Festivals in China
January, February and March Festivals
January – Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival – An annual winter festival that takes place each year in Harbin, northern China, officially opening on 5th January, and now is the largest ice and snow festival in the world. The festival includes the world’s biggest ice sculptures.
January – Laba Festival (Làbā jié 腊八节) – A traditional Chinese festival mainly celebrated by Han people in the north, it is regarded as the prelude to the Chinese Spring Festival. It falls on the eighth day of the twelfth month of the Chinese lunar calendar (usually in January). The twelfth month is called ‘La’ and eight is pronounced ‘Ba’, which together give the festival its name. To celebrate, people make and eat porridge, giving it the alternative name of the Rice Porridge Festival.
April, May and June Festivals
March / April – Birthday of Guanyin (Guàn yīn dàn 观音诞) – Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy, the most revered of Buddhist Bodhisattvas, intercedes on behalf of any who pray to her. Her birthday is traditionally marked by a minor festival on the 19th of the second lunar month. One of the holiest places dedicated to her is on Putuo Island, Zhejiang.
April – Cold Food Festival (Hánshí Jié 寒食节) – Cold Food day commemorates the story of Jie Zitui a loyal servant who is said to have cut off part of his own thigh to offer sustenance to his starving master. To mark the event no fires are lit and all food is served cold. Mainly it marks the time when the fires used over the winter are extinguished and the ashes cleared away – so there is no fire available for cooking. It is a minor festival held on the eve of Qing Ming, and mainly celebrated in Shanxi province.
July, August and September Festivals
July – Half Year Festival (Bàn nián jié 半年节) – The 1st day of the 6th month, half way through the lunar calendar year, is a time to reflect on the year so far. Mainly celebrated in southern China, the Half Year Festival can be treated as an echo of the New Year Festival, with fire crackers, zong zi (glutinous rice) and family get-togethers. It is a minor festival and not a public holiday.
July – Clothes Drying Day (Shài yī jié 晒衣节) – As the sun’s heat reaches its full power this minor festival is set aside to lay out anything that needs drying in the sun. Clothes Drying Day takes place on the sixth day of the sixth lunar month. The legend is that the Dragon King, ruler of water, spent this day drying its scales. Another tale is that it was the day when the Buddhist scriptures that were being carried into China in the ‘Journey to the West’ were laid out to dry; and so temples used to bring out the Classic scriptures for a good airing.
October, November and December Festivals
October – National Day (Guoqingjie 国庆节) – National day marks the founding of the Peoples Republic of China on 1st October 1949. There are often three days of public holiday in all, shifted to give a continuous five day holiday when combined with a weekend.
October – Chong Yang Festival (Zhòngyángjié 重阳节) – On the 9th day of the 9th lunar month, people traditionally take to high ground to fly kites as a way of appeasing the spirits. In Chinese numerology, 9 is a strong yang number and is generally inauspicious, so this day has to be treated with respect. Food is laid out to calm the spirits of the ancestors, and as chrysanthemums are usually in flower, chrysanthemum wine is often drunk and petals collected to flavor next year’s batch.
There are a number of Days that are celebrated all over the world. Some are serious, some are fun, and some, like ‘Single’s Day’ are invented by retail profits. Whatever the reason, they can be enjoyable days.
March – Womens day (Guó jì fù nǔ jié 国际妇女节) – On the foundation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, the 8th March was designated as Women’s Day, with a half or full day’s holiday for women in China.
March – Arbor or Tree Planting Day (Zhí shù jié 植树节) – To make up for widespread deforestation and to keep China well stocked with trees, on 12th March 植树节 people go out and plant trees.
May – Labour Day (Láo dòng jié 劳动节) – A modern international holiday to mark the toil of workers takes place on 1st May. It is a one day holiday reflecting the socialist / communist history of the Peoples Republic of China.
May – Youth Day – National Youth Day in China, is a celebration of youngsters between the ages of 14 and 28. It was established by the Chinese government in 1949 to honour the memory of the May Fourth Movement of 1919.
June – Childrens Day (Liù yī ér tóng jié 六一儿童节) – This is a recent celebration for children under 14 is held on 1st June each year. Admission to cinemas is free and presents are given.
August – Army day (Jiàn jūn jié 建军节) – A half-day holiday for military personnel, held on the 1st August each year. The date commemorates the Nanchang uprising of August 1st 1927, when Communist forces formed an army unit, for the first time. that routed the Guomindang who were occupying Nanchang.
September – Teachers day (Jiào shī jié 教师节) – Teachers have their own special day, 10th September, when students show respect and give them presents.
November – Singles day (Guāng gùn jié 光棍节) – A very recent special day, is ‘Single’s Day’ when young , single people buy themselves presents. The festival originally started in the 1990’s, among the young, single men at Nanjing University, and has caught on amongst single women too. The choice of date is based on the fact that 11.11 has four single ‘ones’ in it. It is now a popular day to declare love and propose marriage.