Yes, yes. It’s true that 2015 has arrived and we’ve waved goodbye to 2014 with a tear and a few too many glasses of champagne. But if, like us, you celebrate Chinese New Year, the festivities have barely started! Here’s a quick insight into some of our Chinese holidays and the meaning behind them. Any excuse to get festive, right?
1. Spring Festival Eve – 18 February
This is the New Year’s Eve of the Chinese calendar! New Year’s celebrations can go on for weeks and Spring Festival Eve kick starts the party-a-thon. It’s the beginning of what is known as a Golden Week, a seven-day string of national holidays beginning with the main day. Three out of the seven days are paid leave and the weekends surrounding the seven days are bumped forward or back to give Chinese workers seven whole days off in a row. Nice.
2. Chinese New Year – 19 February
Happy New Year! In China, people have a few weeks to celebrate the new year. They clean their homes to start the new year without clutter, hang poems written on red paper at their door, decorate with red lanterns and wear new clothes. In the evenings there are firecrackers and fireworks to watch, plus dragon and lion dances and plenty of gong-striking for good measure.
3. Qing Ming Jie – the 14th day of the Spring Equinox (either 4 or 5 April)
The name of this holiday literally translates to ‘Pure Brightness Festival’ but it’s also known as Tomb Sweeping Day in English. It’s a memorial day, established for families to reflect and pay respects to groups of people or national figures who died in a tragic way, as well as ancestors passed. The traditional meal for Qing Ming Jie is a glutinous green dumpling called qingtuan.
4. Dragon Boat Festival – 5th day of the 5th month (early June in the Chinese calendar)
This holiday commemorates the life and death of a famous Chinese scholar named Qu Yuan. Qu Yuan was a minister to King of Chu in the third century BC, but his forward thinking was seen as a threat and the king falsely charged him with conspiracy and banished him. The emotional poems Qu Yuan’s wrote during his exile are cultural icons and paved the way for poets in China. At the age of 61, Qu Yuan drowned himself in the Miluo River. The people of Chu jumped into their boats to save him, but they were too late. The Dragon Boat Festival is named after the rescue attempt and honours Qu Yuan.
5. National Day – 1 October
National Day celebrates the day the People’s Republic of China was founded – 1 October, 1949. It’s the first day of China’s second Golden Week, so it means seven days off work for Chinese workers. The government organises vibrant events to celebrate National Day, including fireworks, concerts and decorations in public spaces.