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Festivals

Legal holidays in China are New Year (January 1st), a national one-day holiday; Spring Festival (New Year by the lunar calendar), a national three-day holiday; International Working Women's Day (March 8th); Tree Planting Day (March 12th); International Labor Day (May 1st), a national three-day holiday; Chinese Youth Festival (May 4th); International Children's Day (June 1st); Anniversary of the Founding of the Chinese People's Liberation Army ("PLA") (August 1st); Teacher's Day (September 10th); and National Day (October 1st), a national three-day holiday.

China's major traditional festivals include the Spring Festival, the Lantern Festival, Pure Brightness Day, the Dragon Boat Festival and the Mid-Autumn Festival. Ethnic minorities have also retained their own traditional festivals, including the Water Sprinkling Festival of the Dai people, the Nadam Fair of the Mongolian people, the Torch Festival of the Yi people, the Danu (Never Forget the Past) Festival of the Yao people, the Third Month Fair of the Bai people, the Antiphonal Singing Day of the Zhuang people, the Tibetan New Year and Onghor (Expecting a Good Harvest) Festival of the Tibetan people, and the Jumping Flower Festival of the Miao people.

Spring Festival

Spring Festival is the most important festival for Chinese people. It is a time when all family members get together, very much like Christmas in the West. Those living away from home return home for this holiday, making it the busiest time for transportation systems of about half a month. Airports, railway stations and long-distance bus stations are crowded with people returning home. Spring Festival falls on the 1st day of the 1st lunar month, often one month later than the Gregorian calendar. It originated in the Shang Dynasty (c. 1600 BC-c. 1100 BC) from people's sacrifice to gods and ancestors at the end of an old year and the beginning of a new one. Strictly speaking, Spring Festival starts every year in the early days of the 12th lunar month and will last till the mid 1st lunar month of the next year. Of these days, the most important are Spring Festival Eve and the first three days. The Chinese government has established a three-day holiday around Spring Festival or the Chinese Lunar New Year. Many customs accompany Spring Festival. Some are still followed today, but others have weakened. But most people in China attach great importance to Spring Festival Eve. At that time, all family members eat dinner together. The meal is more luxurious than usual. After dinner, it is customary for the whole family to sit around, chatting and watching TV. In recent years, the Spring Festival party broadcast on China Central Television Station ("CCTV") is essential entertainment for Chinese both at home and abroad as Chinese family stay up to see the New Year in. The lively atmosphere during Spring Festival also permeates the streets and lanes. Activities such as lion dancing, dragon lantern dancing, lantern festivals and temple fairs are held for days. Spring Festival comes to an end when the Lantern Festival ends.

Lantern Festival

During the Spring Festival, people visit each other, with a great deal of exchanging of gifts. Then the festive atmosphere of New Year begins to wind down 15 days later as the Lantern Festival sets in. This festival, believed to have Daoist origins, is for people to just have fun : carrying lanterns into the street, watching lions or dragon dancing, playing Chinese riddles and games, and lighting firecrackers. A typical food is tangyuan, a kind of dumplings made of sweet rice rolled into balls and stuffed with sweet fillings. The Lantern Festival marks the end of the New Year season and afterwards life returns to its daily routine.

Pure Brightness Day

Pure Brightness Day falls around April 5th every year. Traditionally, this is an occasion for people to offer sacrifices to their ancestors. In recent years, many people go to the tombs of revolutionary martyrs to pay their respects. At this time of year the weather has begun to turn warm, and the flowers are beginning to bloom. People like to take walks, fly kites and appreciate the beauty of spring.

Dragon Boat Festival

The fifth day of the fifth lunar month, Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated everywhere in China. This festival dates back to about 2,000 years ago with a number of legends explaining its origin, but the best-known story centers on a great patriotic poet named Qu Yuan (c. 340-278 B.C.), who lived in the State of Chu during the Warring States Period. In despair at not being able to halt the decline of the state, he drowned himself in the Miluo River in modern Hunan Province on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month after the capital of Chu fell to the State of Qin. Legend has it that after Qu Yuan's death, people living on the banks of the river went out in their boats to try to find the corpse. Every year thereafter, on this day people would row their boats out onto local rivers, throwing sections of bamboo filled with rice into the water as an offering to him. Today, the memory of Qu Yuan lives on, zongzi (pyramid-shaped dumplings made by wrapping glutinous rice in bamboo leaves) remains the traditional food and dragon-boat races are held.

Mid-Autumn Festival

The Mid-Autumn Festival falls on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month, which comes right in the middle of autumn, hence its name. In ancient times, people on this day offered elaborate cakes as sacrifices to the Moon Goddess. After the ceremony, the family would enjoy sitting together to eat the pastries known as "moon cakes." The festival came to symbolize family reunion, as did the "moon cakes," and the custom has been passed down to today.

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