Traditional Festivals in China

The traditional Chinese holidays are an essential part of harvests or prayer offerings, which boast rich cultural meaning and a long history and is an important and brilliant part of Chinese culture. All traditional holidays are scheduled according to the Chinese calendar (except the Qingming Festival and Winter Solstice Day). The most important Chinese holiday is the Chinese New Year (Spring Festival), which is also celebrated in Taiwan and overseas ethnic Chinese communities. China is a multi-ethnic country, and each ethnic group has its own cultural customs. You can see more traditional festivals of ethnic minorities

History of Traditional Festivals in China

Most of the traditional festivals were formed during the Qin dynasty (221-206 BC), the first unified and power-centralized dynasty in China. But its rich and popular contents still need a long development process. By the Han dynasty (206 bc-ad 220), China had experienced a great period of development. It was the first period of great development after the unification of China, with political and economic stability and great development of science and culture, which provided good social conditions for the final formation of festivals. 

To the Tang dynasty, the festival became cheerful and festive, rich and colorful. Many sports and fun activities appeared, and soon became a fashion popular and we still follow today, but others have disappearred into the mists of time.

Themes of Traditional Festivals in China

The origin and development of festivals are a gradual formation, improvement and infiltration into social life. The traditional festivals mainly fall into three categories according to their origins: agricultural, religious and social festivals. While according to their contents, it can be divided into festivals of agriculture, sacrifice, commemoration, recreation and celebration.

The earliest customs and activities were related to primitive worship, superstition and taboos. Myths and legends add a touch of romance to these activities. The impact and influence of religion and some historical figures are endowed with eternal memorial and infiltrate into the festival. During the most prosperous Tang dynasty (618-907 AD), traditional festivals were liberated from primitive sacrifices, taboos and mysteries and became more interesting. Since then, the festival has become more and more lively, with more customs developed. 

Major Traditional Festivals in China

Holiday Name Date Remarks
Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) 1st day of 1st Lunisolar month Based on Chinese calendar. Holidays last two full weeks up to the Lantern Festival.
Lantern Festival 15th day of 1st Lunisolar month Based on Chinese calendar
Qingming Festival(Tomb Sweeping Day) April 4 Based on the Qingming solar term.
Dragon Boat Festival 5th day of 5th Lunisolar month Based on Chinese calendar
Double Seventh Day 7th day of 7th Lunisolar month The Chinese Valentine’s Day, based on Chinese calendar
Spirit Festival (Ghost Festival) 15th day of 7th Lunisolar month Based on Chinese calendar
Mid-Autumn Festival (Moon Festival) 15th day of 8th Lunisolar month Based on Chinese calendar
Chongyang Festival 9th day of 9th Lunisolar month  Based on Chinese calendar
Winter Solstice Festival(Dongzhi) December 21st, 22nd or 23rd Based on Chinese calendar
Summer Solstice Festival(Xiazhi) June 21st or 22nd Based on Chinese calendar
Laba Festival 8th day of the 12th Lunisolar month Based on Chinese calendar

1. The Spring Festival (Chinese New Year)(春节)

China Spring Festival is the most important festival and holiday in the county, traditionally a time for reuniting with relatives, beginning on the 23rd day of the 12th lunar month of the Chinese calendar and ending on the 15th day of the first lunar month. There is a 7-day long holiday during the festival and it’s a good time to experience the traditional culture of China. Read more about Chinese Spring Festival.

2. Lantern Festival(元宵节)

The Lantern Festival marks the final day of the traditional Chinese New Year celebrations. During the Lantern Festival, people go out at night carrying paper lanterns and solve riddles on the lanterns. The lanterns are almost always red to symbolize good fortune. On that day, people also eat “yuan xiao”, a kind of glutinous rice dumplings with sweet fillings. Read more about Lantern Festival.

3. The Qingming Festival(清明节)

Also called Tomb-Sweeping Day, the festival is an important day of sacrifice for many Chinese people, which is also a great time for spring outing. During the day, Chinese families visit the tombs of their ancestors to clean the gravesites, pray to their ancestors, and make ritual offerings. Read more about Qingming Festival.

4. The Dragon Boat Festival(端午节)

Also known as the Duanwu Festival, it is a traditional cultural festival in China. Racing decorated wooden dragon boats is the favoured activity of revellers during the Dragon Boat Festival. There is a 3-day holiday for the festival. Read more about Dragon Boat Festival.

5. Double Seventh Day(七夕)

It is a Chinese traditional festival celebrating the annual meeting of the cowherd and the weaver girl in mythology. Contemporarily, the Qixi Festival has been given the cultural meaning of Chinese Valentine’s Day, because the love tale of the cowherd and the weaver maid has made the Qixi Festival become a symbol of love. Read more about Double Seventh Day.

6. Spirit Festival(Ghost Festival)(中元节,鬼节)

It is a traditional Buddhist and Taoist festival held in China. During the day, ghosts and spirits, including those of the deceased ancestors, come out from the lower realm. Activities during the month would include preparing ritualistic food offerings, burning incense, burning joss paper, etc. Read more about Spirit Festival(Ghost Festival)

7. Mid-Autumn Festival (Moon Festival)(中秋节)

The Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Moon Festival, Zhongqiu Festival, is a popular harvest festival celebrated by Chinese. Families congregate to dine on mooncakes and celebrate the harvest moon. Chinese mainland has 3 days off and in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, people enjoy one day off. Read more about Mid-Autumn Festival.

8. Chongyang Festival(重阳节)

Also called Double Nine Festival, Chongyang Festival is held on the ninth day of the ninth lunar month. It is a day for people to eat Chongyang cake, drink chrysanthemum wine, climb mountains, and pay homage to chrysanthemums. Now is has been designated as Senior’s Day – a day to respect the elderly and to let them enjoy themselves. Read more about Chongyang Festival

9. Winter Solstice Festival(Dongzhi)(冬至)

Dongzhi is the day when the night is longest and the day is shortest in the northern hemisphere, which is one of the most important festivals celebrated by the Chinese and ethnic Chinese. Traditionally, the Dongzhi Festival is also a time for the family to get together. People typically eat dumplings or Tangyuan on Dongzhi. Read more about Winter Solstice Festival(Dongzhi)

10. Summer Solstice Festival(Xiazhi)(夏至)

The summer solstice is when the Sun reaches its highest position in the sky and is the day with the longest period of daylight. Since prehistory, the summer solstice has been seen as a significant time of year in many cultures, and has been marked by festivals and rituals. Read more about Summer Solstice Festival(Dongzhi)

11. Laba Festival(腊八节)

It is a traditional Chinese holiday celebrated on the eighth day of the La Month(the twelfth month of the Chinese calendar). It is customary on this day to eat Laba Congee. Another Laba food is Laba garlic, which is particularly popular in northern China. Read more about Laba Festival.

Dates for Chinese Traditional Festivals

   2019  2020  2021
Spring Festival (Chinese New Year)  Feb. 5  Jan. 25  Feb. 12
Lantern Festival  Feb. 19  Feb. 8  Feb. 26
April 4  Apr. 5  Apr. 4  Apr. 4
Dragon Boat Festival  Jun. 7  Jun. 25  Jun. 14
Double Seventh Day  Aug. 7  Aug. 25  Aug. 14
Spirit Festival (Ghost Festival)  Aug. 15  Sep. 2  Aug. 22
Mid-Autumn Festival (Moon Festival)  Sep. 13  Oct. 1  Sep. 21
Chongyang Festival  Oct. 7  Oct. 25  Oct. 14
Winter Solstice Festival(Dongzhi)  Dec. 22  Dec. 21  Dec. 21
Summer Solstice Festival(Xiazhi)  Jun. 21  Jun. 21  Jun. 21
Laba Festival  Jan. 13(2020)  Jan. 2(2021)  Jan. 20(2022)

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