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Chinese Holidays and Traditional Festivals in 2021


Happy 2021! Mark your calendar with all the fun Chinese holidays this year. Learning about them can add a lot of joy to your language learning journey.

Because traditional Chinese holidays follow the lunar calendar, it can be super confusing to keep track of them! And if you're not a Chinese native, it's easy to get all these festivals mixed up.

With that in mind, we created this handy infographic and blog post to guide you through the major Chinese holidays in 2021!  Read below for more information and fun lessons about these awesome Chinese holidays!

Chinese New Year - 春节 (chūn jié): February 12th, 2021 

Chinese New Year, 春节 (chūn jié) - literally 'Spring Festival', is probably the most important Chinese holiday on the calendar.

Almost everyone in China returns home to spend Spring Festival with their family. Families will make dumplings together, clean the house to start the new year off with a clean slate, prepare 红包 (hóng bāo) for children and unmarried adults, watch fireworks, enjoy the annual CCTV Chinese New Year gala, and more! 

If this year is their 本命年 (běn mìng nián) – the zodiac of their birth year - many Chinese people will celebrate by wearing red, especially red underwear! It inspired this fun comic - which should also give you some Chinese character reading practice.

本命年 (běn mìng nián) is also featured in our Upper Intermediate Course - check out the lesson here.

Check out this blog post to learn how Chinese people celebrate Chinese New Year.

And finally, check out this blog post to learn about 5 essential Chinese New Year dishes!

Lantern Festival - 元宵节 (yuán xiāo jié): February 26th, 2021

Lantern Festival, 元宵节 (yuán xiāo jié), marks the end of 春节 (chūn jié), Chinese New Year.  To celebrate this festival, Chinese people light up lanterns, and also view lion and dragon dances.  

Another important tradition for this holiday is that people will gather together with family and eat 汤圆 (tāng yuán), a Chinese dessert made from of glutinous rice flour. The round shape of the dessert symbolizes the togetherness of the family.  

Tomb Sweeping Day - 清明节 (qīng míng jié): April 4th, 2021

This Chinese holiday is all about paying respects to your ancestors.  People will visit the graves of their ancestors and offer food and drink to them, as they sweep their tombs clean from debris and weeds. 

Many people also burn paper or joss paper (which symbolizes money) at the graves of their ancestors, as a tribute. 

You can learn more about on this post with 5 Chinese Holidays You May Have Never Heard Of.

Dragon Boat Festival - 端午节 (duān wǔ jié): June 14th, 2021

Dragon Boat Festival - 端午节 (duān wǔ jié) is a fun holiday, where Chinese people enjoy dragon boat races and eat 粽子 (zòng zi)

Zongzi are glutinous rice triangles that are stuffed with different fillings and wrapped in bamboo leaves. There are two main "types" of zongzi, sweet ones (with fillings like red bean paste or taro) and savory ones (often filled with eggs, meat, or mushrooms). 

Check out this super fun video to learn all about Dragon Boat Festival:

Chinese Valentine's Day - 七夕 (qī xī): August 14th, 2021

Chinese Valentine's Day is much like the Western Valentine's Day! It was celebrated historically  Nowadays, in that people generally give their significant other some romantic gifts (like chocolates, flowers, or ties) and go on a date, whether it be dinner, the movies, or something else! 

This holiday originated from a romantic Chinese legend about the oxherd, 牛郎 (niú láng), and the fairy from heaven, 织女 (zhī nǚ).

One version of the legend has it that once the two got married, Zhinu became a weaver girl, and her mother (a goddess) returned her daughter to heaven, and separated the two by a river of stars, the Milky Way. They were only allowed to meet once a year, on 七夕 (qī xī), by way of a flock of magpies forming a bridge over the river of stars.

Mid-Autumn Festival - 中秋节 (zhōng qiū jié): September 21st, 2021

The last traditional Chinese holiday on our list is all about the worship of the moon! 

On this holiday, people will make and light up beautiful lanterns at night, as well as write riddles on lanterns and have people guess the answers. People will also have a family dinner together and enjoy mooncakes, which are a type of Chinese pastry with a rich filling inside, usually made of red bean, lotus seed, or duck egg yolks.

Why worship the moon? This traditions of this holiday are said to originate from a very famous legend about 嫦娥 (cháng é), The Goddess of the Moon. Learn more about the legend with this blog post.  

Then, celebrate with this live hangout with Yangyang and Jason (Yoyo Chinese Product Manager and longtime Mandarin learning enthusiast) all about Mid-Autumn Festival.  They'll taste test mooncakes, teach you a famous Chinese poem about the moon:

Finally, check out this lesson from our Intermediate Conversational Course, where we ask Chinese people on the street how they like to celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival:

Let us know your favorite Chinese holiday and how you celebrate in the comments below!

Want to study Chinese with us?  Our 6 structured courses will build up your skills in the right order. 

Start with our Beginner Conversational Course, or check out our more advanced conversational courses or our Chinese character courses.  The first units of each course are free, so you have nothing to lose!