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Living in China

Minority and Religious Festivals

Many colorful Chinese festivals with long-standing traditions are celebrated in China throughout the year. Some of them, like the Lunar New Year, you may have already heard of. Others, like Tomb-Sweeping Day, are less well known. In this article on Chinese festivals, you can learn about the most famous holidays and how they are celebrated.

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There are also several festivals only celebrated in certain regions of China or by members of certain religions. The birthday of Guanyin, the goddess of mercy, is celebrated on the 19th day of the second moon, so sometime between late March and late April. Buddhists visit a temple on this day to offer sacrifices to Guanyin and pray.

The Water-Splashing Festival is celebrated from 13–15 April by the Dai people in the Xishuangbanna Prefecture in Yunnan Province. Clean water is first brought to the Buddhist temple to bathe the Buddha, then the participants start splashing the water on each other. The water is meant to wash away the sorrow and demons of the past year and promise happiness for the new one.

Mazu, the goddess of the sea, is honored in Taoist temples each year on her birthday on the 23rd day of the third moon, so in May or June.

On 28 September, the birthday of Confucius, his followers flock to Confucius temples throughout China, but especially to the one in his birthplace of Qufu in Shandong Province.

Of Lanterns, Ghosts, and the Nines of Winter: Other Traditional Holidays

Celebrated each year on the 15th day of the first moon, the Lantern Festival signals the traditional end of the Lunar New Year festivities. During this very colorful festival, children make or buy red paper lanterns and walk through the streets with them in the evening. A popular custom is to solve riddles taped to the lanterns. The traditional food for this Chinese festival is yuanxiao, a rice ball stuffed with different fillings — sugar, rose petals, sesame seeds, or bean or jujube paste.

The first 15 days of the seventh lunar month are known as Ghost Month, as the dead are thought to wander the earth during this time. It is considered a dangerous time to travel, go swimming, get married, or move house. If someone dies during the Ghost Month, their body is preserved and the funeral and burial don’t take place until it is “safe” again.

The winter solstice is celebrated in China with warm food to help stave off the cold and sickness. In southern China, sticky puddings and tsampa (roasted flour, a Tibetan staple) is eaten. In northern China, it is said that if one does not eat dumplings on the winter solstice, one’s ears will freeze during the long winter ahead. Many speak of the “nines of winter” — the nine periods of nine days that must pass before the weather turns warmer again.

Updated on: December 06, 2018
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