Library- Chinese Festivals
Chinese festivals are one of the most important part of Chinese culture. Understanding Chinese festivals will greatly enhance Chinese learners' knowledge on Chinese culture and history. Among many Chinese festivals, Spring Festival, Mid-Autumn Festival, Dragon Boat Festival and Lantern Festival are the four most famous festivals in Chinese people's lives.

Spring Festival(春节)

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.
Many customs accompany the Spring Festival. Some are still followed today, but others have weakened.
On the 8th day of the 12th lunar month, many families make laba porridge, a delicious kind of porridge made with glutinous rice, millet, seeds of Job's tears, jujube berries, lotus seeds, beans, longan and gingko.
The 23rd day of the 12th lunar month is called Preliminary Eve. At this time, people offer sacrifice to the kitchen god. Now however, most families make delicious food to enjoy.
After the Preliminary Eve, people begin preparing for the coming New Year. This is called "Seeing the New Year in".
Store owners are busy then as everybody goes out to purchase necessities for the New Year. Materials not only include edible oil, rice, flour, chicken, duck, fish and meat, but also fruit, candies and kinds of nuts. What's more, various decorations, new clothes and shoes for the children as well as gifts for the elderly, friends and relatives, are all on the list of purchasing.
Before the New Year comes, the people completely clean the indoors and outdoors of their homes as well as their clothes, bedclothes and all their utensils.
Then people begin decorating their clean rooms featuring an atmosphere of rejoicing and festivity. All the door panels will be pasted with Spring Festival couplets, highlighting Chinese calligraphy with black characters on red paper. The content varies from house owners' wishes for a bright future to good luck for the New Year. Also, pictures of the god of doors and wealth will be posted on front doors to ward off evil spirits and welcome peace and abundance.
The Chinese character "fu" (meaning blessing or happiness) is a must. The character put on paper can be pasted normally or upside down, for in Chinese the "reversed fu" is homophonic with "fu comes", both being pronounced as "fudaole." What's more, two big red lanterns can be raised on both sides of the front door. Red paper-cuttings can be seen on window glass and brightly colored New Year paintings with auspicious meanings may be put on the wall.
People attach great importance to Spring Festival Eve. At that time, all family members eat dinner together. The meal is more luxurious than usual. Dishes such as chicken, fish and bean curd cannot be excluded, for in Chinese, their pronunciations, respectively "ji", "yu" and "doufu," mean auspiciousness, abundance and richness. After the dinner, the whole family will sit together, chatting and watching TV. In recent years, the Spring Festival party broadcast on China Central Television Station (CCTV) is essential entertainment for the Chinese both at home and abroad. According to custom, each family will stay up to see the New Year in.
Waking up on New Year, everybody dresses up. First they extend greetings to their parents. Then each child will get money as a New Year gift, wrapped up in red paper. People in northern China will eat jiaozi, or dumplings, for breakfast, as they think "jiaozi" in sound means "bidding farewell to the old and ushering in the new". Also, the shape of the dumpling is like gold ingot from ancient China. So people eat them and wish for money and treasure.
Southern Chinese eat niangao (New Year cake made of glutinous rice flour) on this occasion, because as a homophone, niangao means "higher and higher, one year after another." The first five days after the Spring Festival are a good time for relatives, friends, and classmates as well as colleagues to exchange greetings, gifts and chat leisurely.
Burning fireworks was once the most typical custom on the Spring Festival. People thought the spluttering sound could help drive away evil spirits. However, such an activity was completely or partially forbidden in big cities once the government took security, noise and pollution factors into consideration. As a replacement, some buy tapes with firecracker sounds to listen to, some break little balloons to get the sound too, while others buy firecracker handicrafts to hang in the living room.
The lively atmosphere not only fills every household, but permeates to streets and lanes. A series of activities such as lion dancing, dragon lantern dancing, lantern festivals and temple fairs will be held for days. The Spring Festival then comes to an end when the Lantern Festival is finished.

China has 56 ethnic groups. Minorities celebrate their Spring Festival almost the same day as the Han people, and they have different customs.

春节到了,意味着春天将要来临,万象复苏草木更新,新一轮播种和收获季节又要开始。人们刚刚度过冰天雪地草木凋零的漫漫寒冬,早就盼望着春暖花开的日子,当新春到来之际,自然要充满喜悦载歌载舞地迎接这个节日。 千百年来,人们使年俗庆祝活动变得异常丰富多彩,每年从农历腊月二十三日起到年三十,民间把这段时间叫做“迎春日”,也叫“扫尘日”,在春节前扫尘搞卫生,是我国人民素有的传统习惯。
春节的另一名称叫过年。在过去的传说中,年是一种为人们带来坏运气的想象中的动物。年一来。树木凋蔽,百草不生;年一过,万物生长,鲜花遍地。年如何才能过去呢?需用鞭炮轰 ,于是有了燃鞭炮的习俗,这其实也是烘托热闹场面的又一种方式。
春节是个欢乐祥和的节日,也是亲人团聚的日子,离家在外的孩子在过春节时都要回家欢聚。过年的前一夜,就是旧年的腊月三十夜,也叫除夕,又叫团圆夜,在这新旧交替的时候,守岁是最重要的年俗活动之一,除夕晚上,全家老小都一起熬年守岁,欢聚酣饮,共享天伦之乐,北方地区在除夕有吃饺子的习俗,饺子的作法是先和面,和字就是合;饺子的饺和交谐音,合和交有相聚之意,又取更岁交子之意。在南方有过年吃年糕的习惯,甜甜的粘粘的年糕,象征新一年生活甜蜜蜜,步步高。 待第一声鸡啼响起,或是新年的钟声敲过,街上鞭炮齐鸣,响声此起彼伏,家家喜气洋洋,新的一年开始了,男女老少都穿着节日盛装,先给家族中的长者拜年祝寿,节中还有给儿童压岁钱,吃团年饭,初二、三就开始走亲戚看朋友,相互拜年,道贺祝福,说些恭贺新喜、恭喜发财、恭喜、过年好等话,祭祖等活动。

Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋节)

The Mid-Autumn Festival falls on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month, usually in October in Gregorian calendar. It will fall on September 14, 2008.

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.

Folklore about the origin of the festival go like this: In remote antiquity, there were ten suns rising in the sky, which scorched all crops and drove people into dire poverty. A hero named Hou Yi was much worried about this, he ascended to the top of the Kunlun Mountain and, directing his superhuman strength to full extent, drew his extraordinary bow and shot down the nine superfluous suns one after another. He also ordered the last sun to rise and set according to time. For this reason, he was respected and loved by the people and lots of people of ideals and integrity came to him to learn martial arts from him. A person named Peng Meng lurked in them.

Hou Yi had a beautiful and kindhearted wife named Chang E. One day on his way to the Kunlun Mountain to call on friends, he ran upon the Empress of Heaven Wangmu who was passing by. Empress Wangmu presented to him a parcel of elixir, by taking which, it was said, one would ascend immediately to heaven and become a celestial being. Hou Yi, however, hated to part with his wife. So he gave the elixir to Chang E to treasure for the time being. Chang E hid the parcel in a treasure box at her dressing table when, unexpectedly, it was seen by Peng Meng.

One day when Hou Yi led his disciples to go hunting, Peng Meng, sword in hand, rushed into the inner chamber and forced Chang E to hand over the elixir. Aware that she was unable to defeat Peng Meng, Chang E made a prompt decision at that critical moment. She turned round to open her treasure box, took up the elixir and swallowed it in one gulp. As soon as she swallowed the elixir her body floated off the ground, dashed out of the window and flew towards heaven. Peng Meng escaped.

When Hou Yi returned home at dark, he knew from the maidservants what had happened. Overcome with grief, Hou Yi looked up into the night sky and called out the name of his beloved wife when, to his surprise, he found that the moon was especially clear and bight and on it there was a swaying shadow that was exactly like his wife. He tried his best to chase after the moon. But as he ran, the moon retreated; as he withdrew, the moon came back. He could not get to the moon at all.

Thinking of his wife day and night, Hou Yi then had an incense table arranged in the back garden that Chang E loved. Putting on the table sweetmeats and fresh fruits Chang E enjoyed most, Hou Yi held at a distance a memorial ceremony for Chang E who was sentimentally attached to him in the palace of the moon.

When people heard of the story that Chang E had turned into a celestial being, they arranged the incense table in the moonlight one after another and prayed kindhearted Chang E for good fortune and peace. From then on the custom of worshiping the moon spread among the people.

People in different places follow various customs, but all show their love and longing for a better life. Today people will enjoy the full moon and eat moon cakes on that day.

The moon looks extremely round, big and bright on the 15th day of each lunar month. People selected the August 15 to celebrate because it is a season when crops and fruits are all ripe and weather pleasant. On the Mid-Autumn Festival, all family members or friends meet outside, putting food on tables and looking up at the sky while talking about life. How splendid a moment it is!







Dragon Boat Festival (端午节)

The Dragon Boat Festival is a lunar holiday, occurring on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month

The Chinese Dragon Boat Festival is a significant holiday celebrated in China, and the one with the longest history. The Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated by boat races in the shape of dragons. Competing teams row their boats forward to a drumbeat racing to reach the finish end first. Annual races take place all over China, Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan, and other overseas Chinese communities.

The boat races during the Dragon Boat Festival are traditional customs to attempts to rescue the patriotic poet Chu Yuan. Chu Yuan drowned on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month in 277 B.C. Chinese citizens now throw bamboo leaves filled with cooked rice into the water. Therefore the fish could eat the rice rather than the heroic poet. This later on turned into the custom of eating Zong Zi. Zong Zi is a glutinous rice ball, with a filling, wrapped in corn leaves. The fillings can be egg, beans, dates, fruits, sweet potato, walnuts, mushrooms, meat, or a combination of them. They are generally steamed.

The celebration is a time for protection from evil and disease for the rest of the year. It is done so by different practices such as hanging healthy herbs on the front door, drinking nutritious concoctions, and displaying portraits of evil's nemesis, Zhong Kui. If one manages to stand an egg on it's end at exactly 12:00 noon, the following year will be a lucky one.


Lantern Festival (元宵节)

The Lantern Festival or Yuanxiao Jie is a traditional Chinese festival, which is on the 15th of the first month of the Chinese New Year. The festival marks the end of the celebrations of the Chinese New Year. Chinese started to celebrate the Lantern Festival from the Han Dynasty (206 BC - 221 AD). Like most other Chinese festivals, there is also a story behind the Festival. It is also believed that the festival has Taoist origins.  This is a festival for people having fun. On the night of the festival, people go on streets with a variety of lanterns under the full moon, watching lions or dragon dancing, playing Chinese riddles and games, and lighting up firecrackers. There is really a lot of fun for the young and the old. Yuanxiao (glutinous rice ball) or Tangyuan is the special food for the Lantern Festival. It is believed that Yuanxiao is named after a palace maid, Yuanxiao, of Emperor Wu Di of the Han Dynasty. Yuanxiao is a kind of sweet dumpling, which is made with sticky rice flour filled with sweet stuffing. Yuanxiao is sticky, sweet and round in shape, symbolizing family unity, completeness and happiness.

“灯节”者叫做“元宵节”中国的传统佳节,在每年的农历正月十五这一天庆祝。元宵节的到来也标志着春节的结束。元宵节的传统可以追溯到西汉时期,像其他的 传统节日一样,关于元宵节也有一个美丽的传说。据说,与道家的传统有关。 按中国民间的传统,在这天上皓月高悬的夜晚,人们要点起彩灯万盏,以示庆贺。出门赏月、燃灯放焰、喜猜灯谜、共吃元宵,合家团聚、同庆佳节,其乐融融。元宵(黏米团子)或者叫做汤圆是元宵节这一天必吃的食物。相传汉武帝时宫中有一位宫女,名叫“元宵”,长年幽于宫中,思念父母,终日以泪洗面。大臣东方朔决心帮助她,于是对汉武帝谎称,火神奉玉帝之命于正月十五火烧长安,要逃过动难,唯一的办法是让“元宵姑娘”正月十五这天做很多火神爱吃的汤圆,并由全体臣民张灯供奉。武帝准凑,“元宵姑娘”终于见到家人。此后,便形成了元宵节。元宵这种食物实际上是甜馅“饺子”一种,用粘糯米和甜的馅料制成。元宵口感粘糯,口味香甜,外观浑圆,象征着一家人团圆、美满和幸福。


Qing Ming Festival (清明节)

A well-known poem by Tang Dynasty writer Du Mu tells of a sad scene in early April: "rains fall heavily as Qing Ming comes, and passers-by with lowered spirits go." Qingming Day, the traditional tomb-sweeping day, falls on April 4-6 each year. It is a time for remembering loved ones who have departed. People visit their ancestors' graves to sweep away the dirt. Its origin dates back to the Spring and Autumn Period. Jin prince Chong'er ran away from the country with his supporters due to persecution. They were homeless for 19 years and things got so bad that Chong'er began to starve to death. One of the prince's faithful followers, Jie Zitui, cut a piece of muscle from his own leg and served it to his master. Chong'er was saved and, in 636 BC, he took back the throne. He rewarded the officials who had stayed loyal to him but he forgot about Jie Zitui. By the time Chong'er remembered him, a heartbroken Jie Zitui had traveled deep into the mountains. Chong'er wanted to persuade Jie to come home, so he had the hills set on fire. But Jie was later found beside a large tree, with his old mother on his back. Both were dead. Saddened by the tragedy, Chong'er ordered that fires could not be lit on the day of Jie Zitui's death. From this comes Hanshi Day, or Cold Food Day. People visited Jie Zitui's tomb the next day to pay their respects. Over time, Hanshi Day was replaced with Qing Ming Festival.

唐朝著名诗人杜牧有一首著名的诗,描述了四月初令人伤感的一幕场景:“清明时节雨纷纷,路上行人欲断魂。”年4月4-6日左右的清明节是传统的扫墓的日子。在这一天,人们祭吊去世的亲人,到先人的坟头上扫墓。 清明节可以追溯到春秋时代。晋国公子重耳因受到迫害,率其支持者出逃。19年间,他们居无定所,漂泊四方。一次,他们的处境相当窘迫,重耳饿得快不行了。这时,忠心耿耿的介子推从自己的腿上割下一块肉献给了重耳,公子重耳得救了。公元前636年,他夺回了王位。即位之后,重耳对支持者大加封赏,却忘记了介子推。等到想起这位忠臣时,伤心的介子推早已遁入山林深处。重耳想逼他回来,所以就大火焚山。后来,在一棵大树旁边发现了背着老母的介子推。两人都被烧死了。

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