The most spectacular festivals in China

photo by Augapfel

Sightseeing is surely a good way of getting to know a place, but it is not the kind of thing that allows you to see into the soul of a country or a culture. It is at times like festivals when you get to really see what the people are made of: you can see them at their happiest, find out what they like to do, and which parts of the culture are the most celebrated by the masses. This applies to whichever country you are visiting, but it is especially important in China, where there are more festivals than you can shake a stick at. Chinese festivals of all kinds, be they music, culture, ethnic of food festivals, are always an occasion to let go and relax, enjoy the lights and the music. Here are the most spectacular festivals in China which you should attend at least once in a lifetime.

The Dragon Boat Festival

For thousands of years, the Duanwu or Dragon Boat Festival has been celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar. The highlight of the festival is the dragon boat race, but there is much more revelry involved, as well as eating liberal amounts of zongzi, or dumplings made of rice flour, as well as drinking realgar wine. There are many other traditions associated with this festival, which you can see and taken part in.

Chinese Lantern Festival

photo by Bridget Coila on Flickr

The Chinese Lantern Festival is one of the most important festivals of the year. It is also called Yuanxiao Festival, and it is celebrated in many parts of Asia on the 15th day of the first month in the lunar calendar. As the name suggests, the festival is an occasion to light as many lanterns as possible, many in complicated shapes and laden with intricate decorations. The traditional food eaten during this festival is the yuanxio dumpling, a delicious treat made of glutinous rice flour and filled with all sorts of things.

Ghost Festival

Sometimes the Ghost Festival is called the Chinese Halloween, because it is a time when the border between this world and the spirit world becomes thin and the ghosts of the ancestors come to visit the living. The ancestors are honored with lavish (often vegetarian) meals, papier mache decorations are made, and paper boats and lanterns are released on rivers. The festival takes place on the 15th day of the 7th lunar month, and the whole month is known as Ghost Month.

Chinese New Year

Mooncake, photo by Jimmie on Flickr

The New Year Festival is rivaled only the by the Lantern Festival perhaps, when it comes to the sheer amount of lights, colors and activities. The Chinese New Year celebration needs no introduction, and it is celebrated by people in South East and East Asia, and communities all over the world. There are lots of regional and local traditions for New Year in China, so depending on your destination you might see something completely different.

Mid-autumn Festival

One of the most spectacular festivals in China is the Mid-Autumn Festival, celebrated on a night with full moon. Because a sweet called mooncake is the traditional food eaten during this festival, the even is also called Mooncake Festival. Lanterns are present, of course, as well as dragon dances and even quainter traditions like matchmaking.

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