Boasting rich cultural meaning and a long history, traditional Chinese festivals compose an important and brilliant part of Chinese culture. Most traditional festivals took shape during the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC). In the most prosperous Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907), traditional festivals liberated themselves from primitive sacrifice, taboo and mystery and became more entertaining. From then on, festive occasions turned more brisk and exciting and more and more folk customs were developed.
China National Day
October 1st is Chinese National Day. National Day, celebrating the foundation of the People’s Republic of China, is one of the seven legal holidays in China. In fact, National Day has appeared for a very long time and should go back to ancient times. It started in the Western Jin Dynasty (265-316) and originated from the felicitations of happy events in the country. In the feudal period, the emperor enthronement ceremony and the birthday of the emperor were main events to celebrate. That was National Day in ancient times, while National Day has a different meaning today. It is to celebrate the foundation of the People’s Republic of China, in 1949.
There will be a variety of grand ceremonies and activities in China during National Day, such as a great ceremonial review of troops and lighting fireworks in the evening. National Day lasts 3 days since the year 1997. But people actually get a 7-day vacation which combines National Day holiday and two weekends on either side. National Day holiday is another golden week in China. People will rush out to do some long-cherished travel, go shopping and do some other thing
The Spring Festival is the most important festival for the Chinese people and is when all family members get together, just like Christmas in the West. All people living away from home go back, becoming the busiest time for transportation systems of about half a month from the Spring Festival. Airports, railway stations and long-distance bus stations are crowded with home returnees.
The Spring Festival falls on the 1st day of the 1st lunar month, often one month later than the Gregorian calendar. It originated in the Shang Dynasty (c. 1600 BC-c. 1100 BC) from the people’s sacrifice to gods and ancestors at the end of an old year and the beginning of a new one.
Strictly speaking, the Spring Festival starts every year in the early days of the 12th lunar month and will last till the mid 1st lunar month of the next year. Of them, the most important days are Spring Festival Eve and the first three days. The Chinese government now stipulates people have seven days off for the Chinese Lunar New Year.
The Lantern Festival falls on the 15th day of the 1st lunar month, usually in February or March in the Gregorian calendar. As early as the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 25), it had become a festival with great significance.
This day’s important activity is watching lanterns. Throughout the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220), Buddhism flourished in China. One emperor heard that Buddhist monks would watch sarira, or remains from the cremation of Buddha’s body, and light lanterns to worship Buddha on the 15th day of the 1st lunar month, so he ordered to light lanterns in the imperial palace and temples to show respect to Buddha on this day. Later, the Buddhist rite developed into a grand festival among common people and its influence expanded from the Central Plains to the whole of China.
Till today, the lantern festival is still held each year around the country. Lanterns of various shapes and sizes are hung in the streets, attracting countless visitors. Children will hold self-made or bought lanterns to stroll with on the streets, extremely excited.
The Mid-Autumn Festival falls on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month, usually in October in Gregorian calendar.
The festival has a long history. In ancient China, emperors followed the rite of offering sacrifices to the sun in spring and to the moon in autumn. Historical books of the Zhou Dynasty had had the word “Mid-Autumn”. Later aristocrats and literary figures helped expand the ceremony to common people. They enjoyed the full, bright moon on that day, worshipped it and expressed their thoughts and feelings under it. By the Tang Dynasty (618-907), the Mid-Autumn Festival had been fixed which became even grander in the Song Dynasty (960-1279). In the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties, it grew to be a major festival of China.