Are you planning a trip to China in 2018? You might want to take a look at the various festivals held throughout the year in the country. It’s wise to do so not just for your travel plans but also so you can take part in the rich traditions and cultural history of China.
Chinese festivals are important to every Chinese person as they are deeply linked with math, the lunar calendar, and chronology. There’s a lot of superstition steeped in them too along with myths and religious devotions. These festivals mostly came about during the Han Dynasty which was from 206 BC to 220. Each festival has special origins and customs and it is an honour to get a chance to be a part of them.
Want to know what you’re in for? These are the festivals in China for 2018. Please note that the dates go by the lunar calendar so they may be different dates on the regular calendar every year.
Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year is the biggest festival in the country and one of the most fun. It takes place the 1st through the 15th of the first lunar month, which is usually somewhere at the end of January or beginning of February. Food and drinking is a big way to celebrate with massive feasts and gatherings. Families paste scrolls up as well as fu (which represents good fortune), and intricate paper cuts they put up on their doors and windows. They let off fireworks and stop by to see each other. Eating jiaozi, or dumplings, is one of the traditional foods for the holiday.
On the 15th day of the first lunar month, or right on the heels of the Chinese New Year, the Lantern Festival takes place. People celebrate with folk dances, more fireworks, and finding love. They eat yuanxiao, a sweet dumpling made of glutinous rice that’s quite delicious.
Generally, this holiday, known as the tomb sweeping holiday, falls on April 4th or 5th of the lunar calendar. Families sweep the tombs of their deceased loved ones and embark outdoors as the weather tends to turn more pleasant. You’ll find lots of families at the park for picnics and flying kites.
Dragon Boat Festival
This festival has taken place every year for over 2,000 years in honour of Qu Yuan, an ancient Chinese poet of patriotic pieces who lived from 340 to 278 BC. It is held on the 5th day of the 5th lunar month. Generally, it’s best to be in the southern part of China for this festival particularly where the celebrations are the most renowned. Everyone takes part in the dragon boat races though of course not everyone races. Most people come to watch these races, aptly named because the boats take on the shape of Chinese dragons. They’re propelled by a team of people working the oars in unison to the beat of a drum from the leader in the front of the boat. This popular sporting event is also celebrated with the eating of zongzi, a pyramid of glutinous rice that is wrapped in reed leaves and steamed. The fillings are as varied as the imaginations of those who create them though generally speaking, the northern Chinese fill them with jujubes while the southern Chinese gravitate toward bean paste, fresh seasoned meats, or even egg yolk.
On the 15th day of the 8th lunar calendar month, this is the second biggest festival in China, only eclipsed by the Chinese New Year. It comes in the middle of autumn and is sometimes called the Moon Festival. Look up and you’ll see one of the brightest and roundest moons you’ll ever see. Chinese families gather to celebrate with a big meal though it seems small in comparison to the Chinese New Year meal. On this holiday, it’s tradition to eat mooncakes. These small cakes are intricately printed and have ingredients that are unusual to Westerners like sesame seeds or red bean paste as the fillings but they are definitely worth tasting.
Also called the Double Ninth Festival, Chongyang Festival is held on the 9th day of the 9th lunar month. The holiday is a lesson in numerology with 9 considered as Yang, which takes on a masculine meaning. This 9th day of the 9th month contains 2 Yang numbers. Meanwhile chong means double in Chinese, hence the name. This holiday is a day of eating Chongyang cake, drinking chrysanthemum wine and climbing mountains or hiking.
Typically at the end of December, this holiday marks the winter solstice, as you may have gathered from the name. It’s during this time that eating dumplings or jiaozi is so important because it’s considered good luck. In the southern areas though, sticky puddings are revered.
And finally, the last festival to be aware of in China is the Laba Festival which is on the 8th day of the 12th lunar month. Once upon a time, it was the day of sacrificing to the long-gone ancestors and to pray for luck and good harvest, however in recent times, it is now known as an event for eating congee, a porridge of rice, beans, bean curd, dried nuts and some meat thrown in for good measure. So grab a bowl of porridge and do as the Chinese do!
Plan your trip to China just right and you’ll be in town to be a part of these traditional festivals which will give you even more to remember about your trip to China.