Once you have arrived there will be plenty to keep you busy, but depending on the time of year, here are a few events taking place…
Spring (May – May)
Qingming Festival (Tomb-Sweeping Day)
Qingming Festival (also known as Pure Brightness Festival or Tomb-Sweeping Day) falls on either April 4th or 5th of the Gregorian calendar, and is one of the Chinese 24 Solar Terms. From that date temperatures begin to rise and rainfall increases, indicating that it is the crucial time for plowing and sowing in the spring. The festival therefore has a close relationship with agriculture. However, it’s not simply a seasonal symbol; it’s also a day of paying respect to the dead and enjoying a spring outing.
Qingming Festival involves various activities, including tomb sweeping, a spring outing, and flying kites. In the past, locals would practice customs such as wearing willow branches on the head and riding on swings as the festival is a combination of celebrating happiness and honoring the departed.
During the Spring months, China has fairs all over the country from Peach Blossoms to Lotus fairs and festivals.
Summer (May – August)
Double Seventh Festival
Falling on the seventh day of seventh lunar month, the Double Seventh Festival in China is almost equivalent to Valentine’s Day in Western countries. As it’s a day of great importance to girls, the event is also called Young Girls’ Festival. Because of the beautiful legend about Niu Lang and Zhi Nu (the Chinese Romeo and Juliet), the festival has come to symbolize great romance.
Dragon Boat Festival
Celebrated on the 5th day of the 5th month according to the Chinese Lunar calendar, the Dragon Boat Festival is one of great significance. It has been held annually for more than 2,000 years and is notable for its educational influence. The festival commemorates the memory of the patriotic poet Qu Yuan (340-278 BC), and serves as an occasion for Chinese people to build their bodies and dispel diseases. Many legends circulate around the festival but the most popular is the legend of Qu Yuan.
Many traditional customs and activities are held by Chinese people and by people in neighboring countries, they include: dragon boat racing, eating zongzi (pyramid-shaped glutinous rice wrapped in reed or bamboo leaves), wearing a perfume pouch, tying five-color silk thread and hanging mugwort leaves and calamus.
Autumn (September – November)
Chongyang Festival (Double Ninth Festival)
Held on the 9th day of the 9th lunar month, Chongyang Festival is also called the Double Ninth Festival. In Chinese, nine is regarded as the number of Yang (meaning masculine as opposed to Yin which is feminine). The ninth day of the ninth month is the day that has two Yang numbers, and “chong” in Chinese means double which is how the name Chongyang came to be. Itís a day of eating Chongyang cake, drinking chrysanthemum wine, climbing mountains, and paying homage to chrysanthemums.
Chrysanthemums which are in full bloom during the festival are regarded as flowers with antitoxin function and the capability of warding off evil. Locals believe that by drinking chrysanthemum wine, all kinds of diseases and disasters can be cured and prevented. They also believe that by ascending to a high mountain, diseases can be prevented. Many renowned poems written by poets in the Tang Dynasty (618 ñ 907 AD) describe the scenery and thrill of mountain climbing. Now, groups of families and good friends gather to climb mountains to enjoy the beautiful scenery and each other’s company during the festival.
In years gone by, the custom of wearing dogwood – a kind of plant thought to dispel disaster ñ was popular. Women and children liked to wear a fragrant pouch with dogwood sewed in. However, this custom has phased out.
Falling on the 15th day of the 8th month according to the Chinese Lunar calendar, the Mid-Autumn Festival is the second grandest festival after the Spring Festival in China. It gets its name from the fact that it is celebrated in the middle of the autumn season. It’s also known as the Moon Festival, because the moon is roundest and brightest at that time of the year.
In mainland China, locals enjoy a day off for the festival which usually falls on a weekend. In Hong Kong and Macau, people also enjoy one day off, however, it is not scheduled on the festival day but the following day and it is usually not connected with the weekend. In Taiwan, the one day holiday falls on the actual festival.
On the day of the festival, family members gather to offer sacrifice to the moon, appreciate the bright full moon, eat moon cakes, and express deep yearnings for family members and friends who live afar. In addition, there are other customs like playing lanterns, and in some regions, partaking in dragon and lion dances. The unique customs of ethnic minorities are noteworthy, such as the Mongolians, “chasing the moon” and the Dong people’s vegetables or fruits.
Winter (December – February)
Falling on the 15th day of the first lunar month, Lantern Festival is the first significant feast after Spring Festival, and is so-called because the most important activity that night is watching beautifully lit Chinese lanterns float into the sky. During the festival, every household eats yuanxiao (rice balls stuffed with different fillings), so it is also called the Yuan Xiao Festival. For its rich, colorful activities, it is regarded as the most recreational of all the Chinese festivals and a day for appreciating the bright full moon and family reunion.
With a history of over 2,000 years, various traditional customs and activities are held during Lantern Festival that appeal to people of different ages, including watching lanterns and fireworks, guessing lantern riddles, performing folk dances, and eating yuanxiao (the dumpling ball made out of sticky rice flour stuffed with assorted fillings)
Spring Festival (Chinese New Year)
The Chinese Spring Festival, also known as Lunar New Year, has more than 4,000 years of history. As one of the traditional Chinese festivals, it is the grandest and most important festival. Itís also a time when families get together to celebrate, a practice similar to Christmas celebration in the West.
Originating during the Shang Dynasty (about 17th – 11th century BC), Spring Festival, is full of rich and colorful activities signifying the arrival of spring and blossoming flowers. People from different regions and different ethnic groups celebrate it in unique ways.
Festival Time It falls on the first day of the Chinese lunar calendar and lasts for almost half of the month. In folk custom, this traditional holiday lasts from the 23rd day of the twelfth month to the 15th day of the first month (Lantern Festival). On these days, New Year’s Eve and the first day of the New Year are the peak times.
Winter Solstice, one of the 24 Solar Terms, is a traditional Chinese festival that usually falls on December 21st, 22nd or 23rd. On that day, the northern hemisphere has the shortest daytime and longest nighttime. After that, areas in this hemisphere have longer days and shorter nights. Dumplings are the food of choice during Winter Solstice, especially in northern China. According to legend Zhang Zhongjing, a renowned medical scientist at the end of the Eastern Han Dynasty (25 ñ 220 AD), found his fellow townsmen suffering of hunger in the cold when he returned from his position as prefecture chief in winter. Many of them had terrible chilblains in their ears. On the Winter Festival, he cooked food called Jiao Er with a stuffing of medicine and other ingredients to help fend off the cold for his neighbors and they soon recovered. Later, people learned to recreate the dumplings. Lending some truth to the popular saying that one’s ears will freeze if they don’t have dumplings on Winter Solstice.