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Calendar of Chinese Festivals

Chinese Festivals in Beijing
Major holidays and festivals in the Chinese calendar

January

New Year – New year is celebrated these days in China, and 01/01 is a date considered auspicious for weddings

January/February

Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) is the most important Chinese festival. According to traditions, everybody ought to return to their hometown if possible – snarling up public transport systems and leaving tourists stranded. Chūnjié – 春节 in Chinese.

February/March

Lantern Festival (Yuánxiāojié – 元宵节). People make colourful paper lanterns and parade through the streets with them.

March/April

Guanyin’s Birthday. The colourful birthday of the Goddess of Mercy, China’s most popular deity. Best celebrated in smoky temples full of fervent believers.

April

Tomb Sweeping Day (Qīngmíngjié – 清明节). The most Chinese of festivals, the day to visit the graves of ancestors, sweep the tomb, lay flowers and burn ghost money for the departed to spend in the afterlife. Note migrant workers unable to return home burning offerings in a chalk circle by the side of the street.

Water Splashing Festival (Pōshuĭjié – 泼水节). Everyone is free to splash anyone they like with water. The original idea was to wash away the troubles of the old year, now it’s mainly held to impress the tourists.

May 4

On May 4, sometimes called Youth Day, the Chinese commemorate students who protested on Tiananmen Square in 1919, protests which led to the early Chinese revolutionary May 4 Movement.

May 1 marks the start of a week long-National Holiday. There are some nice celebrations but it’s a terrible time to travel in China – because all of China does so at the same time. Tickets of any kind are very hard to come by, transport and tourist attractions are so crowded you can’t move.

June 1

Children’s day. It might be thought China’s little Emperor’s are treated well enough the rest of the time, but they have their own day too. A good day to avoid theme parks, zoos etc, which will be mobbed by hordes of excited kids.

June/July

The Dragon Boat Festival commemorates an ancient Chinese official who drowned himself to protest government corruption. The local populace threw balls of rice into the river to stop the fish eating his body, the zòngzi (glutinous rice wrapped in reeds) eaten to celebrate today. Also the time for the world-famous Dragon Boat Races.

August

Ghost Month – the time when all the ghosts and demons of hell walk the earth. It’s considered inauspicious to marry, travel, move house or be buried during this month (the body has to be preserved until later).

September 28

Confucius’s birthday. Ceremonies are held at Confucian temples throughout the land, otherwise it’s not much celebrated.

September/October

Mid Autumn Festival (Zhōngqiújié – 中秋节), also called the August Moon Festival or Moon Festival. The summer’s harvest is celebrated when the moon is at its biggest and brightest, people eat moon cakes and lovers star at the moon and stars.

October 1

National Day – everyone gets a holiday to celebrate the achievements of Nation and Party. An interesting time to wander, see ‘patriotic runners’, huge flower displays, and billboards and fountains on Tiananmen Square. Unfortunately it’s a terrible time to travel in China – because all of China does so at the same time. Tickets of any kind are very hard to come by, transport and tourist attractions are so crowded you can’t move.

December 25

Christmas – many rural Chinese don’t know when it is, but for city dwellers it’s a excuse for even more eating and drinking than usual.

Recommended Chinese culture articles:

Traditional Chinese Architecture: Evolution and History, Chinese Siheyuan Courtyards

Chinese Religion: How To Tell Chinese Temples Apart, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism

Beijing Arts: Chinese Opera, Acrobatics, Tai Chi, Chinese Gardens

Beijing Society: Er Nai, Lucky Numbers, Chinese Etiquette, Drugs in China

Chinese History: Chairman Mao Zedong, Eunuchs, Chinese Emperors, Ancient History Timeline, Concubines, 20th Century Timeline


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