement parks by day and fire-works and grand TV ensembles during the evening.

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