Boasting rich cultural meaning and a long history, traditional Chinese festivals compose an important and brilliant part of Chinese culture.
 
Most traditional festivals took shape during the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC), the first unified and power-centralized dynasty of China. By the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220), China had experienced a great development period and major traditional festivals were fixed. In the most prosperous Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907), traditional festivals liberated themselves from primitive sacrifice, taboo and mystery and became more entertaining. From then on, festive occasions turned more brisk and exciting and more and more folk customs were developed. Some festivals and customs we still follow today, but others disappeared into the mists of time.
 
Chinese people celebrate a seemingly endless series of festivals during the course of a year
 
The formation of traditional festivals is a long process of historical and cultural accumulation in a nation or a state. Festival customs passed down to today still show signs of ethnic group struggles. Festival activities always reflect primitive sacrifice, superstitious taboo and earthly life, people’s spirit and religious influence. Sometimes historical figures become the focus of a festival, showing people’s commemoration for them and endowing some historical sense to it.
 
Moreover, traditional Chinese festivals were often connected with ancient astronomy, calendars and mathematics. Jieqi, or the 24 seasonal division points, is a key factor in forming traditional festivals. According to the traditional Chinese calendar, a year is divided into 24 points, which can accurately show seasonal changes and acts as a basic guidance system for agricultural production. The 24 seasonal division points came into being in the Warring States Period (475 BC-221 BC).
 
As China is a vast land and has many ethnic groups, different ethnic groups have different festivals in different places. Even on the same festival, they follow different customs. Here we introduce some important and commonly celebrated festivals. In fact, these traditional festivals have absorbed nourishment from different regions and various ethnic cultures and are a precious cultural heritage for the whole Chinese nation and its guests.
 
The Spring Festival is the most important festival for the Chinese people and is when all family members get together, just like Christmas in the West. All people living away from home go back, becoming the busiest time for transportation systems of about half a month from the Spring Festival. Airports, railway stations and long-distance bus stations are crowded with home returnees.
 
Below is the timetable of the major traditional Chinese festivals.(Click on the festival name to get more infomation)
 

Date

English Name

Chinese Name

Remarks

Last day of lunar year

Chinese New Year Eve

除夕(chúxī),大年夜

Clean the house, put up new posters of "door gods" on front doors, blow up fireworks before the family reunion dinner, which should be at least a 10 course meal with a whole fish entrée symbolizing the abundance of the coming year. (The fish entrée should not be consumed completely because the leftover symbolizes the abundance) Also, melons should not be eaten, since the Cantonese pronunciation of "melon" is the same as the slang for "die". People who rely on investments should not drink Coca-cola because "ho lok" (Cantonese) means "can go down". There are also many taboos concerning what brings luck and what doesn’t. Here are some: Do not say any unlucky words related to death or bad fortune; if you drop or break anything you should say "Fa Hoi Foo Guai", which means prosperity is coming; do not cry, which means you will cry for the whole year; do not borrow money, which implies insufficiency, etc. Each year, there are different lucky directions and positions in the house, and different measures should be taken in those places.

1st day of 1st lunar month

Spring Festival (Chinese New Year)

新年(xīnnián), 农历新年, 春节, 春节,大年初一

More fireworks after midnight, visit family members.

15th day of 1st lunar month

Lantern Festival

元宵节(yuánxiāojié)/元宵节,小年

Lantern parade and lion dance celebrating the first full moon. Eating tangyuan. This day is also the last day of new year celebration.

2nd day of 2nd lunar month

Zhonghe Festival (Zhong He Jie), Blue Dragon Festival

中和节(zhōnghéjié)/中和节, 青龙节 (qinglong jie)/青龙节

Eat Chinese pancakes (Chun bing, 春饼) and noodles, clean the house. Also known as Dragon Raising its Head

3rd day of 3rd lunar month

Shangsi Festival (Shang Si Jie)

上巳节 (shàngsìjié)/上巳节

Traditional Chinese Women’s Day, also known as 女儿节 (nǚérjié)

At the jie qi known as qing ming, solar longitude 15 degrees, 104 days after winter solstice (around April 5)

Qing Ming Jie (Tomb Sweeping Day)/Mourning Day / Ching Ming Festival

清明节(qīngmíngjié)/清明节

Visit, clean, and make offerings at ancestral gravesites, spring outing

5th day of 5th lunar month

Dragon Boat Festival (Dragon Festival) / Tuen Ng Festival

端午节(duānwǔjié)/端午节

Dragon boat race, eat dumplings wrapped in lotus leaves Zongzi. This festival commemorates the ancient poet Qu Yuan; drink yellow rice wine, related to the White Snake Lady legend

6th day of 6th lunar month

Bathing and Basking Festival (Xi Shai Jie)

洗晒节 (xǐshàijié)/洗晒节

Put books, sheets, cloth under the sun.

7th day of 7th lunar month

The Night of Sevens /Magpie Festival/ Qi Xi

七夕(qīxī)

According to legend, the goddess "Zhi Nü" (the star Vega) fell in love with the farmer boy "Niu Lang" (the star Altair), but was disapproved by the her mother goddess. As punishment, they were separated by the Milky Way and could only meet once a year on this night.

15th day of 7th lunar month

Spirit Festival (Ghost Festival)

中元节(zhōngyuánjié)/中元节

Burn fake paper money and make offerings to ancestors and the dead to appease them, so they will not come and trouble the living.

15th day of 8th lunar month

Mid-Autumn Festival (Moon Festival)

中秋节(zhōngqiūjié)/中秋节

Eat mooncake, family union meal, related to the legend of Chang E

9th day of 9th lunar month

Double Ninth Festival /Dual-Yang Festival/ Chung Yeung Festival

重阳节(chóngyángjié)/重阳节

Autumn outing and mountain climbing, some Chinese also visit the graves of their ancestors to pay their respects.

15th day of the 10th lunar month

Spirit Festival/ Water Lantern Festival

下元节 (xiayuanjie)/下元节

Set flower shaped lanterns adrift in a stream or river at sundown, give offerings to deceased whose wandering spirits/ghosts may return at night to visit.

7th day of the 11th lunar month

Winter Solstice Festival/Mid-Winter Festival

冬至(dōngzhì)

Have Tangyuan and Jiuniang and perform ancestor worship, Feast day, family gatherings, also named "Chinese Thanksgiving"

8th day of 12th lunar month

Laba Festival/Congee Festival

腊八节(làbājié)

This is the day the Buddha attained enlightenment. People usually eat Laba congee, which is made of mixed grains and fruits.

 
SOURCE: Wikipedia & www.china.org.cn

   
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