Traditional holidays are very important to the Chinese people. The essential part of every traditional celebration are legends, specially prepared dishes and rituals. For millions of Chinese, the traditional holidays are a great opportunity to meet with their family members living in remote parts of the country.
The Chinese aside from celebrating many of today’s modern holidays including New Year’s Day or Labour Day have kept with tradition, and still celebrate many of the traditional Chinese holidays that have been a fundamental part of Chinese history and culture for thousands of years. One of these holidays is National Day celebrated on October 1, to commemorate the founding of People’s Republic of China in 1949.
It is the second in the year, apart from the Chinese New Year, so-called ”Golden Week” of travel and festivities. On these days, lots of activities such as parades, fairs and firework shows are held nationwide. During the Golden Week, the Chinese visit their relatives around the country. This leads to a sea of people on the highways, at the airports and train stations. The 7-day holiday is a great time to rest and travel to the most popular tourist destinations.
Although the traditional Chinese holidays are marked at a different date each year since they are dependent on the official Chinese lunar calendar (in contrast to the Gregorian solar calendar that is used in Europe).
Spring Festival (Chinese New Year)
Chinese Spring Festival, also called Lunar New Year is the greatest and the most important festival in China, and one best known outside of China. It commences on the first day of the first day of the first month and lasts for half of a month, ending with the Lantern Festival. The preparations for the Spring Festival begin even a month earlier when people solve their problems and get out of debts to be ready for a new year, perceived by the Chinese as beginning of a new life. The New Year’s Eve is the most important day of Spring Festival when whole families get together and prepare the traditional New Year’s dinner.
One of the traditional dishes are jiaozi dumplings stuffed with egg and prawn filling. The dinner starts after paying homage and offer sacrifice to the ancestors at the home altar. The New Year’s Eve is also the time for exchanging gifts. The Spring Festival is a start for a new year, so it is regarded as the omen of a year and people put up red scrolls with sentences, which should attract happiness, prosperity and wealth. The first day of the New Year is again the time for sacrifice to ancestors but this time celebrated with other people at the street. This is also the occasion to perform the traditional dragon and lion dances with the accompaniment of drums and fireworks.
Lantern Festival (Yuan Xiao Festival)
The Lantern Festival is celebrated on the fifteenth day of the first month in the lunisolar year, marking the last day of the lunar New Year celebration. The fifteenth day is the first fool moon of that lunisolar year. The most important activity during the night of the event is watching colourful lanterns made of paper. People walk with them in the streets to finally light them and send to the sky. The colourful lanterns can be of various shapes – mountains, flowers, people or animals, but one of the most popular is the shape of a running horse. Another important tradition of the Lantern Festival is eating so-called Yuanxiao - dumpling balls made from sticky rice flour stuffed with different fillings. The methods for making Yuanxiao differ by region and fillings include chocolate, fruit or sweetened bean paste.
Dragon Boat Festival (Duanwu Festival)
The second important custom of the Duanwu Festival is eating zongzi, prepared the day before. Zongzi is a special food made from sticky, pyramid-shaped glutinous rice wrapped in reed and bamboo leaves, with various fillings. The Zongzi is cooked by steaming or boiling. Dragon boat racing is the final part of the Duanwu Festival. The bow of each racing boat is shaped with ta dragon’s head. Each boat is filled with tens of rowers, paddling to the rhythm of drum tones.
Mid-Autumn Festival (Zhong Qiu Festival)
According to tradition, the Mid-Autumn Festival is also the Women’s Festival, since the moon is associated to the female yin. The popular custom on the Festival day is putting out a figure of a hare and baking so-called moon cakes. The moon cakes are round, symbolising the moon. Most moon cakes consist of a puff pastry enveloping a sweet nutty-almond or meet filling. The consumption of moon cakes starts after the full moon appears. Rice and fruit also appear on the table.
Ancestors' Day or Pure Brightness Festival (Qingming Festival)
Next, the eldest member of the family lights a candle and burns money poured with the wine – so called hell’s money, and fires petards. This is all in the hope that the deceased are not lacking food and money. After the rituals, all in the family offer homage to ancestors by bowing down three times. Nowadays, at the Chinese cemeteries the custom of burying the ritual money or other props made of paper is forbidden. Then, offering the gifts to the deceased by burning, takes place outside the cemetery. One burns not only money but also miniatures of houses, cars, smartphones or even statuettes of servants.
Hungry Ghost Festival (Zhong Yuan Festival)
The traditional Chinese holiday, related to death, is the Hungry Ghost Festival celebrated on the 15th night of the seventh month. On the fifteenth day the living descendants pay homage to all ghosts and spirits including those of the deceased ancestors. The Chinese people belief that on that day the realms of Heaven and Hell are open, and the whole month in general is regarded as the Ghost Month. The ghosts and spirits that come out spirit world wander around looking for food and entertainment and visit the living. The purpose of a prayer for the dead, burning incenses and hell’s money, as well as other gifts is to relieve of ghosts’ suffering and safe the living from their anger.
Girl’s Festival or Daughters Festival (Qixi or Qiqiao Festival)
According to another custom, women sow grains with the intention to give birth to a son. During the Festival the Chinese people eat special qiaoguo pastry, which comes in different shapes with the ingredients being oil, flour, sugar and honey. Fruit, mostly watermelons, lotus seeds or water chestnuts are very popular on that day as well.
Not only Chinese tradition
China is a country of many nationalities and provinces, and there are different declared public holidays in each of them, for instance the Dai people in southern China celebrate the Water festival on April 13-15. Young Chinese people are also open to celebrating many of modern holidays. On 11 November the Singles Awareness Day is celebrated. The so called Double 11 Festival in China has been promoted as the day of shopping. On this day single customers can take advantage of many special deals.