By Danny Richardson,2014-11-21 16:34
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The Spring Festival The Spring Festival is the most important festival for the Chinese people and is when all family members get together, just like Christmas in the West. All people living away from home go back, becoming the busiest time for transportation systems of about half a month from the Spring Festival. Airports, railway stations and lon..

    The Spring Festival

    The Spring Festival is the most important festival for the Chinese people and is when all family members get together, just like Christmas in the West. All people living away from home go back, becoming the busiest time for transportation systems of about half a month from the Spring Festival. Airports, railway stations and long-distance bus stations are crowded with home returnees.

    Before the New Year comes, the people completely clean the indoors and outdoors of their homes as well as their clothes, bedclothes and all their utensils.

     Then people begin decorating their clean rooms featuring an atmosphere of rejoicing and festivity. All the door panels will be pasted with Spring Festival couplets, highlighting Chinese calligraphy with black characters on red paper. The content varies from house owners' wishes for a bright future to good luck for the New Year. Also, pictures of the god of doors and wealth will be posted on front doors to ward off evil spirits and welcome peace and abundance.

    People attach great importance to Spring Festival Eve. At that time, all family members eat dinner together. The meal is more luxurious than usual. Dishes such as chicken, fish and bean curd cannot be excluded, for in Chinese, their pronunciations, respectively "ji", "yu" and "doufu," mean

    auspiciousness, abundance and richness. After the dinner, the whole family will sit together, chatting and watching TV. In recent years, the Spring Festival party broadcast on China Central Television Station (CCTV) is essential entertainment for the Chinese both at home and abroad. According to custom, each family will stay up to see the New Year in.

    Waking up on New Year, everybody dresses up. First they extend greetings to their parents. Then each child will get money as a New Year gift, wrapped up in red paper. People in northern China will eat jiaozi, or

    dumplings, for breakfast, as they think "jiaozi" in sound means "bidding

    farewell to the old and ushering in the new". Also, the shape of the dumpling is like gold ingot from ancient China. So people eat them and wish for money and treasure.

     Southern Chinese eat niangao (New Year cake made of glutinous rice

    flour) on this occasion, because as a homophone, niangao means "higher and

    higher, one year after another." The first five days after the Spring Festival are a good time for relatives, friends, and classmates as well as colleagues to exchange greetings, gifts and chat leisurely.

    Burning fireworks was once the most typical custom on the Spring Festival. People thought the spluttering sound could help drive away evil spirits. However, such an activity was completely or partially forbidden in big cities once the government took security, noise and pollution factors into consideration. As a replacement, some buy tapes with firecracker sounds to

    listen to, some break little balloons to get the sound too, while others buy firecracker handicrafts to hang in the living room..

    The lively atmosphere not only fills every household, but permeates to streets and lanes. A series of activities such as lion dancing, dragon lantern dancing, lantern festivals and temple fairs will be held for days. The Spring Festival then comes to an end when the Lantern Festival is finished.

     China has 56 ethnic groups. Minorities celebrate their Spring Festival almost the same day as the Han people, and they have different customs.

    Lantern Festival

     This day's important activity is watching lanterns. Till today, the lantern festival is still held each year around the country. Lanterns of various shapes and sizes are hung in the streets, attracting countless visitors. Children will hold self-made or bought lanterns to stroll with on the streets, extremely excited.

     "Guessing lantern riddles"is an essential part of the Festival. Lantern owners write riddles on a piece of paper and post them on the lanterns. If visitors have solutions to the riddles, they can pull the paper out and go to the lantern owners to check their answer. If they are right, they will get a little gift. The activity emerged during people's enjoyment of lanterns in the Song Dynasty (960-1279). As riddle guessing is interesting and full of wisdom, it has

     become popular among all social strata.

     People will eat yuanxiao, or rice dumplings, on this day, so it is also called the "Yuanxiao Festival."Yuanxiao also has another name, tangyuan. It is small

    dumpling balls made of glutinous rice flour with rose petals, sesame, bean paste, jujube paste, walnut meat, dried fruit, sugar and edible oil as filling. Tangyuan can be boiled, fried or steamed. It tastes sweet and delicious. What's more, tangyuan in Chinese has a similar pronunciation with "tuanyuan”,

    meaning reunion. So people eat them to denote union, harmony and happiness for the family.

     In the daytime of the Festival, performances such as a dragon lantern dance, a lion dance, a land boat dance, a yangge dance, walking on stilts and

    beating drums while dancing will be staged. On the night, except for magnificent lanterns, fireworks form a beautiful scene. Most families spare some fireworks from the Spring Festival and let them off in the Lantern Festival. Some local governments will even organize a fireworks party. On the night when the first full moon enters the New Year, people become really intoxicated by the imposing fireworks and bright moon in the sky.

Ching Ming Festival

    Ching Ming Festival (the 15th day from Spring Equinox - 5 April this year) Ching Ming or Qingming, meaning clear and bright, is the day for mourning the

    dead, a day for Chinese families to visit our ancestors graves. It falls in early April every year and corresponds with the onset of warmer weather, the start of spring, and of family outings.

     To "sweep the graves" means to clear the graves of all the leaves and weeds and repaint the inscriptions on it. The Chinese believe that too many leaves surrounding the graves disturb the spirit of the ancestors. Then food such as fruit, rice, wine, chicken, pork, cakes etc., the favorite food of the ancestors, will be put around the grave for the spirit of the ancestors. The Chinese believe that the dead ancestors are not eating well in their afterlife. Giving them their favorite food not only shows respect for them but also brings the descendants good life and health. The Chinese believe that the spirit has power to fulfil wishes. The food is not wasted as after prayers they will be brought back and shared among the descendants. The Chinese believe that eating them brings good health. Also, paper money is burned, candles are lit and the whole family kneels to pay respect. The Chinese also believes that paper money can be consumed in heaven or hell.

    Qingming is not just a day of remembrance, it is also a day to celebrate the coming of spring, often by going out for a picnic. With the coming of spring, nature wakes up, dressing the world with green grass. Everything is new, clean and fresh.

Dragon Boat Festival

    Legend of the Dragon Boat Festival's Origin;

    At the end of the Zhou Dynasty, the area we now know as China had fallen into a state of fragmentation and conflict. While the Zhou dynasty had ruled for several centuries, several other states, originally feudal domains, tried to carve out their own kingdoms. The state of Qin would eventually emerge the victor and unify all of China under one rule for the first time in history. Qu Yuan served as minister to the Zhou Emperor. A wise and

    articulate man, he was loved by the common people. He did much to fight against the rampant corruption that plagued the court-- thereby earning the envy and fear of other officials. Therefore, when he urged the emperor to avoid conflict with the Qin Kingdom, the officials pressured the Emperor to have him removed from service. In exile, he traveled, taught and wrote for several years. Hearing that the Zhou had been defeated by the Qin, he fell into despair and threw himself into the Milou River. As he was so loved by the people, fishermen rushed out in long boats, beating drums to scare the fish away, and throwing zong zi into the water to feed braver fish so that they would not eat Qu Yuan's body.

     The Modern Dragon Boat Festival;

     Starting from that time to this day, people commemorate Qu Yuan through Dragon Boat Races, eating zong zi, and several other activities, on the anniversary of his death: the fifth day of the fifth lunar month. Dragon Boat

    races are the most exciting part of the festival, drawing crowds of spectators. Dragon Boats are generally brightly painted and decorated canoes. Ranging anywhere from 40 to 100 feet in length, their heads are shaped like open-mouthed dragons, while the sterns end with a scaly tail. Depending on the length, up to 80 rowers can power the boat. A drummer and flag-catcher stand at the front of the boat. Before a dragon boat enters competition, it must be "brought to life" by painting the eyes in a sacred ceremony. Races can have any number of boats competing, with the winner being the first team to grab a flag at the end of the course. Annual races take place all over China, Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan, and other overseas Chinese communities.

    Zong Zi;

    The traditional food for the Dragon Boat Festival, Zong zi is a glutinous rice ball, with a filling, wrapped in corn leaves. The fillings can be egg, beans, dates, fruits, sweet potato, walnuts, mushrooms, meat, or a combination of them. They are generally steamed.

    Chinese Valentine's Day----Tanabata Festival

    In China, the night of July seventh Lunar New Year, when the weather is warm, and vegetation fragrance, this is the traditional Chinese Tanabata Festival, some people call it "Qi Qiao Festival", or "daughter Festival". This is the most romantic holiday in traditional festivals of China, and it is the last day of the girls' the most attention.

    In the clear summer night, stars shine in heaven. A galaxy of white running through north and south, this is milk way. On both sides of the Milky Way, each has a shining star. This two stars separated by the Galaxy forever, only on visual far away. That is Altair and Vega.

    On Tanabata festival, people sit down and watch Altair and Vega, and this is folk customs. According to legend, this night every year, is the time when Vega and Altair in the sky meet at the Magpie Bridge. Vega is a beautiful, intelligent, ingenuity of the fairy, so women in this earthly night would begto her wisdom and arts and crafts, and ultimately seek to give her a happy marriage, so in July seventh day is also known as Qi Qiao Festival.

    It is said the night in the Tanabata festvital,look up and you can see Altair and Vega meeting at Galaxy, or under a fruit stand overheard and listen to Altair and Vega meeting in heaven with telling each other the softly love.

    Girls in this romantic atmosphere of night, against the bright moon in the sky with putting seasonalfruits and overturned worship. Begging the goddess of the sky to give their intelligent minds and skillful hands to make their own knitting skillful. Begging for love, marriage, and marriage is more clever with. In the past, marriage is very important for women , because it is the decision whether or not marriage is a lifetime happiness. Therefore, many men and women are in love will be in that night, praying happy marriage. This is the Chinese Valentine's Day the most significance.

    Chung Yeung Festival (Double Ninth Day)

    Chung Yeung Festival (Double Ninth Day) is a Chinese traditional festival which happens at the the ninth day of the ninth lunar month every year, also known as the “Old Men Festival”. Chung Yeung Festival stems from the Warring States Period, was officially designated as folk festival in Tang Dynasty.

    Origin of Double Ninth Day:

    The embryonic stage of Chung Yeung Festival can be traced back to Pre-Qin Dynasty. At that time, a series of activites have already existed on the occasion of Autumn Harvest in September, such as Worshiping God and Ancestors. When it comes to the Han Dynasty, seeking longevity and hold a banquet were added into custom list of the Chung Yeung Festival. During the Three Kingdoms Period Double Ninth Day has become Old Men Festival following wih additional activites including mountaineering and playing games.

    Custom of Double Ninth Day:

    1) Enjoy chrysanthemum

    China is the hometown of chrysanthemum with a long history of chrysanthemum planting since Ancient Age. Chrysanthemum is “Longevity Flower”, and also gains popularity for its inflexibility.

    2) Climbing

    Climbing is one of the most custom in Chung Yeung Festival. Therefore, the Chung Yeung Festival is also called “Mountain Climbing Festival”. There is no uniform requirement for climing, climbing a mountain or climbing a tower are both acceptable. In addition, people enjoy hongye on the mountain, and a picnic is a regular event.

    3) Wear dogwood

    Dogwood is a kind of Chinese Medicinal Materials, with a nickname called “talisman” or “Longevity man.” People wear dogwood to pray for longevity and expel evil on that day.

    4) Drink chrysanthemum wine

    Chrysanthemum wine is considered as the “auspicious wine”. It has already been popular in the Han Dynasty. In the Ming and Qing Dynasties, a variety of herbs has been added into chrysanthemum wine which makes it a beffer effect. The chrysanthemum wine has high medicinal values of dispersing wind chill, nourishing the liver, improving the eyesight and dispelling inflammation.

    Chinese people have since commemorated that date by taking food and chrysanthemum wine to picnic on the hillsides. During this season, chrysanthemums, which are symbols of good health and longevity, are at their finest and are admired.

    On the day of Chung Yeung Festival, families journey to the graves of their ancestors to pay their respects and perform cleansing rites. After flying kites and hiking in the hills, they enjoy a picnic lunch which often includes ko, a Chinese cake.

    Mid-Autumn Festival

    The Mid-Autumn Festival falls on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month, usually in October in Gregorian calendar.

    The festival has a long history. Folklore about the origin of the festival go like this: In remote antiquity, there were ten suns rising in the sky, which scorched all crops and drove people into dire poverty. A hero named Hou Yi was much worried about this, he ascended to the top of the Kunlun Mountain and, directing his superhuman strength to full extent, drew his extraordinary bow and shot down the nine superfluous suns one after another. He also ordered the last sun to rise and set according to time. For this reason, he was respected and loved by the people and lots of people of ideals and integrity came to him to learn martial arts from him. A person named Peng Meng lurked in them.

    Hou Yi had a beautiful and kindhearted wife named Chang E. One day on his way to the Kunlun Mountain to call on friends, he ran upon the Empress of Heaven Wangmu who was passing by. Empress Wangmu presented to him a parcel of elixir, by taking which, it was said, one would ascend immediately to heaven and become a celestial being. Hou Yi, however, hated to part with his wife. So he gave the elixir to Chang E to treasure for the time being. Chang E hid the parcel in a treasure box at her dressing table when, unexpectedly, it was seen by Peng Meng.

    One day when Hou Yi led his disciples to go hunting, Peng Meng, sword in hand, rushed into the inner chamber and forced Chang E to hand over the elixir. Aware that she was unable to defeat Peng Meng, Chang E made a prompt decision at that critical moment. She turned round to open her treasure box, took up the elixir and swallowed it in one gulp. As soon as she swallowed the elixir her body floated off the ground, dashed out of the window and flew towards heaven. Peng Meng escaped.

    When Hou Yi returned home at dark, he knew from the maidservants what had happened. Overcome with grief, Hou Yi looked up into the night sky and called out the name of his beloved wife when, to his surprise, he found that the moon was especially clear and bight and on it there was a swaying shadow that was exactly like his wife. He tried his best to chase after the moon. But as he ran, the moon retreated; as he withdrew, the moon came back. He could not get to the moon at all.

    Thinking of his wife day and night, Hou Yi then had an incense table arranged in the back garden that Chang E loved. Putting on the table sweetmeats and fresh fruits Chang E enjoyed most, Hou Yi held at a distance

    a memorial ceremony for Chang E who was sentimentally attached to him in the palace of the moon.

    When people heard of the story that Chang E had turned into a celestial being, they arranged the incense table in the moonlight one after another and prayed kindhearted Chang E for good fortune and peace. From then on the custom of worshiping the moon spread among the people.

    People in different places follow various customs, but all show their love and longing for a better life. Today people will enjoy the full moon and eat moon cakes on that day.

    The moon looks extremely round, big and bright on the 15th day of each lunar month. People selected the August 15 to celebrate because it is a season when crops and fruits are all ripe and weather pleasant. On the Mid-Autumn Festival, all family members or friends meet outside, putting food on tables and looking up at the sky while talking about life. How splendid a moment it is!

    Customes of Middle-Autumn Festival;

    Nowadays, people like appreciating the moon on Gazing at the Moon;

    Mid-Autumn Festival in China. Chinese family members have dinner together in the evening of Mid-Autumn Festival. After the dinner, they may talk about their work, the children, and their future plans. Sometimes, people go to a park to see the decorations made for the festival.

    Eating Moon Cakes;At the end of Yuan Dynasty (12711368, a dynasty

    ruled by the Mongols), the Han people’s army wanted to overthrow the rule of

    the Mongols, so they planed an uprising, but they had no way to inform every Han who wanted to join them of the time of the uprising without being discovered by the Mongols. One day, the military counselor of the Han people’s army, Liu Bowen, thought out a stratagem related to mooncakes. Liu Bowen asked his soldiers to spread the rumor that there would be a serious disease in winter and eating mooncakes was the only way to cure the disease, then he asked soldiers to write "uprising, at the night of Mid-Autumn Festival" on papers and put them into mooncakes then sell them to common Han people. When the night of the Mid-Autumn Festival came a huge uprising broke out. From then on, people eat mooncakes every Mid-Autumn Festival to commemorate the uprising.

     Nowadays, people also like appreciating the moon on Autumn Moon Festival. Family members have dinner together on the evening of the festival.

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