7 Unique Festivals To Celebrate In China

Festivals are an intrinsic part of Chinese culture.

Mostly based on the Chinese lunar calendar. These festivals are a time for connection with friends and family, appreciation for people and place. It is also a grounding for culture and understanding the traditional way of life.

With several Chinese festivals on the calendar for the coming months, below is a guide of the 7 unique and exciting festivals to celebrate in China.

1. Celebrations and Sweets At The Lantern Festival

The wondrous Lantern Festival is an incredible light-filled experience with cultural performances for all ages.

Lanterns at The Lanter Festival.
Source: Shutterstock

Celebrated on the fifteenth day of the first month of each Lunar New Year (typically in January or February). It is a time for Chinese families to bond, whilst sharing a hearty meal. 

Tuck into a warm bowl of famed Tangyuan (glutinous flour and bean paste balls in sweet broth) while gazing at the full moon during the Lantern Festival (元宵节). The act of eating tangyuan signifies the addition of one year to your age.

Also known as the last day of the Spring Festival, youths in ancient China were said to tour the streets freely on this occasion with lanterns. Their goal? To find a suitable life partner!

2. Women’s Day

8 March is Women’s Day in China. An opportunity for men to express love and appreciation for the women in their lives. Women’s Day has now evolved into a celebration of women’s purchasing power. Often clothes, shoes, and cosmetics are discounted online.

The best thing about this occasion? Women can leave work early and enjoy a half-day holiday!

Many companies are also taking the celebration a step further. This honouring includes a working half-day, catering breakfast in the office, or throwing women a dinner party.

3. Paying Tribute To A Patriot: The Dragon Boat Festival

During the warm summer periods, the Dragon Boat Festival (also called Duanwu Festival) memorializes loyalty and filial piety. This occurs every fifth day of the fifth Lunar month, which is in late May or early June. The date was made famous by the well-loved minister and scholar Qu Yuan, who took his life in 278 BC after his political exile.

A senior political office holder, Qu was known for his loyalty to the state of Chu. Betrayed by his rivals to the detriment of his homeland, the distressed Qu drowned himself in the Miluo River after the fall of the state. Local villagers threw balls of rice wrapped in leaves into the river to prevent fish from eating Qu’s body as boatmen rowed out to find him.

To commemorate the occasion, glutinous rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves (zongzi or 粽子) are eaten. The wrapped dumplings have become so popular that you can now buy them any time of the year at food stalls. 

4. Fly Over The Milky Way On Qixi: Chinese Valentine’s Day

Known as the Qixi (七夕) Festival or Double Seventh Festival, Chinese Valentine’s Day falls on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month (usually in August).

Like Valentine’s Day in the West, Qixi Festival has its touching tale. According to legend, a cowherd and a weaver girl (or Zhinü) were banished to different parts of the Milky Way. Allowed to meet once a year on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month, the couple would reunite by walking over a bridge of magpies in the sky.

In ancient China, Qixi was a time for single women to pray to Zhinü and burn paper offerings. Newlywed couples also paid their respects to the heavenly couple for the last time as a farewell to their singlehood.

Chinese Illustration of two lovers on Qixi.
Source: Shutterstock

5. Feast on Sweet Mooncakes During The
Mid-Autumn Festival

The Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋节) is celebrated across China and the Chinese diaspora. The festival occurs when the moon is said to be at its fullest in the year.  This is on the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month, normally in September or October of the Gregorian calendar. Sweet round mooncakes representing reunion and connection are served during this occasion.

To join the fun, head to your nearest Chinese mall or city plaza. You can participate in lantern exhibitions, lantern riddle competitions, food fairs, and carnival games for both the young and old.

The story of the mythical figure Chang’e (嫦娥)—an immortal woman living on the moon with a pet rabbit, is often retold during the Mid-Autumn Festival. Chang’e was famed for being the wife of archer Hou Yi, a hero who shot down nine of ten suns and saved humanity from disaster. Gifted a potion of immortality, Hou Yi let Chang’e safe keep it. To prevent a robbery attempt, Chang’e swallowed the potion and flew towards the moon where she is now said to live.

Traditional Mooncakes.
Source: Shutterstock

6. Chongyang Festival: A Chinese Tradition of Climbing High

Getaway from the city and inhale some fresh autumn air. Also known as the Chongyang Festival (重阳节) or the Double Ninth Festival. This day marks the impending arrival of winter and falls on the ninth day of the ninth lunar month, usually in October.

The Chongyang festival is celebrated by baking and steaming Chongyang Cake. This cake is made from rice flour, sugar, almonds and other nuts, this is a sweet treat not to be missed. Since the Chinese word for ‘cake’ (糕) is a homonym for ‘height’ (高), celebrants often climb tall mountains and appreciate chrysanthemum blooms on this occasion.

After the cake, work off those extra calories by hiking. This also allows you to get in touch with nature. Gathering with your family and friends to honour deceased relatives by burning paper clothing offerings at their graves. Declared as Seniors’ Day in 1989, Chongyang Festival also allows numerous seniors’ nature walks, which are led by community associations.

7. A Shopping Extravaganza: The Double 11th Shopping Festival

China’s answer to Black Friday is the annual Double 11th Festival (双十一), when people in China can grab a discount on Chinese online shopping platforms such as TaobaoTmallAmazon.cn, and more. This festival happens on the 11th of November. Purely commercial, November 11, 2016, saw Alibaba post a staggering 120.7 billion yuan worth of sales by the end of the day.

The symbolism of the four 1s has given the day the second meaning of Singles’ Day (光棍节) in China. Celebrate your single status by tucking into a fried dough fritter (youtiao) for breakfast. Youtiao is eaten on this day, as it looks like the number one.

This post originally appeared on Pan Pacific and is sponsored by Pan Pacific Xiamen.