Click on the name of the festival or holiday to read a short description and find links to full articles and related content.
|English Name (click for short description)||Chinese Name||Date|
|New Year||Yuándàn 元旦||1 January|
|Spring Festival (Chinese New Year)||Chūnjié 春节||1st day of 1st lunar month (usually January/February)|
|Lantern Festival||Yuánxiāojié 元宵节||15th day of 1st lunar month (end of Chinese New Year)|
|International Women’s Day||Guójì fùnǚjié 国际妇女节||8 March|
|Arbor Day (National Tree Planting Day)||Zhíshùjié 植树节 (quánmín yìwù zhíshù jié 全民义务植树日)||12 March|
|Qingming Festival (Tomb Sweeping Day)||Qīngmíngjié 清明节||5th Solar Term (usually April 4–6)|
|Labour Day||Láodòngjié 劳动节/wǔyī 五一||1 May|
|Youth Day||Qīngniánjié 青年节||4 May|
|Children’s Day||Liùyī értóngjie 六一儿童节||1 June|
|Dragon Boat Festival (Duanwujie)||Duānwǔjié 端午节||5th day of 5th lunar month (usually in June)|
|CCP Founding Day||Jiàndǎngjié 建党节||1 July|
|China National Maritime Day||Zhōngguó hánghǎi rì 中国航海日||11 July|
|Army Day||Jiànjūnjié 建军节||1 August|
|Double Seven Festival (Chinese Valentine’s Day)||Qīxī 七夕/qīqiao||7th day of 7th lunar month (usually in August)|
|Spirit Festival (Ghost Festival)||Zhōngyuánjié 中元节||15th day of 7th lunar month (usually in August)|
|Mid-Autumn Festival (Moon Festival)||Zhōngqiūjié 中秋节||15th day of 8th lunar month (usually in September/October)|
|National Day||Guóqìngjié 国庆节||1 October|
|Chongyang Festival||Chóngyángjié 重阳节||9th day of 9th lunar month (usually in October)|
New Year (Yuándàn 元旦)
The Chinese people don’t really celebrate the “Western” New Year, because they celebrate their own New Year based on the lunar calender. In recent years, it has become a bit more popular, especially in the larger cities where many foreigners live.
Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) (Chūnjié 春节 or Guòniánjié 过年节)
The Spring Festival, or Chinese Lunar New Year (Nongli Nian 农历年), is the most important seasonal festival in China. It marks the end of the old year and the beginning of the new. The new year traditionally begins on the first new moon of the first lunar month of the year, usually in late January or early February，and lasts for two weeks.
For more information about the Chinese New Year, visit the Chinese New Year page.
The New Year season lingers till the fifteenth day of the first month. This day is the Lantern Festival, also known as the Yuanxiao Festival (yuanxiao means “the night of the first yuan,” one of three divisions in the year in ancient China). There are several legends about its otherwise unknown origins. It is believed that a god told humans to light their communities with lanterns to cheat the Emperor of Heaven, who was about to destroy them by the fire of his wrath. Others argue that because deng (lantern) is close to the word ding (population), and so lantern display is a way of wishing for fertility. People also like to write riddles on the lantern.
Celebrated since the early 19th century, International Women’s Day is an official holiday in China for women only! To learn more about the role of women throughout Chinese history, read this article.
Since 1981, Arbor Day, or Tree Planting Day, is celebrated in China on 12 March. All (able-bodied) citizens are supposed to plant at two to five trees each year, or plant/seed an equal amount. Deforestation is a big problem in China, so this is an important initiative. Read more about China’s forest resources and environmental history.
For the Chinese, the Qingming Festival is a day of both sorrow and joy. On this day, all Chinese people mourn and remember their dead relatives. Sweeping the grave, tomb, or urn and offering up sacrifices constitute a large part of this ritual. Hence the day is sometimes known in the West as the Tomb-sweeping Festival. The rites also include setting off firecrackers and burning incense and joss money (paper money in offering to ancestors).
Taqing 踏青 (treading on the greenery) is one of the more joyous traditions of the Qingming Festival and is related to the beginning of spring. Activities include playing outdoors, going for a walk, and picnicking in the park.
Although it originated in the United States, Labor Day (or May 1st) is now one of China’s most important holidays. For several years, May 1st was the start of a week-long holidays (one of only three called the Golden Weeks), but has since been reverted back to a three-day break.
Youth Day in China is celebrated on 4 May to commemorate the so-called May Fourth Movement, or New Culture Movement. On this day all young people older than 14 get half a day off. There are volunteer activities and social gatherings to celebrate being a young adult.
Since 1949, Children’s Day is celebrated on 1 June, and all primary school children get a day off. There are many fun activities organized for the children, such as movies, trips, and performances. To learn more about children and family life in China, read this article.
The name Duanwu was first documented sometime in the third century, but the origin of the festival is unknown. There are at least five theories: to commemorate Wu Zixu, (526–484 BCE) a senior official of the state of Wu during the Spring and Autumn period (770–476 BCE); to commemorate Qu Yuan, (340–278 BCE) a poet and statesman of the Chu state in the Warring States period (475–221 BCE); to celebrate the Chinese dragon; to fend off plagues; and to observe the summer solstice.
The celebration of Duanwujie involves a number of activities, varying from region to region, the most prevalent of which is racing colorful boats shaped like dragons. Others include making and eating zongzi (a glutinous rice dumpling wrapped in bamboo or reed leaves) and contests that involve standing eggs on their ends on the ground.
11 July marks the day of Zheng He’s first voyage. Zheng He was a famous Ming-dynasty explorer and admiral who made many journeys reaching as far as India and East Africa.
Army Day, celebrated on 1 August, commemorates the founding of the People’s Liberation Army in 1927. This army fought against the Japanese, and later against the Nationalist in the Chinese civil war. Many of them participated in the so-called Long March of 1934-1935, walking 9,600 kilometers from Southeast to Northwest China in an attempt to escape from the Nationalist Forces.
The Double Seven Festival is usually celebrate in August. It is based on the story of the cowherd Niu Lang and the fairy Zhi Nu, who fell in love but were separated by the gods. They were only allowed to meet on the seventh day of the sevenths month of each year (hence the name “double seven”). This celebration dates back to the Han dynasty, and has become popular again in today as China’s version of Valentine’s Day.
Celebrants believe that during the annual Hungry Ghost Festival the gates of hell are thrown open, and ghosts are once again free to roam and may prey on the living. People hold feasts to fete both deities and ghosts. It is celebrated for thirty days starting on the first day of the seventh moon of the Chinese lunar calendar (usually around August). The festival has roots in Chinese forms of social life, Daoist folk religion, and Buddhism.
A Chinese holiday celebrated during the autumn season, Zhong Qiu celebrates family togetherness, which is symbolized by the roundness of the completely full moon. Though the true origin of this festival is unknown, and many of the traditions associated with it are derived from a range of tribes and countries, it is considered one of the most important festivals for the Chinese. It is celebrated on the fifteenth day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar.
After the Communist Party of China defeated the Nationalists in the Chinese Civil War (1945–1949), 1 October became National Day. On 2 December 1949, the Central People’s Government of the PRC passed a resolution to set aside 1 October as Guoqingjie 国庆节(National Celebration Day), or National Day, in English. Most Chinese customarily call it Guoqing (National Celebration) or simply Shiyi 十一 (October First). It is one of only two week-long holidays in China (the other being Chinese (Lunar) New Year).
The Chongyang Festival dates from a legend first described in the fifth century CE, in which a magician warns a young scholar to get his family to higher ground on the ninth day of the ninth month to avoid calamity, hence the name chongyang (double nine). The Chongyang Festival is also known as “Denggao Jie” (Mountain Climbing Festival) and “Juhua Jie” (Chrysanthemum Festival) after the major activity or item involved in the event: people old and young climb mountains or high ground, taking with them chrysanthemum wine and sweet flour fruit cake. Kite flying is another favorite activity during the Chongyang Festival.