Chinese Festivals

For many, Chinese festivals are the backbone of the country's culture. And there are certainly no lack of festivities held throughout the year—the most famous and important being the Chinese New Year—celebrated globally, but with nowhere near the pageantry found than the country from which the holiday was borne.

Chinese Festivals
Chinese Festivals

Also called the Spring Festival, it takes place on the first fay of the Chinese Lunar Calendar, so its exact date can vary each year. It is always found sometime in late January or early February, however. Though the actual festival lasts merely three days, this Chinese festival will traditionally last well into mid-February, regardless of the actual new year. The festival itself is a dizzying array of costumes, fireworks and crowds of unbelievable magnitude.

This celebration has barely ended when the next of the major one takes place: the Chinese Lantern festival. Though not technically a public holiday, you'd never know from the enthusiasm that grips the country, during the Chinese Lantern Festival. Though fairly simple in theory—the citizens of China make or buy paper lanterns and take to the streets waving and carrying them around. It is another colorful display of culture all throughout the nation.

Chinese culture places a premium on recognizing one's ancestors, and this filial piety comes to a head during the most sedate of Chinese festivals, in English as Tomb Sweeping Day. On this day, April 5, worshipers gather to clean the tomb of their departed elders, and to leave behind enormous collections of flowers and other gifts.

The approach of summer is met with the Chinese Dragon Boat Festival. The center of activity during this June holiday is on the Dragon Boat races, small sleek boats powered by a team of elegant oarsmen. The second most pressing affair is to consume as much as possible—mostly a traditional snack made up of glutinous rice dumplings wrapped in reed leaves. Though much of the original story is lost in the celebration, the Chinese Dragon Boat Festival dates back to the third century. A poet/court official named Qu Yuan threw himself in the Mi Lo river to protest the corrupt government, and his sympathizers jumped into nearby boats (hence the name of Chinese Dragon Boat Festival) and scattered rice cakes into the sea to keep hungry fish from Qu Yuan's corpse.

The Chinese Moon Festival is roughly the equivalent of Valentine's Day in China. Poets, lovers and troubadours gather in the streets, eating moon cakes ( pastries filled with gooey sesame paste, red bean and walnut), and gazing at the moon. This is all very romantic—though it is a lot more interesting in practice than in theory. The Chinese Moon Festival is also known as the Mid-Autumn Festival, and it occurs when the eighth moon reaches its brightest and fullest, usually in late September or early October.

No matter when you travel to China, the people in the streets are usually preparing for, enduring, or cleaning up after a festival, so anyone spending a reasonable amount of time in the country is bound to see at least one of the lesser holidays, which clutter the calendar year round. So whether you are stopping by for the Chinese Lantern festival, the Moon festival or just to help celebrate the birthday of Confucius (September 28), the many Chinese festivals will do wonders to enhance any travels within the country.

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