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Spring Festival

The most important holiday in China is Spring Festival, also known as the Chinese New Year. To the Chinese people it is as important as Christmas to people in the West that all family members must get reunion by all means. The dates for this annual celebration are determined by the lunar calendar rather than the Gregorian calendar, so the timing of the holiday varies from late January to early February.

To the ordinary Chinese, the festival actually begins on the eve of the lunar New Year's Day and ends on the 7th day of the first month of the lunar calendar. But the 15th of the first month, which normally is called the Lantern Festival, means the official end of the Spring Festival in many parts of the country. Preparations for the New Year begin in a few days before the Festival, when houses are thoroughly cleaned, debts repaid, hair cut and new clothes purchased. Houses are festooned with paper scrolls bearing auspicious antithetical couplet and in many homes, people burn incense at home and in the temples to pay respects to ancestors and ask the gods for good health in the coming new year. "Guo Nian," meaning "celebrating the New Year holiday," is the common term among the Chinese people for the Spring Festival. At midnight at the turn of the old and new year, people used to let off fire-crackers which means to drive away the evil spirits and to greet the arrival of the new year. In an instant the whole city would be engulfed in the deafening noise of the firecrackers. At midnight of New Year's Eve, all the members of families come together to eat Jiaozi, the boiled dumpling, that is so popular in the north, while southerners favor a sweet glutinous rice pudding called Nian Gao and no one will sleep but sit to play cards or Majiang until the dawn of the new year comes.

Lantern Festival

Lantern Festival falls on the 15th day of the first lunar month-so called Yuanxiao Jie. Each year, there is an exhibition of colored lanterns at night. Every family hangs red lanterns over their gates. Children carry all kinds of colored lanterns in streets and squares, and colored lantern sheds are built for lantern exhibition. Everyone goes out to see the lanterns.

The Lantern Festival is a traditional festival in China. The way of making the lanterns differs according to the natural environment. Lanterns are different in the north and the south. In Northern Shaanxi Province, women in the countryside use sorghum stalks to make lantern frames, then they paste red paper on the frames. In this way, they make all sorts of lanterns, such as pumpkin lanterns, persimmon lanterns and sheep lanterns. Farmers hang red lanterns over the gates of their cave dwellings. Willow trees are also decorated with colored paper. Red lanterns are hung here and there on willow trees. The trees are called lantern trees or spark trees. Beijing was the capital of several dynasties in Chinese history. On the Lantern Festival, all sorts of lanterns were hung in the palace. Artists made fancy lanterns, whose frames are made with carved fine wood. They covered lanterns with silk, gauze, glass on which pictures of landscapes, flowers and birds were painted. During the Lantern Festival, all the people in China will buy Yuanxiao in local shops or restaurants, which is a kind of rice flour made and ball-shaped dumpling with fillings of meat, sugar or candied fruits etc. It is a traditional way to celebrate the festival that normally a local trade fair will be held. In Beijing, the celebration fair is held each year at the Antique Shop Street and many adults with their children will join it.

Duan Wu Festival or Dragon Boat Festival -- A Day in Memory of A Patriotic Poet

The 5th day of the 5th month of the lunar year is a traditional holiday for the Chinese people. The day called "Duan Wu" is observed everywhere in China. This unique Chinese celebration dates back to earliest times and a number of legends explain its origins. The best known story centers on a patriotic court official named Qu Yuan, of the State of Chu during the Warring States Period more than 2,000 years ago. Qu tried to warn the emperor of an increasingly corrupt government, but fails. In a last desperate protest, he throws himself into the river and drowns. The State of Chu was soon annexed by the State of Qin. Later Qu Yuan's sympathizers jump into boats, beat the water with their oars and made rice dumplings wrapped in reed-leaves called Zongzi, and scatter them into the Miluo River in the hope that fish in the river would eat the rice dumplings instead of the body of the deceased poet. At the news of the poet's death, the local people raced out in boats in efforts of searching his body. Later the activity became a boat race and the boats gradually developed into dragon-boats. In many places along rivers and on the coast today, the holiday also features dragon-boat races. In these high-spirited competitions, teams of rowers stroke their oars to propel sleek, long vessels through the water, which is now also joined by some foreign Dragon boat racing teams. From the long times, the custom of making rice dumplings spread to the whole country and people buy and eat Zongzi each year on Duan Wu Festival to mark the significant occasion.

The Moon Festival

On the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar, the moon is just in full round and the Chinese people mark their Moon (or Mid-autumn) Festival. The round shape to a Chinese means family reunion. Therefore the Moon Festival is a holiday for members of a family to get together wherever it is possible. On that day sons and daughters will bring their family members back to their parents' house for a reunion. Sometimes people who have already settled overseas will come back to visit their parents on that day. As every Chinese holiday is accompanied by some sort of special food. On the Moon Festival, people eat moon cakes, a kind of cookie with fillings of sugar, fat, sesame, walnut, the yolk of preserved eggs, ham or other material. The Moon Festival becomes very popular in recent years as the standard of living is much better and many shops sell Moon Cakes even as early as 15 days ahead of the Festival.

Chongyang Festival or Double Ninth Festival

The Chongyang Festival falls on the ninth day of the ninth month of the Chinese lunar calendar, so it is also known as the Double Ninth Festival. The festival is based on the theory of Yin and Yang, the two opposing principles in nature. Yin is feminine, negative principle, while Yang is masculine and positive. The ancients believed that all natural phenomena could be explained by this theory. Numbers are related to this theory. Even numbers belong to Yin and odd numbers to Yang. The ninth day of the ninth lunar month is a day when the two Yang numbers meet. So it is called Chongyang. Chong means double in Chinese. Chongyang has been an important festival since ancient times. The festival is held in the golden season of autumn, at harvest -time. The bright clear weather and the joy of bringing in the harvest make for a festive happy atmosphere. The Double Ninth Festival is usually perfect for outdoor activities. Many people go hiking and climbing in the country, enjoying Mother Nature's final burst of color before she puts on her dull winter cloak.

Early in the Western Han Dynasty, about 2,000 years ago, people used to climb a high platform outside the capital city of Chang'an on the occasion of the Chongyang Festival. For many, it was the last outing of the year before the onset of winter. The custom evolved into its present form, when people go climbing to get some exercise as well as enjoy the autumn scenery. But what about those people who live in flat regions far from any mountain, the problem is solved by going for a picnic and eating cakes. The Chinese word for cake is Gao, which is the homonym of the Chinese word for high.

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