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5 Chinese Holidays You May Have Never Heard Of

JINNA WANG

Have you heard of Chinese New Year? If you are a regular reader of the Yoyo Chinese blog, the answer must be a resounding "Yes!"


If you are a Chinese culture buff like me, you've probably celebrated Mid-Autumn Festival over moon cakes, and have eaten 粽子 (zòng zi)  as you watch the Dragonboat races on Duan Wu. Check and check.



These awesome, but well-known Chinese holidays are not what we plan to cover in this post.


Chinese holidays today are a grand collection of ancient traditions passed down through thousands of years, as well as modern developments popularized only in the last few decades. There are a ton of unique Chinese holidays that have yet to hit the Western radar, and I want to introduce you to a few of them.


Let's walk through a year of under-the-radar Chinese holidays together!


Catch up and read all about the Chinese New Year


April - 清明节(qīng míng jié)  - Tomb Sweeping Day


Although it is not technically a “holiday” in the sense of celebration, most people in China get time off on 清明节 (qīng míng jié) , or Qing Ming Festival, also known as "Tomb Sweeping Day."


Qing Ming Festival occurred on April 4th in 2016, and will land again on April 5th in 2017. Like most traditional Chinese holidays, Qing Ming Festival follows the 农历 (nóng lì)  - lunar calendar, which explains why the dates shift from year to year.


Qing Ming Festival is a time when Chinese people honor and tend to the graves of their ancestors. Traditionally, this is done by cleaning the graves and leaving gifts of alcohol, tea, flowers, and traditional Qing Ming Festival foods such as eggs or 青团 (qīng tuán) , a sweet green cake made of glutinous rice (similar to Japanese mochi).


Another important tradition of the Qing Ming Festival is the burning of incense and paper money in front of graves. The hope is that the money will reach the ancestors in their afterlife.


In recent years, paper crafts in the shapes luxury goods have been developed as modern Qing Ming Festival offerings. You can now expect to find everything from paper apartments, paper Hummers, and even paper iPhones! The ancestors will certainly be pleased. :)



June - 儿童节 (ér tóng jié)  - Children's Day


Children's Day falls on June 1st of every year. Although it is technically an international holiday, Children's Day is a holiday that is taken especially seriously in China.


Due to the One Child Policy, most Chinese parents and grandparents only have one darling treasure to dote upon - and this holiday is entirely dedicated to spoiling their little princes and princesses!


This day is all about the children. Schools usually host a party for the students, complete with performances, movies, and games to allow the children to let loose and have fun.


Many parents choose to dedicate this day to spending time with their children, taking them 买东西 (mǎi dōng xi) > - shopping, or going to 游乐园  (yóu lè yuán)  - amusement parks.


August - 七夕(qī xī)  - Chinese Valentine's Day


When is Valentine’s Day? In China, this question might cause a bit of confusion because there is not one, but two Valentine’s Days.


In addition to the February 14th Valentine’s Day, there is also the traditional Chinese Valentine’s Day, also known as 七夕 (qī xī)  . 七夕 (qī xī)  is the 7th day of the 7th month of the Lunar Calendar, and In 2016, 七夕 (qī xī)  lands on August 9th.


七夕 (qī xī)  was first developed in the Han Dynasty and stems from astrology. In traditional folktales, the stars Vega and Altair represent two lovers named 牛郎 (niú láng)  - the Cowherd and 织女 (zhī nǚ)  - the Weaver, who are only allowed to reunite once a year on the moon during the day of the 七夕 (qī xī)  festival.


In ancient China, 七夕 (qī xī)  was actually mostly a holiday for single girls. Needle threading competitions would be held for unmarried women to demonstrate their talent in needlework, a skill that was highly valued by men in their future spouse.


Today, 七夕 (qī xī)  is mostly celebrated by couples as a Chinese version of Valentine's Day, complete with flowers, gifts, and 浪漫 (làng màn)  romantic 晚餐 (wǎn cān)  dinners.  Guys, take note of this lesson where Yangyang teaches you how to say, "You look pretty," in Chinese:



However, one tradition still holds true for the celebration of Qixi: on this day, Chinese couples and singles alike will gather to gaze at the moon and wish for eternal love and happiness.


September - 教师节(jiào shī jié)  - Teacher's Day


Due to a tradition of Confucian ideals, teachers have long been one of the most respected professions in China and often placed in the same bracket as doctors.


To officially commemorate teachers’ importance to society, Teacher's Day was created by the Chinese government in 1985, and falls on September 10th of every year.


Teachers work incredibly hard all year to impart their knowledge in subjects such as 中文  (zhōng wén)  - Chinese, 数学  (shù xué)  - Mathematics, 英文  (yīng wén)  - English, and much more, all to prepare Chinese school children for the eventual ultimate exam, the 高考 (gāo kǎo)  or college entrance exam.


On this holiday, students take the occasion to show appreciation for their teachers through thank-you notes and small gifts.


In recent years, however, Teacher's Day has turned into an occasion for parents to buy lavish presents for teachers in the hopes of special attention for their kids.


Shopping centers have created "Teacher's Day Specials" and gift sets consisting of everything from iPads, luxury cosmetics, gift cards, even designer handbags. But maybe, a simple card written with "老师谢谢你" (lǎo shī xiè xie nǐ)  will do?


October - 黄金周 (huáng jīn zhōu)  - Golden Week


Imagine a mandated paid national holiday that is a full week long? Well, it actually exists in China, and it is called 黄金周 (Huáng jīn zhōu) .

黄金周 (Huáng jīn zhōu)  literally translates to "黄金" (huáng jīn)  - golden "周” (zhōu)  - week, and is the newest modern day Chinese holiday on our list.


Golden week was created by the Chinese government in 1997 to combat the economic slowdown from the Asian financial crisis. Thus, a full seven-day national holiday was established in order to increase spending on goods and travel to stimulate the economy.


Luxury travel destinations for Golden Week include South East Asia, Europe, and Japan, but many Chinese travelers will opt for a more budget-friendly option, and stay domestic to see some incredible destinations within China.


If you were thinking of visiting China during Golden Week, think again! Golden Week is one of the craziest travel weeks in China (along with Chinese New Year), and it could be quite impossible to book plane/train tickets or hotel stays.


Even if you were able to buy tickets, the sights to see will be - 挤死了 (jǐ sǐ le)  extremely crowded. If you still don’t believe me, just look at the photo above to see how nutty the crowds can get during Golden Week. Everyone and their extended family will be out-and-about!


There are many unique celebrations in China all year around. Have you participated in another under-the-radar Chinese holiday that's not on our list? Tell us about it in the comments below!

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JINNA WANG is a freelance writer and translator living in New York. She grew up in the snowy city of Harbin, and now spends many weekends recreating the northeast Chinese cuisine of her childhood. You can usually find her traveling, eating, and writing about both.

Tue, 23 Aug 2016 18:00:00 GMT

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