China: Celebrations, Holidays, and Customs
China is one of the world’s largest countries, and it has a population of about 1.3 billion. It is also a country that has a very rich history and a wonderful culture. The Chinese festivals are some of the best representations of Chinese culture, and they are very enriching experiences for the Chinese people.
Several festivals are celebrated in China every year. The major traditional festivals include the Spring Festival, the Lantern Festival, the Qing Ming Festival, the Dragon Boat Festival, the Mid-Autumn Festival, and the Double Ninth Festival. Besides traditional festivals, the ethnic Chinese communities also celebrate their own festivals which include the Torch Festival of the Yi people, Water Sprinkling Festival of the Dai people, the Nadam Fair of the Mongolian people, the Third Month Fair of the Bai people, the Antiphonal Singing Day of the Zhuang people, the Tibetan New Year, and many others.
The Dragon Boat Festival is also known as Double Fifth Day, and it falls on the fifth day of the fifth Chinese lunar month. Dragon boat races are the highlight of the festival, and they draw huge crowds of people. Then, there is the Ghost Festival, which is celebrated on the fifteenth day of the seventh lunar month. The ancestors of the Chinese people are paid homage as it is believed the ghost of ancestors will come out on this day. Qi-Xi, or the Magpie Festival, is yet another major festival, and it is celebrated on the seventh lunar month of the Chinese calendar. Sometimes referred to as the Chinese Valentine’s Day, it is a time when young girls demonstrate their love for their lovers by giving out various crafts, one of which is a carved melon.
The Chinese Moon Festival, also called the Mid-Autumn festival, is celebrated on the fifteenth of the eighth lunar month. The Moon Festival is a key festival, just as Thanksgiving and Christmas are to Westerners. It is a romantic festival, too. When the night is clear and the moon glimmers, lovers spend the romantic night together savoring wine and delicious moon cakes, which are specially made for the festival. Much Chinese poetry has been devoted to the Moon Festival, which celebrates the joy of togetherness. The origin of the Moon Festival can be traced back to the time of the Xia and Shang dynasties (2000 BC to 1066 BC) when the Chinese people started worshipping the moon. It was during the Southern Song Dynasty (1127 AD to 1279 AD) that the custom of sending moon cakes to relatives was adopted. People in different parts of China also have their own local customs when celebrating the festival, which include the burning of incense, lighting of lanterns, planting Mid-Autumn trees, and taking part in fire dragon dances.
The Chinese New Year, or the Spring Festival, falls on a different date every year. This is because the Chinese calendar follows the indications of lunar as well as solar movements. Hence, every few years, an extra month is inserted to keep the Chinese lunar calendar synchronized with the solar calendar. The Chinese New Year is celebrated for more than two weeks. It starts with the new moon on the first day of the Chinese New Year and ends on the full moon. The 15th day is celebrated as the Lantern Festival, wherein lanterns are displayed, and the children participate in a parade, carrying lanterns. The New Year’s Eve and the New Year’s Day are occasions when families reunite to honor their ancestors and gods. The Chinese started celebrating the Spring Festival about 4000 years ago.
Public holidays in China in the lunar calendar are observed for the Qing Ming Jie, the Dragon Boat Festival, Qi Xi, Ghost Festival, Lantern Festival, Double Ninth Festival, and of course, the Mid-Autumn Festival and the Chinese New Year. Furthermore, state holidays are declared on New Year's Day, Labour Day, Chinese Communist Party Founding Day, Army Day, and National Day.
The Chinese festivals and Chinese culture go hand in hand. The festivals define the vibrant spirit of the Chinese people, and they act as a mirror that displays the valuable customs, religious beliefs, and moral principles of China.