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Traditional Chinese Festivals

Traditional Chinese FestivalTraditional Chinese Festivals

In addition to the New Year celebrations, the Chinese have lantern, moon and even Valentine festivals to give the year focal points.

Chinese Festival Dates for 2011

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Chinese New Year Lantern FestivalChinese Lantern Festival Yuan-Xiao

The Lantern Festival in China is very old; legend has it that there are many wonderful stories about how the Lantern Festival first began.  One story is that in ancient times, people would go in search of spirits with burning sticks. They thought the spirits could be seen during a full moon.

Another is about a lonely young girl, in Han times, who tricked an emperor into having a wonderful festival just so she could visit her family.  The emperor apparently had such an excellent time, he decided to make this festival an annual event.

According to one legend, from ancient times, a celestial swan came into the mortal world where it was shot down by a hunter.  The Jade Emperor, the highest god in Heaven, vowed to avenge the swan.  He started making plans to send a troop of celestial soldiers and generals to Earth on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month, with orders to incinerate all humans and animals. 

However, the other celestial beings disagreed with this course of action, and risked their lives to warn the people of Earth.  As a result, before and after the fifteenth day of the first month, every family hung red lanterns outside their doors and set off firecrackers and fireworks, giving the impression that their homes were already burning. By successfully tricking the Jade Emperor in this way, humanity was saved from extermination.

By T'ang times, many families simply set aside one evening, during the first full moon after the new year, to honour the moon. They would sit outside, and gaze up, in awe and delight.

See more on Chinese festival of lanterns

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Chinese New Year Masks Chinese New Year Masks 2010

Masks in Chinese culture are part and parcel of the world culture of masks....... 面具 Mianju.  Masks first appeared in China during the Shang and Zhou dynasty some 3,500 years ago.  The colourful and exciting celebrations for the Chinese New Year last for several days and end with the lantern [Yuanxiao] festival.

The Chinese masks that surface during the New Year season are exclusively used during that time of the year only.  The general feeling generated by the Chinese masks during this festive season is that of happiness and joy.  Will and Guy share with you some of the multitude of masks which abound in Chinese culture

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Zhongqiu jie - Mid-autumn Moon Festival

This is the Mid-Autumn Festival 中秋節  which is held on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese calendar, which is usually around late September or early October in the Gregorian calendar.  It is a date that parallels the autumnal equinox of the solar calendar, when the moon is supposedly at its fullest and roundest.  The traditional food of this festival is the moon cake, of which there are many different varieties.  See more on Zongqui jie here.

Chinese New Year Festival - Animals

This is a story from China.  It is about twelve animals of the zodiac: a dog, a pig, a rat, an ox, a tiger, a hare, a dragon, a snake, a horse, a ram, a monkey and a cockerel.

One day the twelve animals were having an argument.  They wanted every year to have a name.  'I think that this year should be named after me,' barked the dog.  'It should be called the year of the Dog.'

'No.' gibbered the monkey, 'I think this year should be named after me.' said the monkey.  'It should be called the Year of the Monkey.'

'No, no,' breathed the dragon.  'This year should be named after me.  It should be called the Year of the Dragon.'

The gods were listening. They heard the animals arguing.  'Stop arguing,' demanded one of the gods. The dog stopped arguing. The monkey stopped arguing. The dragon stopped arguing.  They all stopped arguing and listened. The gods boomed, 'Can you see the big river? You must have a race across the big river. We will name this year after the winner of the race.'

So, all the animals lined up on the bank of the river ready for the race.  They're off!  The animals jumped into the water and swam as fast as they could towards the other side.

The ox was very strong and he could swim very fast.  Soon he was in front of all the other animals; but the rat was very clever. He grabbed the ox's tail and climbed onto his back.  The ox didn't know he was there.Chinese New Year Festival

The ox thought he was going to win the race. Just before the ox got to the other side, the rat jumped off the ox's back onto the grass and won the race.

'Yippee! Hoorah!' shouted the rat, 'I'm first.'

The ox was very surprised.  'How did you do that?' he asked, but the rat only laughed.

The gods laughed too and said, 'The rat is the winner. We will call this year the Year of the Rat.  The ox was second, so next year will be called the year of the Ox.

All the other animals finished the race. The tiger was third, the hare was fourth, the dragon was fifth, the snake was sixth, the horse was seventh, the ram was eighth, the monkey was ninth, the cockerel was tenth, the dog was eleventh and the pig was last.

The gods decided that each year would be named after one of the animals in the race.  The animals didn't argue any more. They were very happy, especially the rat because he had won the race.

 

Footnote
Please write to Will and Guy if you have any interesting information about Chinese festivals.

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See more Chinese interesting facts, culture and humour:

Chinese Home   • Interesting Chinese trivia   • Chinese short stories   • Chinese New Year stories

Chinese jokes   • Chinese "Totems"   • Funny Chinese signs   • Chinese masks   • Year of Goat

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