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5.1 Chinese Holidays and Celebrations

8 min readjanuary 3, 2023

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AP Chinese 🇨🇳

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Chinese Holidays and Celebrations

Chinese New Year (春节 chūnjié)

Annually, the Chinese New Year is a gigantic part of tradition in China. Also known as the Lunar New Year, it is based on the Lunar calendar. Every year it will be celebrated sometime in January or February. Around the New Year, workers usually take about 2-3 weeks off work as a holiday to go back home and celebrate. That occurs nationwide in China, and students get a long holiday break as well.
The main aspects of this holiday are to spend time with your family, put up (red) decorations, and give out 红包 (hóngbāo)(red envelopes).
Family gatherings during the Lunar New Year are considered extremely important. In fact, all the traveling that goes on around the Chinese New Year is considered "the world's largest annual migration". Additional flights in China are scheduled annually to accommodate its citizens. Many people will travel, in addition to flying, by trains or cars.
Eating large amounts of food together as a family is another aspect of gatherings. Some foods that are commonly eaten during the New Year meal include fish, dumplings, spring rolls, sweet rice balls, longevity noodles, and fruits (round and golden ‼️).
Fish is eaten in the hopes to prosper during the coming year. This is because 鱼 (yú) is pronounced like to 余 (yú), meaning surplus. The fish should be eaten at the end of the night with leftovers. There is a saying known as 年年有余 (nián nián yǒuyú), which is wish for another to always have extra. Dumplings are eaten as well to symbolize wealth, which is because of their shape. This is because dumplings tend to look like Chinese silver ingots (shown below).
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Yuanbao.JPG

Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

There is a legend that accompanies the usage of red in so many aspects of the Chinese New Year: 传说很久很久以前有一个怪兽。这个怪兽叫“年”。每年,在年关的时候,”年“会出来伤害人们。后来,人们发现”年“非常害怕红色、火和巨大的声音。从此以后,每到过年的时候,为了防止“年”,人们开始贴红对联和别的红的装饰。同时,每年人们都会点灯笼 (lanterns) 和爆竹(firecrackers)为了防止“年”在伤害到人民。
Giving out 红包 during the New Year celebrations to the children is especially important. Inside the red envelopes will be money (cash). The envelope is used to symbolize 好运 (good luck). The money in any envelope should usually be an even number, since odd numbers are used in reference to funerals. That would be a mistake you would want to stay away from! Another important rule to remember is that 四 (4️) should not be used in any form of celebration. This is because the pronunciation of 四 (sì) is very similar to 死 (sǐ), meaning death.

QingMing Festival (清明节 qīng míng jié)

The Qingming Festival (清明节 qīng míng jié), also known as Tomb Sweeping Day (扫墓节 shǎo mù jié), is an important holiday in China (中国 zhōng guó) that is typically held in April (四月 sì yuè). It is a time for people to honor their ancestors (祖先 zǔ xiān) by visiting graves (墓地 mù dì) and making offerings of food (食物 shí wù), flowers (花 huā), and other items (物品 wù pǐn).
The holiday has a long history (历史 lì shǐ) that dates back over 2,500 years (两千五百年 liǎng qiān wǔ bǎi nián), and it is traditionally a time for people to pay their respects (尊敬 zūn jìng) to their loved ones (亲人 qīn rén) who have passed away (去世 qù shì).
The Qingming Festival has a number of significant traditions and customs (传统和习俗 chuán tǒng hé xí sú) associated with it. For example, people often clean (打扫 dǎ sǎo) the graves of their ancestors and make offerings of food, such as fruit (水果 shuǐ guǒ) and incense (香 xiāng). They may also burn joss paper (纸钱 zhǐ qián), which is a type of paper that is believed to be a way of sending material possessions (物质财富 wù zhì cái fù) to loved ones in the afterlife (来世 lái shì). In addition, people may participate in rituals (仪式 yí shì) and ceremonies (仪式 yí shì) to honor their ancestors, such as performing traditional dances (传统舞蹈 chuán tǒng wǔ dǎo) or singing folk songs (民歌 mín gē).
The Qingming Festival (清明节 qīng míng jié) is an important holiday in China (中国 zhōng guó) that is deeply rooted in tradition (传统 chuán tǒng) and culture (文化 wén huà). It is a time for people to come together (聚在一起 jù zài yī qǐ) and pay their respects (尊敬 zūn jìng) to their ancestors (祖先 zǔ xiān), and it is a way of preserving (保存 bǎo cún) the cultural traditions (文化传统 wén huà chuán tǒng) and values (价值 jià zhí) of the past (过去 guò qù).
If you are ever in China (在中国 zài zhōng guó) during the Qingming Festival (清明节 qīng míng jié), it is a great opportunity (机会 jī huì) to learn about and experience (体验 tǐ yàn) the cultural traditions (文化传统 wén huà chuán tǒng) of this fascinating (迷人 mí rén) country.

Related Vocabulary

  • Qingming Festival (清明节 qīng míng jié) - a holiday in China that is traditionally a time for people to honor their ancestors by visiting graves and making offerings
  • Tomb Sweeping Day (扫墓节 shǎo mù jié) - another term for the Qingming Festival
  • China (中国 zhōng guó) - a country in East Asia
  • ancestors (祖先 zǔ xiān) - a person's forefathers or foremothers
  • graves (墓地 mù dì) - a place where the dead are buried
  • food (食物 shí wù) - things that are eaten or drunk to sustain life
  • flowers (花 huā) - plants that have attractive and often fragrant flowers
  • items (物品 wù pǐn) - things that are owned or used
  • history (历史 lì shǐ) - the study of the past
  • loved ones (亲人 qīn rén) - people who are loved or cared for deeply
  • passed away (去世 qù shì) - died
  • traditions (传统 chuán tǒng) - a way of life that has been passed down through the generations
  • customs (习俗 xí sú) - a way of behaving that is common in a particular society or culture
  • clean (打扫 dǎ sǎo) - to make something clean by removing dirt or dust
  • fruit (水果 shuǐ guǒ) - a sweet or savory edible product of a plant
  • incense (香 xiāng) - a substance that gives off a pleasant smell when burned
  • joss paper (纸钱 zhǐ qián) - a type of paper that is burned as a way of sending material possessions to loved ones in the afterlife
  • rituals (仪式 yí shì) - a set of actions or ceremonies that are performed according to a prescribed order
  • ceremonies (仪式 yí shì) - a formal event or occasion
  • traditional dances (传统舞蹈 chuán tǒng wǔ dǎo) - dances that have been passed down through the generations
  • folk songs (民歌 mín gē) - songs that are traditionally sung by the common people of a country or region
  • culture (文化 wén huà) - the beliefs, customs, and way of life of a particular group of people
  • come together (聚在一起 jù zài yī qǐ) - to gather or meet in a single place
  • respect (尊敬 zūn jìng) - a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something
  • preserve (保存 bǎo cún) - to keep something in its original or existing state
  • cultural traditions (文化传统 wén huà chuán tǒng) - traditions that have been passed down through the generations in a particular culture
  • values (价值 jià zhí) - the worth or importance that someone or something has
  • past (过去 guò qù) - the time that has already happened
  • China (中国 zhōng guó) - a country in East Asia
  • opportunity (机会 jī huì) - a situation that makes it possible to do something
  • experience (体验 tǐ yàn) - to have an event or occurrence that leaves an impression on someone
  • cultural traditions (文化传统 wén huà chuán tǒng) - traditions that have been passed down through the generations in a particular culture
  • fascinating (迷人 mí rén) - interesting and attractive in a way that holds the attention
 

Dragon Boat Festival (龙舟节 Lóngzhōu Jié)

The Dragon Boat Festival (龙舟节 Lóngzhōu Jié) is a holiday that is celebrated in China and by people of Chinese heritage around the world. It is typically held in June, and it is a time for people to come together and participate in dragon boat races (龙舟比赛 lóngzhōu bǐsài).
The origins of the Dragon Boat Festival go back more than 2,000 years, and it is believed to commemorate the life of the poet Qu Yuan (屈原 Qū Yuán). According to legend, Qu Yuan was a loyal and devoted government official who was falsely accused of treason and banished from the kingdom. He drowned himself in the Mi Lo River (弥漫河 Mímàn Hé) in despair, and the people of the kingdom raced out in their boats to try and save him. They threw rice dumplings (粽子 zòngzi) into the water to try and distract the fish from eating Qu Yuan's body, and this is how the tradition of eating zongzi during the Dragon Boat Festival began.
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Formen_Zongzi.JPG

Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Today, the Dragon Boat Festival is a time for people to come together and celebrate Qu Yuan's legacy. It is also a time for outdoor activities, such as dragon boat races and picnics, and the eating of zongzi. In some parts of China, people also wear perfumed sachets (芳香囊 fāngxiāng náng) or hang them in their homes to keep away evil spirits (鬼 guǐ).

Related Vocabulary

  • 龙舟节 (Lóngzhōu Jié) - Dragon Boat Festival
  • 龙舟比赛 (lóngzhōu bǐsài) - dragon boat race
  • 屈原 (Qū Yuán) - Qu Yuan
  • 弥漫河 (Mímàn Hé) - Mi Lo River
  • 粽子 (zòngzi) - rice dumpling
  • 芳香囊 (fāngxiāng náng) - perfumed sachet
  • 鬼 (guǐ) - evil spirit

Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋节 Zhōngqiū Jié)

The Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋节 Zhōngqiū Jié) is a traditional Chinese holiday held in September or October, when the moon (月 yuè) is at its fullest and brightest. It is a time for families (家 jiā) to come together and celebrate the autumn harvest (冬瓜 qiūdà), and it is also a time for giving thanks (谢谢 xièxiè) and sharing (风行 fēngxǐng) with others. The origins of the Mid-Autumn Festival can be traced back to ancient China (古代中国 gǔdài Zhōngguó), when it was a time for people to offer sacrifices (上升 shàngshēng) to the gods (神 shén) and pray (祭祀 mólì) for a good harvest. Over time, the holiday has evolved to become a time for families to come together and celebrate the full moon (满月 mǎn yuè), which is a symbol of unity (体和 tǐhé) and harmony (和谐 héxìng).
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mooncake.jpg

Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

There are many ways that people celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival. Some common traditions include eating mooncakes (月饼 yuèbĭng) (a type of pastry filled with sweet fillings such as lotus seed paste (莲芝配 lízhǐ pà)), lighting lanterns (灯笼 dēngdēnglóng), and enjoying outdoor activities such as hiking (游荖 yóulǎo) and picnicking (出去 chūqù). Children often participate in dragon (龙 lóng) and lion dances (狮舞 shīshǒu), and people of all ages enjoy watching fireworks displays (火焰 huǒyàn).
The Mid-Autumn Festival is a time for families to come together and celebrate the beauty (美丽 měilì) of the full moon, as well as the abundance (朵朵 duōduō) of the autumn harvest. It is a time for giving thanks and sharing with others, and it is an important (重要 zhòngyào) part of Chinese culture (文化 wénhuà) and tradition (传统 chuánzhēng).

Related Vocabulary

  • 中秋节 (Zhōngqiū Jié) - Mid-Autumn Festival
  • 月 (yuè) - moon
  • 家 (jiā) - family
  • 冬瓜 (qiūdà) - autumn harvest
  • 谢谢 (xièxiè) - thank you
  • 风行 (fēngxǐng) - to share
  • 古代中国 (gǔdài Zhōngguó) - ancient China
  • 上升 (shàngshēng) - to offer sacrifices
  • 神 (shén) - god
  • 祭祀 (mólì) - to pray
  • 满月 (mǎn yuè) - full moon
  • 体和 (tǐhé) - unity
  • 和谐 (héxìng) - harmony
  • 月饼 (yuèbĭng) - mooncake
  • 莲芝配 (lízhǐ pà) - lotus seed paste
  • 灯笼 (dēngdēnglóng) - lantern
  • 游荖 (yóulǎo) - hiking
  • 出去 (chūqù) - to go out
  • 龙 (lóng) - dragon
  • 狮舞 (shīshǒu) - lion dance
  • 火焰 (huǒyàn) - fireworks
  • 美丽 (měilì) - beautiful
  • 朵朵 (duōduō) - abundance
  • 重要 (zhòngyào) - important
  • 文化 (wénhuà) - culture
  • 传统 (chuánzhēng) - tradition
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