If you’re planning to visit China at all in the near future, then you need to find a festival to check out during your trip. They’re celebrations of culture that often mix the traditional and the modern and are usually marked with vibrant displays that’ll leave you with an unforgettable experience.
And there are a ton to check out! From city-focused celebrations to regional ethnic events, there is no end to the options of festivals in China (big surprise considering it’s the country with the most people on the planet). So to help you out, here are five of China’s most popular festivals that will be worth the trip.
Harbin Ice and Snow Festival
The northeastern city of Harbin is closer to China’s border with Russia than it is to Beijing. There the winters can be super cold – which the locals reckon is something to celebrate with a huge festival. Started in 1963, the Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival has since grown to become the largest ice and snow festival in the world. Highlights include large-scale snow and ice sculptures and buildings made of ice, theme parks, light shows, concerts, and more. The festival runs officially from early January to early February. However, the weather gets nippy well before then and related festivities begin in mid December.
Chinese New Year
Better known as the Spring Festival in China, the Chinese New Year can be a huge party no matter where you are in the world. So imagine how much fun it must be actually to celebrate the date in China. Set to the start of the traditional lunisolar Chinese calendar, which falls between late January and late February, the celebrations can last for up to two weeks. During that time, fireworks, special events, and a welcoming festive atmosphere can be experienced throughout China. Most folks consider Hong Kong, Shanghai and especially Beijing to offer the most spectacular firework displays and biggest parties.
The celebration marking the 15th day of the first lunar month, which usually falls in February or early March, is a time to eat sweet rice dumplings, observe lion dances and stilt walking, and admire the pretty lights of lit lanterns under the full moon. China’s biggest cities are great destinations to experience the Lantern Festive, but a number of smaller cities and villages in the south – such as Taijiang, Puzhai, and Binyang – are thought to be ideal setting for the most colorful and authentic celebrations.
Dragon Boat Festival
There are a few different explanations on the origin of the Duanwu (“Dragon Boat”) Festival, the most popular being that the centuries-old celebration is in honor of the poet Qu Yuan, who committed suicide in 273 BC. It takes place on the 5th day of the 5th month of the traditional Chinese calendar (the date varies greatly each year on the Western calendar, but it’s generally near the summer solstice, sometime in May or June) and has grown to be a public holiday in China. At the festival’s core are the Duanwu/dragon boat races, which are said to mimic the people racing to save Qu Yuan’s body after he drowned himself in the Miluo River. They’re an amazing sight to behold and a real feat of physical endurance. Races take place across China, but the most popular ones are hosted in the lakes near Beijing and Hong Kong’s bays.
Akin to Thanksgiving, China’s Mid-Autumn Festival is traditionally an important time to spend with family and has roots in celebrating the fall harvest. It takes place on the 15th day of the 8th month of the Chinese calendar (sometime between late September to early October) and coincides with a full moon. During this special occasion, the sky is filled with lanterns and bellies filled with delicious mooncakes.
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