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Chinese Holidays

Chinese New Year

Also known as the Lunar New Year, it falls on the first day of the lunar calendar. In fact, the origin of this highly celebrated festival is rather interesting. According to the ancient Chinese legend, there was a beast named “Nian” that liked to hunt and eat humans in the Spring. Since the beast was very fierce, it remained a serious threat to the village. Fortunately, an elderly fellow happened to discover that Nian actually feared the sizzling sound of burning firecrackers and got extremely irritated by the red color. In order to prevent Nian from entering the village again, people stuck red papers at their doors and set off firecrackers whenever the beast came near the village. After the great effort in driving Nian away, the beast never showed his face again. In order to celebrate their survival, people made great feasts during Spring regularly and they called that “Guo Nian”, meaning the threat caused by Nian was finally passed.

At present, it remains a tradition for the Chinese to celebrate Chinese New Year. On New Year's Eve, family members would have a big meal together and say their blessings to everyone. Red packets (lucky money inserted in red envelopes) are given to children on New Year's Day and it is customary for people to wear new clothes and shoes on this special day of the year.

Lantern Festival

This special occasion marks the end of the Lunar New Year and it takes place on the fifteen day of the first month according to the lunar calendar. Legend said that some townsmen accidentally killed the goose that belonged to the Emperor of the Heaven. The emperor was furious and planned to burn the entire town down. A kind-hearted fairy taught the people in that town to hang lanterns everywhere to avoid the upcoming disaster and they followed her advice. With the lanterns on, it looked like the town was on fire. Thinking that his goose already got avenged, the Emperor of the Heaven decided to abandon his original destruction plan. In order to show their appreciation to the fairy, people continued to hang lanterns the same time every year; besides, lion and dragon dancing and riddle solving also became parts of the celebration components.

Nowadays, besides watching the lion and dragon dancing performances, hanging lanterns and solving riddles, the Chinese eat special dumpling made of sweet black sesames in celebration of the festival. In fact, the sweet dumpling- eating tradition could be dated back to the Han Dynasty (206 BC- 221 AD). The sweet dumplings are also called “Yuan Xiao and they were believed to be named after a palace maid during Emperor Wu Di's reign. Since the dumpling-eating tradition is deep-rooted, the Lantern Festival is also known as Yuan Xiao Jie.

Qing Ming Festival

This festival takes place during the fifth term of the lunar calendar. It is established to tribute Jie Zitui, one of the loyal officials of the Jin Kingdom during the Spring and Autumn period (770-475 BC). According to Chinese history, the King of the Jin Kingdom had a kind-hearted and talented son named Chong Er. Fearing that he would succeed the throne, the emperor's concubine accused him of treason and Chong was forced to flee together with some officials. They escaped and managed to hide themselves in the mountains, but found no food. After starving for a few days, Jie Zitui cut his flesh out for Chong to eat. Chong burst into tears and promised to be a dutiful ruler once he returned to the Jin Kingdom. After being in exile for three long years, Chong was able to return to his motherland following the wicked concubine's death. He rewarded all his followers, but forgot all about Jie. When Chong finally located the Jie the loyal official, he refused to accept any rewards. In order to force Jie out of his residence, Chong ordered some soldiers to set the place on fire. However, there was still no sign of Jie. Three days later, the loyal official and his mother's bodies were discovered. Chong wept in regret and ordered the whole Kingdom to mourn and show respect to Jie. In addition, a decree was passed to forbid cooking with fire a day before Jie's death; that was the reason why the Qing Ming Festival is also known as the Cold Food Festival (Hanshi Jie).

Currently, Chinese usually visit their ancestors' graves during the Qing Ming Festival to pay respect. In addition, they will sweep and clean the grave, remove excessive weeds, burn ceremonial currencies and repair gravestone engravings.

Dragon Boat Festival

The celebration is on the fifth of the fifth month of the lunar calendar in the honor of the patriotic poet Qu Yuan. He was an official of the imperial court in the state of Chu during the Warring States Period (475-221 BC). At that particular stage, the aggressive ruler of the state of Qin was planning to conquer the six other warring states and unify China. Qu advised the Chu ruler to avoid direct conflict with the state of Qin, but the ruler refused to listen. Due to the false accusations made by Qu's political rivalries, the Chu King started to distrust Qu and dismissed him from the imperial court. The patriotic poet drowned himself in the river after receiving the news that the state of Chu was defeated by the state of Qin. Most of the commoners in the state of Chu loved Qu dearly; they raced down the river in dragon boats and threw rice dumplings into the waters to prevent fishes from eating the poet's body. From that day on, people hold dragon boat races and eat rice dumplings to honor Qu.

It is still customary to celebrate this special occasion with dragon boat races and rice dumplings. One difference is that dragon boat racing has developed into a popular sport. Those who are into the sport practice regularly in preparation of various competitions prior to or during the festival.

International Children's Day

Most believed the celebration originated on June 1st , 1925. A world conference was held to discuss the wellbeing of children in Geneva, Switzerland at the time and coincidentally, the Chinese Consul-general in San Francisco organized a party for some Chinese orphans in commemoration of the Dragon Boat Festival on the same day. Since then, June 1st  became the International Children's Day in China and various countries.

In observation of the holiday, all children receive a day off from school in China. Children usually dress into nice outfits and attend numerous celebration events on the occasion.

Double Seven Festival

It is in fact the Chinese Valentine's day. According to a Chinese myth, Zhinv, a fairy from heaven who is responsible for weaving clouds and creating rainbows, ran into a farmer named Niulang during her vacation in the common land. The two fell in love instantly and got married. A couple of years had passed and the Emperor of the Heaven finally discovered the fairy's absence. A troop was sent from heaven to arrest Zhinv and she was forbidden to meet Niulang ever again. Various magpies were touched by the couple's love for each other, so they gathered and formed a bridge for Zhinv and Niulang to meet once a year, on July 7th .

This festival has more meanings for girls today. They usually pray for great talents in managing housework and a perfect marriage. Of course, most couples will celebrate this unique occasion together and being grateful that they would not have to be apart like Zhinv and Niulang.

Mid-Autumn Festival/Moon Festival

The Chinese usually have family reunions during the Moon Festival on the 15th  of the 8th  lunar month. This tradition was held because of a famous Chinese folktale regarding a beautiful maiden named Chang E. Once upon a time, there were ten suns up in the sky in China. People suffered from severe heat and drought. A young man called Houyi shot nine suns down to save the village and became the hero of the villagers. Because of their gratitude and admiration of Houyi, they even elected him as their King and arranged the prettiest maiden of the village, Chang E to be his Queen. Unfortunately, Houyi turned out to be an evil ruler. Besides imposing harsh decrees, he also ordered the imperial court officials to research on longevity medications so that he could remain young and at the same time enjoy a longer life. Feeling discontented, Chang E broke into the imperial clinic and attempted to destroy the longevity pills. Unfortunately, before she could make any damage, imperial guards passed by the clinic and she tried to escape. Fearing that the pills would be returned to Houyi if she got arrested, she swallowed all of them while during her escape. Magically, she had the ability to fly all of a sudden and headed to the moon without hesitating. From then on, rumors said Chang E settled down on the moon and lived happily with the moon rabbit.

In celebration of the moon festival, families usually hold reunion parties to stay close. Children love playing lanterns and everyone is offered at least a slice of moon cake. It is just very relaxing and enjoyable when you can spend time with your close kin chatting and viewing the beautiful full moon up in the sky.

Chong Yang Festival

It has become one of the Chinese traditions to hike in the mountains on the 9th  of the 9th  lunar month. In fact, a young fellow named Huang Jing started the custom. Interested in learning Taoist arts, Huang learned the techniques from his master Fei Changfang. After the two of them climbed up a mountain one day, Fei told his disciple that there would soon be a disaster at his hometown on the 9th  of the 9th  lunar month. To avoid being harmed, Huang must prepare some red bags, some chrysanthemum wine and lead his family members up into the mountains. He needed to make sure that everyone attaches the red bag to the upper arm and drinks a little bit of the chrysanthemum wine along the way. Huang thanked his master for the tips and hurried home. When Huang and his family members returned home on the 10th , all their livestock, such as the ox, hens, and dog were all dead. In order to celebrate their survival, Huang's family hiked up the mountains, attached red bags on their upper arms and drink chrysanthemum wine on the 9th  of the 9th  lunar month every year and it eventually became a tradition for all Chinese to repeat the practice.

Chinese National Day

With the help of his followers, Mao Tse Tung established the People's Republic of China on October 1st  1949 and Oct 1st  became the official Chinese National Day ever since. To celebrate this great achievement, firework displays are scheduled and the Chinese usually have a week off for amusement and relaxation.

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