Chinese holidays, like other ancient countries, are mostly focused on harvests and prayer offerings. China’s most important holiday is the Chinese New Year or Spring Festival. It’s good to know that this holiday is also celebrated in some other Asian countries such as Vietnam and Korea.
The Chinese calendar is lunisolar. Lunisolar calendars calculate the days of the year based on the movements of both the moon and the sun. So, in a lunisolar calendar, both aspects of lunar and solar calendars are taken into account to calculate the holidays. That is why most Chinese holidays may change every year and they don’t have fixed days in the Gregorian calendar.
There is a distinctive feature for Chinese holidays when weekdays and weekend are swapped to make the holidays longer and people could have a better time for leisure activities.
Chinese Holidays Calendar
China has many celebrations and below is a list of the most important ones.
|Chinese Holiday||Date in 2019||Date in 2020|
|Chinese New Year’s Eve (Chu Xi)||Feb. 4||Jan. 24|
|Spring Festival or Chinese New Year (Chun Jie)||Feb. 5||Jan. 25|
|Tomb Sweeping Day (Qing Ming Jie)||Apr. 5||Apr. 4|
|Labor Day||May. 1||May. 1|
|Dragon Boat Festival (Duanwu Jie)||Jun. 7||Jun. 25|
|Mid-Autumn Festival (Zhongqiu Jie)||Sep. 13||Oct. 1|
|National Day (Guo Qing Ri)||Oct. 1 to Oct.7||Oct. 1 to Oct.7|
|Ghosts Festival (Zhong Yuan Jie)||Aug. 15||Sep. 2|
|Winter Solstice (Dong Jie)||Dec. 22||Dec. 21|
Most Important Chinese Holidays
Chinese New Year’s Eve
The night before the Chinese New Year, Chinese families like many other parts of the world gather around to enjoy some time together. They celebrate it by eating a special New Year’s Eve dinner and after, they would talk and play some games till midnight. The dinner served on New Year’s Eve is a reunion dinner and is considered the most important meal of the year for Chinese families.
When dinner is done, some Chinese families would go to temples hours before the New Year to pray for a better year and light the first incense of the year. In modern practice, many people would hold parties and in some cases even a countdown to the New Year. Traditionally, people would lit firecrackers to scare away evil spirits and keep the household doors sealed and not open it till the new morning, also known as “opening the door of fortune”.
Recently, China’s CCTV has launched a 4-hour long program with singing and dancing performances which has become very popular.
Spring Festival or Chinese New Year, the Most Celebrated of Chinese Holidays
This the most important holiday for Chinese people and also a very important holiday for countries influenced by this holiday such as Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and etc.
This holiday happens between 21st of January and 20th of February depending on the calendar of the year and it does not have a set date. It is the largest holiday for Chinese people and many of them take this chance to go back to their hometowns as they usually work in other large cities.
Celebrations for Spring Festival are all about Lion Dances, Dragon Dances, fireworks, giving red envelopes of money, enjoying time with family and friends, and eating candies, sweets and all kinds of delicious foods.
The most common color during the Spring Festival is red. Chinese traditions believe that red can scare away both evil spirits and bad fortune. Chinese also try to wear new clothes during this time so as the year is renewed, so should their clothes.
In some parts of China, it is very important to take a family portrait for the New Year. This portrait or photos are usually taken in front of the house or inside the main hall of the house. As Chinese tradition is based on patriarchy, the male head of the family would sit in the center of the portrait.
The Spring Festival lasts for 15 days and the 15th day is the day for Lantern Festival (Yuan Xiao Jie). During this day, children would go out at night, carry paper lanterns, and solve riddles on the lanterns.
Tomb Sweeping Day
Tomb Sweeping Day (Qing Ming) also known as Pure Brightness Festival is the second most important festival in China after the Spring Festival. This day is on April 4th, April 5th or April 6th depending on the year (It is on the first day of the fifth solar term of the traditional Chinese lunisolar calendar). The importance of Tomb Sweeping Day lies in the fact that it is not just another festival of people gathering together and eating good food, it’s a time to remember and pay tribute to deceased family members and ancestors.
Chinese families visit the tombs of their ancestors and family members on this day to clean the gravesites, pray to the diseased, and make ritual offerings. These Offerings typically include items such as traditional food and burning of joss sticks and papers.
The Qing Ming Festival has been practiced in China for over 2500 years. This holiday is associated with eating Qingtuan, which are green colored dumplings made of glutinous rice and Chinese mugwort or barley grass.
China is governed by a communist party and so this day is considered important by the government. The People’s Republic of China celebrates this international day on May 1st.
Dragon Boat Festival, the Most Athletic of Chinese Holidays
The Dragon Boat Festival occurs near the summer solstice and is a different traditional event among Chinese holidays. The festival takes place on the 5th day of the 5th month of the traditional Chinese calendar and because of this, it also has an alternative name, the Double Fifth Festival. As stated before, the Chinese calendar is lunisolar, so the date of the festival changes from year to year on the Gregorian calendar. In 2017, it was on May 30th, in 2018 on June 18th, and in 2019 on June 7th.
The fifth month of the year is considered to be unlucky so people use different herbs in front of their houses to scare away evil spirits. The Dragon Boat Festival has been held for more than 2,000 years. It also is to celebrate and commemorate the patriotic poet Qu Yuan (340-278 BC). This day has three main activities, Dragon Boat racing, eating Zongzi (a kind of rice dumplings), and drinking realgar wine (Xionghuang Jiu).
Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as Moon Festival, is the harvest festival of China that occurs on the 15th day of the 8th month in the Chinese lunar calendar. The name of this festival is because of the fact that it happens in the middle of autumn and when the moon is at its fullest and brightest. This day corresponds to late September to early October of the Gregorian calendar.
The Mid-Autumn festival is about celebrates three closely connected fundamental concepts, gathering, thanksgiving, and praying. On this day family and friends gather together (traditionally harvesting crops), they give thanks for a good harvest or for harmonious unions and praying to get babies, a spouse, beauty, longevity, good fortune and generally anything conceptual or material that would satisfy them.
Mid-Autumn Festival is known with eating mooncakes and sometimes is also referred to as Mooncake Festival. Mooncakes are a rich pastry usually filled with sweet-bean or lotus-seed paste.
National Day of the People’s Republic of China
This is another one of the Chinese holidays which is rather new. The PRC or People’s Republic of China was founded on October 1st in 1949 and the National Day public holiday is to commemorate this day annually. This day is celebrated in mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau with different plans from the government with fireworks and concerts. On this day Chinese holiday, public places such the Tiananmen Square in the capital are festively decorated and portraits of revered leaders such as Mao Zedong, the founding father of PRC are publicly displayed.
Ghost Festival or Spirit Festival (also known as the Hungry Ghost Festival) takes place on the 15th day of the 7th lunisolar month and is a traditional Buddhist and Taoist festival. In the Chinese lunisolar calendar, the seventh month is generally regarded as the Ghost Month and the time when restless spirits are free to roam the earth.
Chinese believe that in this month Ghosts and spirits come out from the lower realm. Activities for this festival include preparing ritualistic food offerings, burning incense and items for the visiting spirits of the deceased ancestors.
Winter Solstice is another traditional Chinese festival with high important within the Chinese people. This event occurs between December 22nd and December 23rd. Chinese people figured out the Winter solstice by using ancient tools more than 2500 years ago during the Spring-Autumn period (770-476 BC).
Winter solstice indicates the longest night and shortest day of the year. It is traditional for people to eat Tang Yuan for this celebration. Tang Yuan is a Chinese dessert made from glutinous rice flour which is sweet and is served in the shape of a small or large ball, either filled or unfilled.