Chinese Holidays and the Culture of China

Traditional Chinese Holidays
In today's Chinese society traditional holidays still play an important role. Many of the Chinese olidays follow the lunar calendar.

China started using the western (solar) calendar after the end of the Qing dynasty, about one hundred years ago. However, although China, Taiwan and Hong Kong have embraced the western or solar calendar, the traditional Chinese Calendar which is based on the moon phases, is still used in parallel.
Many Chinese holidays and festivals are based on dates of the Lunar Calendar. The latter is generally called "Peasant Calendar" by the Chinese.

In fact, even many other special occasions in the social life of people, like weddings or the date of funerals, and many others are selected according to the Lunar Calendar and set to a day considered auspicious for that specific occasion.

The following are the most important Chinese holidays, mostly based on the lunar calendar. These holidays are observed by most Chinese in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan; other holidays may be more regional.


New Year's Day:
(in 2014) January 31st = day 1 of 1st moon of the Lunar Calendar*

The Chinese New Year or Spring Festival has a very special position among these. Traditionally, in Chinese society it is the most important festival of the whole year. The Chinese or Lunar New Year usually falls either on the end of January or February.
Actually, the holidays start with New Year's Eve, which is a traditional get-together for dinner for the whole family, wherever they may live. Public holidays last until the 5th day of the first moon, at least. But the traditional New Year's end is the night of the 15th day of the first moon.


Lantern Festival:
15th day of 1st moon.

On the day - or rather night - of the first full moon, the Chinese New Year (or Spring Festival) traditionally ends with a bang, the Lantern Festival.


Qing Ming:
Among Chinese this important holiday is known as "Grave or Tomb Sweeping Day".

The people traditionally clean their ancestor's graves at or around this day.
April 5th (2014). Grave Sweeping Day is considered one of the three most important holidays by many Chinese. The other two are New Year and the Mid-Autumn Festival.


Duan Wu:
Dragon boat festival

5th day of 5th moon.


Qixi:
Chinese lover's day, or rather night.

Qixi (Japanese: Tanabata) is according to romantic folklore the night when the Weaver (girl) and Cowherd (both are star constellations) meet, once a year. This occurs on the 7th day of the 7th moon.


Ghost month (mainly Daoist):
The 7th month or moon of the lunar calendar is traditionally considered as bad for many occasions, and business may be sluggish during this month.
Many people will put off important decisions, weddings, etc. If they want to move to a new home, or even only are looking for a new home, many will delay this until the 7th month is over.

This is the so-called Ghost Month during which according to tradition the gates to the other world open and the ghosts of the departed return temporarily to this world. As the gates close again at the end of the 7th month normal activities resume.

Spirit Festival:
Middle of the ghost month, when offering to ancestors are made.

(Daoist, Buddhist)
7th day of 7th moon


Mid-autumn Festival:
Moon festival

15th of 8th moon. In Chinese culture this is an important holiday for family reunion.


* Note: the months do not have any name. In the Chinese language the months are associated with numbers. For example, January would be called "1st moon", etc.)


Chinese Calendar and Year Notation

Chinese Zodiac

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