Celebrating Top 8 Chinese Festivals and Traditions

Celebrating Top 8 Chinese Festivals and Traditions

China has a rich and abundant cultural heritage; its traditional festivals are a true testament to this heritage. 

These festivals, passed down from generation to generation, hold immense importance in Chinese people's hearts and are deeply ingrained in the country's cultural fabric.

Let's take a journey and explore the magic of China's eight most timeless celebrations. Whether you're a fan of lively dragon boat races or love munching on sweet mooncakes, there's something for everyone in the world of traditional festivals.

What are Chinese festivals?

Chinese Festivals, also known as "zhōng guó jié" (中国节) in Mandarin, are celebrations that are steeped in centuries of rich cultural traditions and history.

They've been around for centuries and are based on the Chinese lunar calendar, which is slightly different from the regular calendar.

The lunar calendar follows the moon's orbit, and each festival happens on a special moon date.

During these festivals, families and communities come together to enjoy delicious food and participate in various activities passed down from generation to generation.

What is the significance of Chinese festivals?

Traditional Chinese festivals are more than just an excuse for a party. They hold a deeper significance for the people who celebrate them. These festivals serve as an opportunity for families to bond, pay respect to their ancestors, and honor the gods and goddesses in Chinese culture.

One of the main reasons they are so important is that they allow people to connect with their cultural heritage and traditions. They provide a sense of continuity and help preserve the cultural identity of the people who celebrate them.

The 8 most popular Chinese festivals

Now that you know the importance of these festivals, let's look at some of the most popular ones.

1. Chinese new year celebration / Spring festival


Caption: A picture of a family gathering for a reunion dinner by LoveToKnow

The Lunar New Year (also known as the Spring Festival) is a well-known and popular Chinese festival celebrated by more than 2 billion people worldwide. It is arguably the most important and festive occasion.

It lasts for 15 days and is celebrated at the turn of the lunar calendar. The Spring Festival typically occurs in late January or early February, marking the end of winter and the beginning of spring. The Spring Festival is all about family, togetherness, and wishing for good fortune in the coming year.

One of the most important customs is the reunion dinner, where families gather to enjoy a feast and spend time together. Other customs include decorating homes with red lanterns and paper cuttings, exchanging gifts, and visiting friends and family.

Additionally, there will be various performances on National TV, which are absolutely stunning.

2. Dragon boat festival / Longzhou jie 

dragon boat festival-min

Caption: Dragon Boat Festival, CGTN 

The Dragon Boat Festival is a traditional holiday on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month. It has been around for over 2,000 years and has a rich history.

It is a time to celebrate the life and death of the famous Chinese poet Qu Yuan and is characterized by dragon boat races, zongzi (sticky rice dumplings), and the hanging of aromatic herbs to ward off evil spirits.

As with most Chinese festivals in China, the Dragon Boat Festival is also another time for all to come together, celebrate, and pay homage to a rich cultural heritage.

3. Mid-Autumn Festival

mid-autumn festival -min

Caption: Lantern Festival by CNN Travel

The Mid Autumn Festival has many names. It is also known as the Moon Festival, Mooncake Festival, or the Lantern Festival and is celebrated in the Chinese lunar calendar on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month. During this time, many families come together and celebrate the harvest.

It is sometimes called the Lantern Festival lanterns because many children carry them around and play games, while adults use them to admire the moon and celebrate the festival.

This celebration is also associated with the legend of Chang'e, the Moon Goddess. The moon is believed to be at its brightest and roundest during this time. The full moon symbolizes unity and harmony, and the festival allows people to unite and appreciate the moon's beauty.

Additionally, this festival is sometimes called the Mooncake Festival as mooncakes, a type of sweet pastry, are the traditional food eaten during this celebration. They are often given as gifts to friends and family.

4. Double seventh festival

Double seventh-min

Caption: Qixi Festival by China Highlights

This holiday is the Chinese Valentine's Day, also known as the Qixi Festival, a time to celebrate love and romance. It takes place on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month. 

Qixi Festival is based on the story of two lovers, Niulang and Zhinü (the Chinese counterparts of Romeo and Juliet), who are separated by the Milky Way and are only allowed to meet once a year during the Qixi.

This festival is a time for couples to unite and express their love for one another.

5. Double ninth festival / Chongyang Festival

double 9th-min

Caption: Double Ninth Festival by CGTN

The Double Ninth Festival, or Chongyang Festival, is a time to celebrate the autumn harvest and remember the elderly. 

It takes place on the ninth day of the ninth lunar month and is characterized by activities such as climbing mountains and drinking chrysanthemum wine.

6. Winter solstice / Dongzhi festival


Caption: Winter Solstice in China by Mandarin Matrix

The Winter Solstice is a time to celebrate the year's longest night and prepare for the sun's return. It takes place on the 22nd or 23rd of December and is characterized by eating dumplings, gathering families, and burning incense.

Fun fact: rice dumplings have a special hidden meaning behind them—they're called tāngyuán, which sounds similar to the word "reunion," tuányuán.

7. Qingming Festival


Caption: Qingming Festival by TheBeijinger

The Qingming Festival, also known as Tomb Sweeping Day, is a time for families to come together and pay their respects to their ancestors by visiting and cleaning their graves.

In addition, the Qingming Festival is an opportunity for families to remember and honor the lives of their loved ones, and it is a true testament to China's deep-rooted traditions and cultural values.

8. Hungry Ghost Festival


Caption: Hungry Ghost Festival by Time Out

The Hungry Ghost Festival is a more mysterious and intriguing celebration. It is believed that during this time, the spirits of the dead return to the world of the living in search of food and offerings.

This festival is to appease these hungry spirits and ensure that they do not cause any harm. It is a unique celebration showcasing China's rich cultural heritage and diverse beliefs.

In closing

In conclusion, traditional festivals truly celebrate life, death, and everything in between.

From the Lunar New Year to the Mid-Autumn Festival, these celebrations are integral to the Chinese people's rich cultural heritage and bring families and communities together in the most festive way possible.

These festivals are a true feast for the senses. The colors, sounds, and delicious food are just the tip of the iceberg. The deep-rooted traditions and cultural values make these festivals truly special and worth experiencing.

If you can participate in any of these celebrations, it is highly recommended you do so. You'll get a chance to learn about Chinese history and customs, try some amazing food, and maybe even participate in a dragon boat race!

Jing You is a Chinese native who grew up in the Fujian province and soaked in the Chinese culture while living with her grandparents. She later moved to Singapore to pursue further education. However, she has always been passionate about the Mandarin language despite being in an environment that speaks English predominantly. She was involved in multiple Mandarin and Chinese culture programmes in schools, and brought this passion forward by tutoring elementary school students Mandarin in her adulthood.

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