Festivals in China with China Holidays "

Many Chinese festivals are based on the lunar calendar rather than on western dates and so the dates fall differently every year.

Click on the month to discover the exciting events across China


Two thousand years ago the Chinese sacrificed animals and performed ceremonies to cajole the gods into mercy by bringing good weather and good harvests. Nowadays the sacrifices have been replaced by exuberant displays of colourful folk traditions and the most significant of these are detailed here – and if you are in China during the Spring Festival which is the Chinese New Year, or the Mid-Autumn Festival you will certainly see people enjoying their traditional activities! These are the ones which take place according to the lunar calendar rather than the western Gregorian calendar. In addition to the ones listed here, there are other public holidays worth noting and these take place on the same date every year – May Day for example which heralds ‘Golden Week’ when many workers take a few days holiday to return home (travelling around China is very crowded and is probably best avoided if possible), and National Day on the 1st October typically preceeds another few days’ holiday. Other celebrations which bring half-day holidays to those named are Women’s Day on 8th March, Youth Day on 4th May, Children’s Day on 1st June and Army Day on 1st August.


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Festivals in China with China Holidays

5th January 2013


The Harbin Ice and Snow Festival lasts for over a month, when the average temperature is -16.8 degrees Celsius, and is famous for exquisite and artistic ice and snow sculptures which are combined with coloured lights and music to create a fairytale world of glittering crystal buildings, often replicas of famous buildings, flowers, animals and so on of all shapes and sizes, with a different theme every year.


Festivals in China with China Holidays

10th February 2013


Chinese New Year is also called Spring Festival, the start of the new moon on the first day of the first lunar month, and it will be the Year of the Snake. The festival is the equivalent of our Christmas and New Year’s Eve rolled into one, with family reunions and lots of eating. Fish is often eaten as the word for fish in Chinese sounds the same as the word for surplus. A few days beforehand households have a major spring clean so that no sweeping needs to be done on New Year’s Eve itself in case good luck is also swept away. Red envelopes containing money are given to children and the unmarried. Two weeks later at the first full moon of the new year is the Lantern Festival where lanterns are lit outside every house and shop, often with riddles on them, and entertainment involves lion dances, stiltwalkers, fireworks, folk dancing and eating rice dumplings.


Festivals in China with China Holidays

25th March - 11th April 2012


Peach Blossom Festival in Shanghai's Nanhui district is an annual event, with folk dancing, pig racing and other local activities.


29th March - 7th April 2012


Taihu Lake Plum Blossom Festival takes place in Suzhou on these dates every year when a variety of folk events are staged to celebrate the coming of Spring.


Festivals in China with China Holidays

4th April 2012


Qingming Festival is also known as Clear Bright Festival, Ancestors Day or Tomb Sweeping Day and denotes a time for people to tend to the graves of departed ones, clearing weeds, planting flowers, offering food and paper money to the dead so that they are provided for in their afterlife, and performing the kowtow to show respect. It is also a time for enjoying the beauties of nature in spring and flying kites with lanterns, and many people make a special outing into the countryside on this day.


5th April 2012


Third Month Fair, Dali, when the different minority tribes of Yunnan congregate for a great market.


Festivals in China with China Holidays

13th May 2012


Rao Sanling, the Festival of the Three Temples – for the Bai people in Dali, this is the spring holiday before they plant their rice seedlings and start farming work, and when they make sacrifices for the success of the coming harvest. Wearing their best clothes they congregate at the foot of Cangshan Mountain, walk around the three holy temples, sing, dance and make merry.


Festivals in China with China Holidays

23rd June 2012


Dragon Boat Festival, on the 5th day of the 5th lunar month, is a boat race with long canoes rowed by a team and egged on by a drummer, with dragon heads on the stern, the winning team ensuring a good harvest and prosperity for their village. Sticky rice pyramid-shaped dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves and with a variety of fillings, zongzi, are traditionally eaten, children have coloured silks tied around their wrists and ankles to protect them from illness, and carry pouches filled with perfume.


Festivals in China with China Holidays

12th July 2012

The Naxi minority of Lijiang hold a great Torch Festival where they construct giant decorated torches which they parade around the town and fields to illuminate crops, drive out evil and pests, and celebrate a good harvest in advance. Always accompanied by singing, music, archery, bull-wrestling, horse-racing and tug of war.


11th-13th July 2012

Mongolian Naadam Fair - a festival of traditional Mongolian sports – archery, horse-racing and wrestling – traditionally when members of all the nomadic tribes would gather to compete and show off their skills. The wrestling tournament starts off with over a thousand competitors, the champion is called The Titan, the horses are jockeyed by children in a cross-country race rather than on a racetrack, and men and women can compete in the archery competition where the results are sung out.


Festivals in China with China Holidays

11th – 12th August 2012


Torch Festival of Bai and Yi of Dali and Kunming, great torches constructed in each village, and every villager has a small one which he carries from house to house – fire is said to burn away wickedness and sickness.


17th – 22nd August 2012


Tibetan Shoton (yoghurt banquet) Festival marks the end of the monks’ 100-day summer retreat and and consists of eating yoghurt and watching opera and yak races at Norbulingka, there is also folk dancing and singing at the Potala Palace. It is preceeded by a procession at Drepung Monastery of the great Thangka or holy image of the Maitreya Buddha.


23rd August 2012


Double Seventh Festival or the 7th day of the 7th lunar month, celebrated as the Chinese Valentine’s Day, and on this night, girls will face the bright moon and pray to heaven for a lover that can satisfy her heart’s desire.


Festivals in China with China Holidays

30th September 2012


Mid Autumn Festival (Moon Cake Festival). The moon is always at its fullest at this time of year, and traditionally the Emperor made sacrifices to the Moon at this time – nowadays people eat moon cakes instead which are filled with red bean paste, lotus paste, nuts or egg yolks, stay up late to admire the full moon and think of home.


Festivals in China with China Holidays

23rd October 2012


Chongyang Festival, the Double-Ninth, held on the 9th day of the 9th lunar month, and on this day people eat chongyang cakes (cakes filled with nuts) and drink chrysanthemum wine (the flower has curative powers). It’s also designated as Seniors’ Day when older people are taken on a country outing. The number nine in Chinese also sounds like the word for ‘forever’.


Festivals in China with China Holidays

11th November 2012


Confucius Festival in Qufu commemorates the birth of the great Chinese scholar and philosopher Confucius, whose ideas are still part of everyday life here. At his birthplace in Shandong province there are various ceremonies worshipping at his temple, and performances of kung fu, ancient music and dance.


Festivals in China with China Holidays

21st December 2012


Dōngzhì Festival or Winter Solstice when it is customary for families to gather, eat dumpling soup, wear new clothes, and visit their ancestors’ graves.