Chinese Festivals and Holidays calendar
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All Chinese Festivals and Holidays for the next 12 months
There are many, joyous Chinese Festivals that are celebrated every year. A number of the festivals follow the old Chinese calendar rather than the western (Gregorian) calendar. The old calendar was based on the moon so just as with the Christian Easter, some festivals fall on different days each year. The Chinese 节气 jié qì solar calendar has been used for farming as the date of sowing, reaping needs to be in step with the sun rather than the moon. For an explanation of how the Chinese calendar works please visit our Chinese Calendar section for details. In recent years some festivals have been moved to a Monday or Friday to give a three day weekend. The mixture of moveable and fixed, modern and ancient create a complex pattern of public holidays.
Summary of major Chinese Festivals in the next 12 monthsClick on the link for details:
Saturday 25th January 2020 Chinese New Year - Spring Festival (Chūnjié 春节)
Saturday 8th February 2020 Lantern Festival (Yuánxiāojié 元宵节)
Saturday 4th April 2020 Bright and Clear Festival (Qīngmíng 清明)
Thursday 25th June 2020 Dragon Boat Festival (Duānwǔjié 端午节)
Tuesday 25th August 2020 Chinese Valentine’s Day (Qīxìjié 七夕节)
Thursday 1st October 2020 Mid Autumn Festival (Zhōngqiūjié 中秋节)
Thursday 1st October 2020 National day (Guó qìng jié 国庆节)
Wednesday 11th November 2020 Singles day (Guāng gùn jié 光棍节)
Festivals reflect the mixed religious traditions in China. Some of the festivals honor more than one religion, others mark the passage of the seasons. Back in dynastic history there were no weekends or days of rest, so festivals were the only holidays and that is why there are so important. All these dates are for the current year (2020) or next year . The festivals are shown in order of occurrence over a full 12 months and is updated every day.
All Chinese festivals in date order
Saturday 25th January 2020
Chinese New Year - Spring Festival (Chūnjié 春节)
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 falls towards the end of January or early February. For at least 2,000 years it has been a time for all families to get together, often traveling long distances. Brightly colored red papers and paper cut designs are displayed everywhere often carrying the character ‘fu’ for good fortune. The traditional lion dance is often seen in public festivities. The festival lasts a whole week of public holiday (Feb 15th to Feb 21st in 2018) and during this time everyone tries to be on their best behavior to set the tone for the whole year.
Buying supplies for the Chinese New Year Festival, Shenzhen Copyright © Dreamstime see image license
There are large firework displays in the cities. 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. 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 a dish of fish has a lucky connotation. The entrance to a house is often decorated with two couplets written in calligraphy on red paper on either side of the entrance. Traditional fairs are held outside temples selling all sorts of small gifts and decorations during the holiday.
Dates : Tue Feb 5 2019 Sat Jan 25 2020 Fri Feb 12 2021
Saturday 8th February 2020
Lantern Festival (Yuánxiāojié 元宵节)
The Lantern festival is on the first full moon after the New Year and marks the very 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 is used in lantern design, they come in all shapes and sizes (globes, dragons, square) and can include moving parts. Many lanterns are made of lucky red paper and some lanterns have riddles painted on them to entertain the people. Tangyuan (glutinous rice balls) are eaten and fir branches placed above doors. Taro (Colocasia esculenta) is a vegateble often eaten at the festival. 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, with many firecrackers scaring away and taking the illness with it. Children, often in scary masks, used to put on little stage shows and pantomimes.
Dates : Tue Feb 19 2019 Sat Feb 8 2020 Fri Feb 26 2021
Monday 24th February 2020
Blue Dragon Festival (Lóng tái tóu 龙抬头)
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 : Fri Mar 8 2019 Mon Feb 24 2020 Sun Mar 14 2021
Thursday 5th March 2020
Flower Festival (Huā zhāo jié 花朝节)
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.
Sunday 8th March 2020
Women’s day (Guó jì fù nǔ jié 国际妇女节)
On the foundation of the People's Republic in 1949 the 8th March was designated Women's Day with a half or full day's holiday for women in China. The date was chosen because it was originally the last Saturday in February but this was moved in 1914 to a Sunday in Russia and has stayed there ever since.
Thursday 12th March 2020
Birthday of Guanyin (Guàn yīn dàn 观音诞)
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 places sacred to her is on Putuo Island, Zhejiang where there is a tall statue looking out East over the ocean.
Thursday 12th March 2020
Arbor or Tree planting day (Zhí shù jié 植树节)
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.
Thursday 26th March 2020
Shangsi Festival (Shàngsìjié 上巳节)
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 : Sun Apr 7 2019 Thu Mar 26 2020 Wed Apr 14 2021
Friday 3rd April 2020
Cold Food Festival (Hánshí Jié 寒食节)
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. More practically it marks the time when the heating fires used over the winter are put out and the all the ashes cleared away - so there is no fire available for cooking. 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.
Saturday 4th April 2020
Bright and Clear Festival (Qīngmíng 清明)
Traditionally the family graveyard/tombs are cleaned and swept on Qing Ming day with fresh offerings laid out for the ancestors. When the extended family leaves the graveyard fire-crackers are often ignited. 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 : Fri Apr 5 2019 Sat Apr 4 2020 Sun Apr 4 2021
Tuesday 7th April 2020
Birthday of the God of Wealth (Zhào gōngmíng 赵公明)
Chinese Lunar New Year money god poster in Hong Kong. Image by Mk2010 ➚ available under a Creative Commons license ➚
If you want to become more prosperous then making 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.
Monday 13th April 2020
Water Splashing Festival (Pō shuǐ jié 泼水节)
The Dai people of Yunnan people have great fun getting very wet on April 13th each year. It commemorates victory over a water demon that had kidnapped seven young sisters. There are very many festivals specific to particular minority people, this is one of the best known through widely seen documentaries.
Friday 1st May 2020
Labor day (Láo dòng jié 劳动节)
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.
Monday 4th May 2020
Youth Day (Qīng nián jié 青年节)
Wednesday 20th May 2020
I Love You Day (Wǔ èr líng 五二零)
Rather like Single's day the day 5.20 (20th May) has become an excuse among the young for another Valentine's day. It is all because the number 520 in Chinese can sound vaguely like 我爱伱 wǒ ài nǐ 'I love you'. So if you can't wait until Valentine's day there is now another day to pledge your love and get engaged. Only popular in cities.
Monday 1st June 2020
Childrens day (Liù yī ér tóng jié 六一儿童节)
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.
Thursday 25th June 2020
Dragon Boat Festival (Duānwǔjié 端午节)
A dragon boat race at Foshan, Guangdong. 2011 Copyright © Dreamstime see image license
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 day length. This became the Dragon Boat Festival on the fifth day of the fifth month which often falls near the summer 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 unjust rule. Many boats went out in search for his body and from this legend dragon boat races take place throughout the world. Triangular rice cakes 粽子 zòng zi and garlic 蒜 suàn are particular associated with this festival, some are fed to the fish on the basis that they would then leave Qu Yuan's body alone. Two teams of 15-30 people race each other in boats with a decorated dragon prow. One person stands and beats the drum to set the rhythm of the rowers. It is only recently (2008) that this has become an official public holiday again. Hong Kong is well known for the large 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, for example with pictures of Zhong Kui or putting iris flowers over the door. Traditionally Realgar wine (containing Arsenic sulfide) was drunk to kill off internal parasites and infections.
Dates : Fri Jun 7 2019 Wed May 27 2020 Mon Jun 14 2021
Friday 3rd July 2020
Rain Festival (Yǔ jié 雨节)
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 just the quantity of rain, 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.
Tuesday 21st July 2020
Half Year Festival (Bàn nián jié 半年节)
Half way through the lunar calendar year is on the 1st day of the 6th month, and it 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.
Sunday 26th July 2020
Clothes Drying Day (Shài yī jié 晒衣节)
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 the day when the Buddhist scriptures that were being carried into China in the 'Journey to the West' were laid out to dry; and so temples used to bring out the Classic scriptures for a good airing. It is a minor festival and not a public holiday.
Saturday 1st August 2020
Army day (Jiàn jūn jié 建军节)
A recently instituted half-day holiday for military personnel is held on the 1st August each year. The date commemorates the Nanchang uprising of August 1st 1927 when the Communist forces for the first time formed an army unit that routed the Guomindang that occupied the city of Nanchang. Many of the Communist military leaders went on to take part in the Long March and the establishment of the People's Republic.
Wednesday 19th August 2020
Ghost Gate Opens (Guǐ mén kāi 鬼门开)
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 the ricebowl as this invites in the ghosts. It is a minor festival and not a public holiday.
Tuesday 25th August 2020
Chinese Valentine’s Day (Qīxìjié 七夕节)
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. In some regions it is also associated with lanterns and guiding spirits as it falls within the Ghost month. Nowadays is more like the western Valentine's Day - couples give each other presents to show their enduring affection.
Dates : Wed Aug 7 2019 Tue Aug 25 2020 Sat Aug 14 2021
Wednesday 2nd September 2020
Hungry Ghost (Yúlánpén 盂兰盆)
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. Prayers are said for spirits who have no families to venerate them. Paper flags are hung over doorways to keep out the hungry ghosts.
Dates : Thu Aug 15 2019 Wed Sep 2 2020 Sun Aug 22 2021
Thursday 10th September 2020
Birthday of Zhuge Liang (Zhū gě liàng dàn 诸葛亮诞)
During the Three Kingdoms period Zhuge Liang ➚, the loyal and capable chancellor of the Shu Han kingdom 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.
Thursday 10th September 2020
Teachers day (Jiào shī jié 教师节)
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. It is not entirely clear why this date was chosen, but it is usually near the start of the new school year after the summer holidays.
Monday 28th September 2020
Confucius’s Birthday (Modern) (Jì kǒng dà diǎn 祭孔大典)
Traditionally the birthday of the great sage and philosopher Confucius was celebrated on the 27th of the 8th Lunar month particularly at his birthplace of Qufu in Shandong. It is now tied to a specific day, the 28th September each year.
Thursday 1st October 2020
Mid Autumn Festival (Zhōngqiūjié 中秋节)
The Autumn Moon Festival takes place at full moon in the 8th lunar month (15th day), it marks the end of harvest. Lanterns are lit and moon cakes are cooked and consumed in large numbers. Ancient pagodas were decorated with lanterns to shine at night. 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!’
Moon cake for the Mid Autumn (Moon) Festival
Dates : Fri Sep 13 2019 Thu Oct 1 2020 Tue Sep 21 2021
Thursday 1st October 2020
National day (Guó qìng jié 国庆节)
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.
Sunday 25th October 2020
Chong Yang Festival (Zhòngyángjié 重阳节)
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 move 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. As chrysanthemums are usually in flower, chrysanthemum wine is often drunk and petals collected to flavor next year's batch. Because nine 九 jiǔ sounds like forever 久 jiǔ it has now become associated with elderly people and since 1989 has also been celebrated as ‘Seniors Day’.
Dates : Mon Oct 7 2019 Sun Oct 25 2020 Thu Oct 14 2021
Wednesday 11th November 2020
Singles day (Guāng gùn jié 光棍节)
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, representing two 11 couples. It is now a popular day to declare love and propose marriage. More importantly it has become the world's busiest shopping day (lots online but lots in shops too), Alibaba in particular promote it as a special occasion to spend money. It is not a national holiday.
Sunday 13th December 2020
Nanjing Massacre memorial day (Nán jīng dà tú shā 南京大屠杀)
Monday 21st December 2020
Winter Solstice (Dōngzhì 冬至)
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 : Sun Dec 22 2019 Mon Dec 21 2020 Tue Dec 21 2021
Friday 25th December 2020
Christmas day (Shèng dàn lǎo rén 圣诞老人)
In recent years the Western celebration of Christmas on 25th December has had increasing .observance. 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. As Santa is dressed in lucky red this greatly adds to his appeal. To wish someone ‘Merry Christmas’ you can say 圣诞快乐 shèng dàn kuài lè. It is not an official holiday.
The following festivals are all in next year: 2021
Friday 1st January 2021
New Years day (Yuán dàn 元旦)
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.
Wednesday 20th January 2021
Laba Festival (Làbā jié 腊八节)
Laba congee ➚ is traditionally eaten on the Laba 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 : Thu Jan 2 2020 Wed Jan 20 2021 Mon Jan 10 2022
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