The vibrant and rejuvenating Chinese holidays have great cultural and historical significance that reflect the rich heritage of the world's most populous country. The Chinese New Year is the stand-out festival which is marked by elaborate feasts, and the iconic dragon and lion dances.
Learning about the festivals and observances celebrated in China is a unique and thrilling ride because of its diversity and richness. The grand parades and patriotic fervor of National Day in October, and the reunion of families during the Mid-Autumn Festival are simply the tip of the iceberg. Let's delve into some major national holidays of China that carry a unique blend of customs and emphasize the importance of family, unity, and national pride.
1. Chinese New Year
The most important traditional festival in China is the Chinese New Year which marks the beginning of the lunar new year. This grand event is celebrated for fifteen days as families reunite for hearty feasts and cultural activities.
The cultural and historical significance of this festival lies in its deep-rooted traditions and customs that symbolize the renewal of life and the hope for prosperity in the coming year. Homes are adorned with red decorations and people participate in dragon and lion dances and fireworks.
You May Also Like: Korean Holidays and National Days
2. Lantern Festival
This festival is called Yuanxiao Festival in China and it marks the end of the Chinese New Year celebrations. Falling on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month, this event offers a dazzling spectacle of vibrant lanterns illuminating the night sky.
Families gather and wish for a bright and prosperous future then enjoy the festive meals together. The most unique and highlighted feature of the celebration is the release of lanterns into the night, carrying away troubles and bringing good luck.
3. Qingming Festival
Also known as Tomb-Sweeping Day, this is a traditional Chinese holiday that usually falls in early April and holds great cultural and familial significance. This is a special time for people to honor and pay respects to their ancestors by visiting their graves, cleaning the tombstones and making offerings.
The festival is rooted in the Chinese belief in filial piety which emphasizes the importance of honoring one's parents and ancestors. Beyond the solemn tomb-sweeping rituals, people also engage in fun-filled activities such as kite flying.
4. May Day (Labor Day)
International Workers' Day, which is commonly referred to as May Day, is a public holiday in China marked by parades, rallies, and cultural activities. This day holds great significance in the country since it is dedicated to celebrating the contributions of workers and the labor movement.
This holiday traces its roots back to the labor movement of the late 19th century which was the time when workers' rights and better working conditions were raised. The nation takes this day as a time to reflect on the achievements of the labor force and emphasize the importance of solidarity among workers.
5. Dragon Boat Festival
Duanwu Festival is a traditional Chinese holiday celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar which generally falls in June. This festival is well known for its exciting dragon boat races where teams paddle vigorously to the beat of drums.
The origin of this festival is rooted in ancient Chinese folklore and in modern times, it symbolizes a time of warding off evil spirits and diseases. People celebrate this day by hanging up medicinal herbs, wearing colorful silk threads, and enjoying sticky rice dumplings called zongzi.
6. Double Seventh Festival
Famously known as Chinese Valentine's Day, the Double Seventh Festival is a traditional Chinese festival celebrated on the seventh day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar. This marks the time for couples to express love and affection.
The Qixi festival originates from a romantic legend about the cowherd and weaver girl, who were separated by the Milky Way and could only reunite once a year on this special day. Today, young people exchange gifts, go on dates, and participate in various romantic activities.
7. Mid-Autumn Festival
This is a joyous occasion in China that typically falls on the fifteenth day of the eighth month in the lunar calendar, which symbolizes the harvest season's abundance. This day is also famously known as the Moon Festival and carries great cultural and familial significance.
Families gather to appreciate the full moon, exchange gifts of mooncakes, and share a festive meal on this special day. Lanterns adorn the streets, adding a vibrant and enchanting atmosphere to the celebration.
8. Chinese National Day
The Chinese National Day is celebrated on the first day of October each year to mark the founding of the People's Republic of China. This is the most significant and patriotic holiday in the country that symbolizes the unity and strength of the nation.
This remarkable event is marked by grand festivities, including a flag-raising ceremony in Tiananmen Square, cultural performances, and fireworks displays across the country. This is the time when the Chinese people unite to reflect on their history, appreciate the progress made, and look towards a promising future.
9. Buddha's Birthday
The birthday of Buddha which is also famously known as Buddha Purnima or Vesak, is celebrated with great fervor in China as a significant cultural and religious observance. This festival falls on the eighth day of the fourth month in the Chinese lunar calendar.
The Chinese people celebrate this auspicious event by getting involved in various activities such as elaborate temple ceremonies, parades, and the symbolic bathing of Buddha statues. Devotees engage in acts of kindness, charity, and participate in prayer sessions to honor the teachings of compassion and enlightenment that the Buddha imparted.
10. Youth Day
On the fourth day of May, Chinese people unite to celebrate Youth Day to commemorate the May Fourth Movement of 1919. This event holds a profound significance and reminds people of the student-led protest against imperialism and the unfair Treaty of Versailles.
This is the day when the people of China pay tribute to the courage and passion of the young activists who advocated for social and political change. It also serves as an opportunity to remind the importance of youth in shaping the nation's destiny and fostering a sense of patriotism.
11. Qingdao International Beer Festival
This is one of the most vibrant celebrations in China that brews together the perfect blend of tradition and modernity. It is held annually in Qingdao, a coastal city with a rich beer heritage that attracts beer enthusiasts from around the world.
The highlight of this festival is the showcasing of a diverse array of local and international brews that allow attendees to indulge in a global beer-tasting experience. Furthermore, this day also embodies cultural exchange, featuring music, dance, and culinary delights.
12. Hungry Ghost Festival
A traditional Buddhist and Taoist event, the Hungry Ghost Festival typically takes place in China on the seventh month of the lunar calendar. There is a popular belief that during this time, the gates of the afterlife open, allowing spirits, particularly those of deceased ancestors, to visit the living realm.
Elaborate ceremonies and offerings are made in the name of spirits on this day to appease and honor them which include burning of joss paper, fake money, and other symbolic items. It is a special day because it is a time for expressing filial piety and ensuring the well-being of departed loved ones.
13. Laba Festival
This is a special festival in China that falls on the eighth day of the twelfth month in the lunar calendar, usually in the month of January. This festival is characterized by the consumption of Laba congee, a special dish made from mixed grains, beans, and dried fruits.
The Laba Festival is important because it is associated with the spread of Buddhism in China and many Buddhists mark this day by offering Laba rice porridge to the Buddha. Furthermore, this is also a time for family reunions and expressing gratitude for the year's harvest.
14. Singles' Day
Evolved from the humorous anti-Valentine's Day, the Singles' Day is celebrated in China on the eleventh day of November which is marked by the world's largest online shopping extravaganza. This date 11/11 was chosen for its visual representation of solitary figures.
This day was initially embraced by college students but gradually it went on to become a cultural phenomenon. This day has transcended its origin, reflecting a broader societal shift in China towards embracing consumerism and online retail.
15. Minor Spring Festival
This festival is a prelude to the grandeur of the Chinese New Year and it is celebrated on the 23rd or 24th day of the twelfth lunar month. Also known as Xiaonian, this day marks the beginning of the festive season.
This is a special time for family reunions where members come together to clean their homes, preparing for the new year and symbolically sweeping away the old. People involve themselves in traditional activities, including making offerings to the Kitchen God.
16. Double Ninth Festival
This is a traditional Chinese celebration that is observed on the ninth day of the ninth lunar month by the people of China each year. Also known as Chongyang Festival, this festival holds great significance as it is believed to bring good fortune and ward off misfortune.
The number nine is believed to be auspicious in Chinese culture as it represents longevity and eternity. On this day, people get engaged in various activities such as climbing mountains, wearing zhuyu flowers, and enjoying chrysanthemum wine.
17. Chinese Farmers' Harvest Festival
This is a joyous occasion celebrated in China to honor the hard work and dedication of farmers each year. It typically falls on the Autumn Equinox and symbolizes the culmination of the agricultural season and the bountiful harvest that sustains the nation.
People all over the nation come together to celebrate the Chinese Farmers' Harvest Festival and express gratitude for the abundance of crops, showcasing traditional agricultural practices. The festival also helps to foster a strong sense of unity and connection between urban and rural populations.
18. National Tree Planting Day
The National Tree Planting Day is celebrated annually in China on March 12 which is dedicated to promoting environmental awareness and sustainable practices. This special observance was established in 1979 to address deforestation and desertification issues in the country.
On this day, citizens, schools, and organizations come together to plant trees and participate in various environmental conservation activities. This event has great ecological significance since it contributes to combating environmental challenges and fostering a greener future for the global community.
19. Double Third Festival
The Double Third Festival, which is also referred to as the Shangsi Festival, falls on the third day of the third month in the lunar calendar. This traditional Chinese celebration holds historical and cultural significance, dating back to ancient times.
This is a special day for people to pay respects to ancestors, enjoy outdoor activities, and appreciate the beauty of nature as spring blooms. Furthermore, this day symbolizes the arrival of warmer weather and is believed to bring good luck and ward off evil spirits.
20. Blue Dragon Festival
The Qinglong Jie is a vibrant holiday in China that usually takes place in late spring or early summer. This festival is deeply rooted in Chinese mythology and folklore and is dedicated to the Azure Dragon, one of the four mythical creatures in Chinese culture.
The Blue Dragon Festival is marked by colorful parades, dragon dances, and various cultural performances to pay homage to the mythical creature. People come together to honor the dragon's symbolic significance of bringing rain for a bountiful harvest and prosperity.