There are many, joyous Chinese Festivals that are still marked each year. A number of the festivals follow the old Chinese calendar rather than the Western (Gregorian) calendar of 365 days. The old calendar was based on the moon so just as with the Christian Easter, some festivals fall on a different days of the year. Because the lunar and solar ➚ calendars drift apart two different calendar systems have been used in China for thousands of years. The 节气 jié qì solar calendar has always been used for farming as the date of sowing, reaping needs to be synchronized to the sun not the moon. For more about the Chinese calendar please visit our Chinese Calendar section. In recent years some festivals are moved to a Monday or Friday to give a three day weekend. The mixture of moveable and fixed, modern and ancient create a complex calendar of public holidays.
Festivals reflect the mixed religious traditions in China. Some of the festivals honor more than one religion, others mark the passage of the seasons.
All these dates are for 2016 or 2017. If the date varies from year to year the year is always given in full, see our month at a glance Calender section for all festivals 2010-2020 with information about events and anniversaries.
The following dates are for next year: 2017
New Years day
Jieqi fortnight 腊八节
Làbā jié Laba Festival
Chūnjíe Chinese New Year - Spring Festival
When China adopted the Western, Gregorian calendar on the founding of the Republic of China in 1911, the 'Western' beginning of the year January 1st began to be marked as a festival just as elsewhere in the world. Since 2008 it has become a public holiday lasting 3 days. Sometimes the holiday is 'shifted' to give an extended weekend.
Laba congee ➚ is traditionally eaten on this minor festival. It is held on the 8th day of the twelfth lunar month and is associated with the Buddhist festival marking the Buddha's enlightenment. The festival is observed mostly in northern China and not much in the south. It is not a public holiday.
Dates : Sun Jan 17 2016 Thu Jan 5 2017 Wed Jan 24 2018
New Year is the main annual festival in China determined by the old Chinese calendar. It falls on the second new moon after the winter solstice, so it is held towards the end of January or early February. For at least 2,000 years it has been a time for families to get together, often traveling long distances across China (bàinián 拜年 a New Year visit). Brightly colored papers and paper cut designs are displayed everywhere often carrying the character ‘fu’ for good fortune. Traditionally a week before the festival, the home is cleaned and dusted, the image of the kitchen god is honored so he gives a good report of the house and its occupants to heaven. One legend has it that a kitchen god was so disgusted with a family's antics that he petitioned the Jade Emperor to annihilate mankind, but a delay gave people a few days to tidy things up so everything looked better on a final inspection and disaster averted. The family's ancestral temple and tombs are visited. The traditional lion dance is often seen in public festivities. The festival lasts a whole week of public holiday (Feb 8th to Feb 14th in 2016) and during this time everyone tries to be on their best behavior to set the tone for the whole year.
The ancient legend is that each year a ferocious monster called Nian 年 attacked a village. The creature was enticed to eat food laid out for it rather than the villager's crops. Then the people found it was frightened by a child dressed in red; from then on red lanterns, red signs and all things red were put out to frighten the monster away. At the stroke of midnight firecrackers are set off, drums and gongs are bashed to scare the Nian off (as well as deafen everybody!). Nowadays there are large firework displays in the cities. The formal part of the festival in Imperial China took place at the Temple of Heaven, Beijing where the Emperor performed solemn rituals to seek heaven's blessing for the new year.
Each New Year has an associated astrological animal; for more on pigs; rats; dogs; dragons; tigers; goats; roosters; snakes; horses; oxen; rabbits and monkeys please see our Astrology section. Peach blossom is traditionally used for decorating the home to bring long life and keep demons at bay. The ancestors are given due reverence at the festival. When guests arrive they should bring along food or a gift; these can take the form of packets of 'lucky paper money' in red envelopes (Hongbao ➚). Fish and Jiaozi (dumplings) are often eaten, the character for fish yu 鱼 sounds the same as the character yu 余 meaning 'surplus; abundance' so fish have a lucky connotation. The entrance to a house is given two inscriptions on red paper on either side of the entrance, this goes back to very ancient days when sheep's blood was used to smear the doorway. There are certain activities that are banned due to superstitions that could jinx the coming year, pears should not be cut (they symbolize divorce); signatures should not be written in red ink; people should not be wished happy new year if they are still in bed; umbrellas and fans are unlucky presents; shoes should not be given to a boy/girlfriend as they symbolize departure; the number four (四 sì) should be avoided as it is an unlucky number and the house should not be swept during the holiday as that will sweep away good luck.
To mark the end of the financial year debts are paid off so the year can be started with a clean sheet. Employers often give an extra payment so everyone can pay any debts owed. Traditional fairs are held outside temples selling all sorts of small gifts and decorations during the holiday.
Dates : Mon Feb 8 2016 Sat Jan 28 2017 Fri Feb 16 2018
Yuánxiāojié Lantern Festival
Tibetan New Year Festival
lóngtáitóu Blue Dragon Festival
The Lantern festival is on the first full moon after the New Year and marks the end of the Spring festival. Lanterns are lit and in places very long paper dragons parade the streets. The lanterns lit the way for the ancestral spirits to go home to their tombs after joining the family for the festivities. Great creativity was used in lantern design, including moving parts; some towns had riddles painted on them to entertain the people. Tangyuan (glutinous rice balls) are eaten and fir branches placed above doors. The traditional lion dance was originally tied to just this festival but now are seen more generally throughout the year. In the countryside diseases were removed by making a procession out of the village, taking the illness with it. Children, often in scary masks, used to put on little stage shows and pantomimes.
Dates : Mon Feb 22 2016 Sat Feb 11 2017 Fri Mar 2 2018
In Tibet the start of the year (Losar) is on the first day of the second lunar month as reckoned by the Chinese lunar calendar. 'Sacred pills' of barley are eaten to wish the Dalai Lama a prosperous new year. It is also celebrated in India and Nepal.
The double second (2nd day of 2nd lunar month) marks the first tentative signs of Spring. The name 'Blue Dragon' reflects the tradition of waking the dragons that control the rains, Longtaitou literally means 'dragon raise head'. It usually occurs around the time of 惊蛰 Jīngzhí in the lichuan calendar which marks the stirring of insects; originally fumigation was carried out to kill off the emerging insects. The festival is now celebrated by cleaning the house, having a haircut, eating popcorn, pancakes and noodles. Zhonghe Festival (中和节) is another ancient festival traditionally held on the day before (1st of the 2nd lunar month) so nowadays the two are celebrated together. It is not a public holiday.
Dates : Thu Mar 10 2016 Mon Feb 27 2017 Sun Mar 18 2018
huā zhāo jié Flower Festival
Arbor or Tree planting day
guàn yīn dàn Birthday of Guanyin
Shàngsìjié Shangsi Festival
On the foundation of the Peoples Republic in 1949 the 8th March has been designated Women's Day with a half or full day's holiday for women in China.
The traditional Flower Festival is held on the twelfth day of the second lunar month. The great Tang Empress Wu Zetian is associated with this minor festival when the birthday of the Flower God is celebrated. It roughly marks the time of the emergence of the first flowers of Spring. It is also a good day to plant up the garden ready for summer.
To make up for widespread deforestation and keep China well stocked with trees, on 12th March 植树节 people go out and plant trees. It is not a holiday and was instituted as late as 1981.
The most revered of Buddhist bodhisattvas is Guanyin ➚, the Goddess of Mercy who intercedes on behalf of any who pray to her. Her birthday is traditionally marked by a minor festival on the 19th of the second lunar month. One of the holiest place sacred to her is on Putuo Island, Zhejiang where she has a tall statue on the ocean edge.
Celebrated on the 3rd day of the 3rd Lunar month, Shangsi was traditionally a day for cleaning the house and going away on an outing. It is not an official holiday in China. The festival marks the birthday of the Queen Mother of the West ➚ (Xi Wangmu), a leading Daoist deity and is also known as the Banquet of Peaches of Immortality. The day is associated with many folk beliefs to do with the opening of portals between the living and the dead. The founding Yellow Emperor is also believed to have had his birthday on this day. Sticky rice cakes called baba 粑粑 are sometimes eaten.
Dates : Sat Apr 9 2016 Thu Mar 30 2017 Wed Apr 18 2018
Bright and Clear Festival
Zhào gōngmíng Birthday of the God of Wealth
Cold Food day commemorates the story of Jie Zitui ➚ a loyal and humble servant at the time of the Spring and Autumn Period. The servant is supposed to have cut off part of his own thigh to offer sustenance to his starving master. Jie Zitui shunned rewards and fled to a mountain with his mother, he was pursued by the angry prince and was only put off burning down Jie's house by a pleading poem written in blood. To mark the event no fires are lit and all food is served cold. It is a minor festival held on the eve of Qing Ming . As the events took place in Shanxi province it is mainly there that the festival is celebrated.
Traditionally the family tomb is cleaned and swept on Qing Ming day with fresh offerings laid out for the ancestors. This festival is anchored to the solar year rather than lunar year and so always falls between April 4th to 6th. It marks the start of Spring and is associated with kite flying. It has similarities to the Christian Easter Spring festival in that eggs are prepared and eaten. In some areas boys used to wear willow wreathes on their heads to summon rain for the growing season.
Dates : Mon Apr 4 2016 Tue Apr 4 2017 Thu Apr 5 2018
If you want to become more prosperous then the appropriate offerings to the God of Wealth (Zhao Gongming) or God of Money (Cai Shen) on his birthday could do the trick. This birthday is marked on the 15th day of the third lunar month of the traditional calendar. He is often depicted with an iron club and riding a black tiger. There are various conflicting legends concerning his life which dates back before the Qin dynasty. It is a minor festival and not a public holiday.
The Dai people of Yunnan people have great fun getting very wet on April 13th each year. There are very many festivals specific to particular minority people, this is one of the best known through widely seen documentaries.
Duānwǔjié Dragon Boat Festival
A modern international holiday to mark the toil of workers takes place on 1st May. It is a one day holiday reflecting the socialist/communist history of the PRC. The new festivals like Labor Day introduced since the PRC was founded have gradually given way to the traditional ones, three whole days used to be allocated but this has been reduced to one day since 2008.
The highpoint of the sun's journey at the Summer Solstice in the year marks the start of the warmest part of the year, but also the reduction in length of day. This has become the Dragon Boat Festival on the fifth day of the fifth month which usually falls near the solstice. As well as procuring rain from the water controlling dragons for the summer crops, it commemorates the life of Qu Yuan (340-278 BCE), an incorruptible public official who drowned himself in defiance of widespread corruption. Many boats went in search for his body and from this legend dragon boat races take place throughout the world. Triangular rice cake 粽子 zòng zi and garlic 蒜 suàn are particular associated with this festival. It is only recently (2008) that this has become an official public holiday again. Hong Kong is well known for the number of races that take place each year. The fifth month is generally regarded as the most unlucky month and charms were used to keep the bad influence at bay.
Dates : Thu Jun 9 2016 Tue May 30 2017 Mon Jun 18 2018
Corn in Ear
yǔjié Rain Festival
bàn nián jié Half Year Festival
shài yī jié Clothes Drying Day
A recent holiday specifically for children under 14 was created under the PRC to be held each year on 1st June. Admission to cinemas is free and presents are given.
Rain is essential for crops and another minor festival the Rain Festival, like the Dragon Boat festival, is associated with rain on the 13th of the fifth month. Ceremonies used to seek an adequate provision of water, not too little and not too much. Like St. Swithin's day ➚, the absence of rain on this day may presage a drought. There are many gods of rain and legends about them. As rain is associated with dragons they feature prominently in such tales including the Jinlong Si Dawang (Golden Dragon King). It is not a public holiday.
Half way through the lunar calendar year is on the 1st day of the 6th month, and is a time to reflect on the year so far. Mainly celebrated in southern China, the Half Year Festival is in places treated as an echo of the New Year Festival, with fire crackers, zong zi (glutinous rice) and family get-togethers. According to legend in Jiashanwu Village near Hangzhou a long drought was ended by the efforts of a mysterious old man. It is a minor festival and not a public holiday.
As the sun’s heat reaches its full power this minor festival is set aside to lay out anything that needs drying in the sun. Clothes; bedding; papers; grain are some of the things that can benefit from a thorough airing and drying in the sun. Clothes Drying Day takes place on the sixth day of sixth month. The legend is that the Dragon King, ruler of water, spent this day drying its scales. Another tale is that it was when the Buddhist scriptures that were being carried into China in the 'Journey to the West' were laid out to dry on this day. Temples used to bring out the Classic scriptures for a good airing. It is a minor festival and not a public holiday.
guǐ mén kāi Ghost Gate Opens
End of Heat
Qīxìjié Chinese Valentine’s Day
A recently instituted half-day holiday for military personnel is held on the 1st August each year.
The seventh month of the traditional Chinese calendar is associated with ghosts. The Hungry Ghost festival in the middle of the seventh month is the main festival but some people also mark the start of the month - Ghost Gate. The ghost month is considered unlucky, spirits wander around for the whole month and so new projects and enterprises should not be started. One superstition of relevance is to avoid sticking chopsticks vertically into rice as this invites in the ghosts. It is a minor festival and not a public holiday.
This festival has its origins as a festival for women, honoring Niulang, a weaver, who was separated by the gods from her husband, a cowherd. She spent this one dry night with her husband by following a bridge made by magpies. The husband and wife are the stars Vega ➚ and Altair ➚ and the bridge is the Milky Way. It is held on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month and nowadays it is marked by exchanging gifts between sweethearts. On the preceding day people used to look to the future with various customs that foretold their future. A number of traditional games tested the dexterity of girls in deference to Niulang - the skilled weaver. It was also said to be the day when the Queen Mother of West visited the Emperor. It is also associated with lanterns in some regions with an association with guiding spirits as it falls within the Ghost month.
Dates : Fri Sep 9 2016 Mon Aug 28 2017 Fri Aug 17 2018
Yúlánpén Hungry Ghost
zhū gě wǔ hóu dàn chén Birthday of Zhuge Liang
jìkǒngdàdiǎn Confucius’s Birthday (Modern)
This festival is held on the 15th day (full moon) of the 7th lunar (ghost) month. It is also known as the Mid year festival (中元节 zhōng yuán jié). Traditionally the sufferings of ancestors are appeased by making offerings of food or incense at the ancestral shrine. Paper flags are hung over doorways to keep out the hungry ghosts.
Dates : Wed Aug 17 2016 Tue Sep 5 2017 Sat Aug 25 2018
Teachers have their own special day when students show respect and give presents to them. It is not a holiday and is held on 10th September each year.
During the Three Kingdoms period, the loyal and capable chancellor of the Shu Han kingdom Zhuge Liang ➚ stands out as an example of a virtuous life. His birthday is marked on the 23rd of 7th lunar month in the traditional calendar. He was nick-named ‘crouching dragon’ for his adept military strategies. To mark this day Chinese sky lanterns ➚, traditionally said to have been invented by Zhuge Liang, are lit and allowed to drift into the sky. It is a minor festival and not a public holiday.
Traditionally the birthday of Confucius on the 27th of the 8th Lunar month has been marked particularly at his birthplace of Qufu in Shandong. It is now tied to a specific day, the 28th September each year.
Zhōngqiūjié Mid Autumn Festival
jìkǒngdàdiǎn Confucius’s Birthday (Traditional)
Zhòngyángjié Chong Yang Festival
National day marks the founding of the Peoples Republic on 1st October 1949. There are often three days of public holiday in all, shifted to give a continuous five day holiday when combined with a weekend.
The Moon Festival takes place at full moon in the 8th lunar month (15th day), it marks the very end of harvest. Lanterns are lit and moon cakes are cooked and consumed in large numbers. It celebrates Chang'e the goddess of the moon and particular the romance with the archer god Houyi. Traditionally, spirits of the dead came forth to feast on the fruits of summer harvest. People would climb hills and mountains to watch the rising of the full moon with the greeting 看月亮 Kàn yuè liang ‘Look at the bright moon’!
Dates : Thu Sep 15 2016 Wed Oct 4 2017 Mon Sep 24 2018
The following dates are for the current year: 2016
On the 9th day of the 9th month people used to take to high ground and fly all sorts of kites as a way of appeasing the spirits. It follows the traditional story of Huan Jing ➚ of the Han dynasty, who was told to go to high ground to escape disaster. In Chinese numerology 9 is a strong yang number and is generally inauspicious; so this day had to be treated with respect. Food was laid out to calm the spirits of the ancestors. Because 9 九 jiǔ sounds like forever 久 jiǔ it has now become associated with elderly people and since 1989 is also celebrated as 'Seniors Day'.
Dates : Wed Oct 21 2015 Sun Oct 9 2016 Fri Oct 27 2017
A very recent special day, is ‘Single's Day’ when young , single people buy themselves presents. The festival started among men at Nanjing University in the 1990s and has caught on rapidly in cities throughout China and amongst single women too. The choice of date is based on the fact that 11.11 has four single 'ones' in it. It is now a popular day to declare love and propose marriage. It is not a national holiday.
Nanjing Massacre memorial day
Dongzhi marks the important point of the mid Winter solstice (December 22nd or more rarely 21st), the shortest day, and is traditionally a time for eating rice balls or dumplings after offerings have been made to the kitchen god. This festival like Qingming is tied to the sun rather than the moon.
Dates : Tue Dec 22 2015 Wed Dec 21 2016 Fri Dec 22 2017
In recent years the Western celebration of Christmas on 25th December has had an increasing impact. This is chiefly an excuse to buy presents for children in the cities. Shengdan Laoren is a transliteration of 'Santa' as 'sheng:圣' saintly 'dan:诞' birth followed by 'laoren:老人' old man. To wish someone ‘Merry Christmas’ you can say 圣诞快乐 shèng dàn kuài lè. It is not an official holiday.
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