2017 in China

The Most Popular Chinese Holidays in the Chinese Calendar

 

If you’re even mildly familiar with the Chinese calendar, you’re likely aware of the fact that it is one dotted with countless celebrations.

It seems, from early January until late December, there is no stopping the festivities. And, no, these fêtes are not some gimmicky, marketing ploy to attract tourists and profit from—far from it.

The reality of the situation is that these festivals and holidays are a significant part of the ancient Chinese culture. Some have roots that date back as far as the Han Dynasty—that’s over 2200 years ago.

So, when you’re communicating with the people and joining in on their traditional, native activities, you’re experiencing, first-hand, the evolution of this culture. Not only that, but you’re actively engaging in it.

That means, taking part in all that these festivities have to offer is one of the best ways to find what travelers have long been on the hunt for; you know, that authentic travel experience, the deep dive into another culture. It’s practically your duty to yourself and your fellow travelers to take part in as many as possible!

So, here’s all you need to know about the most popular ones to mark down on your calendar.

Do note that there is no fixed date each year for the following festivities, but rather the holiday calendar varies each year based on the lunar calendar, which is itself based on the phases of the moon.

Chinese New Year

As the first day of the lunar calendar, Chinese New Year falls between January 21st and February 20th. It’s also known as the Spring Festival for it symbolizes the end of the winter season and the beginning of Spring.

The purpose of its celebration is to recognize all the hard work the people undertook in the former year, as well as give them a beautiful, relaxing day of rest with friends and family. The Chinese also use this celebration to wish for a prosperous new year.

Spring festival, China

So, what are some of the ways it is celebrated? Passing red envelopes, which are symbols of good luck. Eating fish, which is also believed to bring prosperity.

Decorating public places and structures with red, the official color of the festival. And, partaking in traditional dances at temple fairs, like the beloved dragon and lion dances.

Lantern Festival

Taking place on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month, the Lantern Festival is a wonderfully scenic holiday that marks the end of the Spring Festival.

Families come together, share in a delicious traditional meal, and then proceed to head outdoors to observe the lanterns that are hung in the streets at this time of year.

It’s quite the spectacle, with both red and orange lanterns lighting up the night sky like fireflies—some are even placed in rivers, wherein they float downstream for the viewing pleasure of those celebrating. 

Chinatown

What else can you look forward to? Demystifying riddles that are told about lanterns, while delighting in the mouthwatering tangyuan, which is a soup filled with dumplings that are reserved especially for this holiday.

QingMing Festival

Taking place on the fifteenth day of the Spring Equinox, this festival is a day of reminiscing and memorializing. The central focus is the tomb-sweeping, which is why it is also referred to as Tomb-Sweeping Day.

This is an activity that involves families coming together to mourn the loss of loved ones. They show their sorrow by cleaning up their deceased family members’ burial sights and beautifying them.

It’s an act that’s meant to express immense respect, to fete their memory.

Dragon, China

As for those activities, you can take part in as a foreigner? Enjoy firecrackers at night, kite-flying in the park, and decorating gates with willow branches.

Plus, don’t miss the chance to try the traditional foods of the festival: snails and peach-blossom porridge (admittedly, these do not make for a good combination, but separately they are divine).

Dragon Boat Festival

The fifth day of the fifth lunar month is when the Dragon Boat Festival takes place. It’s a holiday that is meant to commemorate the beloved Qu Yuan, a scholar who passed away in the Miluo River.

What should you expect to see? Of course, dragon boats being raced, which is an extremely lively, competitive sport that has become so popular worldwide that it is said it will soon be a part of the Olympic Games.

Two other notable characteristics of the festival: the hanging of incense bags around the necks of locals, and the eating of the delicious glutinous rice dish, zongzi—you must try this.

Dragon boat festival

The experience that gives back

When you engage in a culture in the intimate way these festivals permit you to, you’re really learning. You know, in that way that a guided tour could never truly compare to.

That’s because you’re honestly engaging with the locals. You’ll see firsthand how they come together and their methods of celebration. You’ll smell the mouth-watering aroma of their traditional, fete-worthy foods—and you’ll taste them.

You’ll see their body language, and hear the words they use in casual conversation with one another. You’ll witness their passion.

Chinese girls celebrating Chinese New Year

And—not to be discounted in the least — you’re not only learning about the locals, but you’re becoming more closely acquainted with yourself too.

The more you spend time engaging with cultures that are foreign to you, the more you’ll begin to notice how your customs and ways of communicating differ, and you may become even more in love with your own culture, or, you may decide you were meant to live abroad!

This is one of those priceless gifts that travel gives you. It’s true isn’t it, what they say, “Traveling is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.”

So, what festival are you most looking forward to?

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Cez Krol

Travel blogger at eTramping
Cez lives in China like a local for the past 4 years. Apart from speaking the language, he loves to discover more about this unique country of extreme contrasts. He shares his China experiences here at Sublime China and on his blog eTramping, so go and check out what's out there for you in China.
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