National days in China;
Mid-autumn Festival and Dragon Boat Festival
In China, there are many national holidays celebrated at different times of the year. They are all celebrated differently depending on where they originated. We will delve into two of the major festivals largely celebrated in China.
Mid-autumn Festival and
This festival falls on the fifteenth day (middle of the month) of the eighth lunar month (Middle of the autumn season), it is also referred to as the Reunion Festival or Zhong Qiu Jie. It marks the end of the autumn harvest. During this period, the moon is full and at its brightest. This is one of the most celebrated festivals in China, after the New Year’s Festival.
Why is it celebrated?
Inherited from the custom moon sacrificial ceremonies. It was observed by the ancient Chinese that the movement of the moon brought about changes of the season and agricultural productions and thus for them to thank the moon and celebrate the harvest they offered sacrifice to the moon on autumn days. This day was designated during the reign of Emperor Tai. Appreciation of the moon became popular among the royals and the upper class.
In traditional China, it was an annual practice for emperors to worship the moon. The royals and officials would throw big parties in their homes to appreciate the bright, shining full moon. Commoners would quietly pray to the moon for a bountiful harvest in their homes.
How is it celebrated?
The Mid-Autumn Festival is celebrated by eating mooncakes. A mooncake is a type of Chinese pastry made using wheat and assumes the shape of the moon. People also appreciate the moon by looking at it from places where the view of the moon is great. They view the full moon from rooftops, balconies, mountain tops, tree tops or lakesides.
Worshipping of the moon takes place on this day. The Chinese Burn incense and light candles in honour of the moon. They also pray while facing the moon. Children buy or make colourful lanterns which are hung on trees, in houses, on walls or floated on rivers and pools. The colourful lanterns signify the beauty of the Mid-Autumn Festival. During this festival, the Chinese gift their friends, relatives and staff. Friends and families send celebratory messages to each other and their loved ones living overseas. People also travel and go shopping during this festival; shopping complexes, hotels and eateries are a buzz of activity. Some choose to celebrate it quietly in their homes watching movies and bonding with their family members and friends.
Generally, the Mid-Autumn Festival is celebrated all over China.
Dragon Boat Festival
The dragon boat festival, also known as Duanwu Festival. Originates from South China and is celebrated near the summer solstice. Having originated from Southern China, it is celebrated in the southern parts of China such as Guangdong, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, and Fujian provinces. Celebrations fall on the fifth day of the fifth month of the traditional Chinese calendar. This explains why it is also referred to as the double fifth festival. The times of celebrations vary from year to year because of the lunisolar* nature of the Chinese traditional calendar.
*related to the sun and the moon.
Why is it celebrated?
The Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated in commemoration of the death of Qu Yuan. He was a famous scholar, poet and a minister in the ancient state of Chu kingdom during the warring state period of the Zhou Zhou dynasty. Qu Yuan composed many patriotic poems which expressed the love he had for his country and was put in exile for his patriotism. He drowned himself on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month and chose not to see his country get conquered by the state of Qin.
Great people like Wu Zixu and Cao E also died on the same day and therefore in some areas people commemorate them during the festival.
Earlier it used to be a hygiene day where people would use herbs to dispel diseases and viruses. (This is another version of the history).
How is it celebrated?
Dragon boat races are conducted during the festivals. The boats assume the shape of a traditional Chinese dragon. One boat can carry 20 to 80 people depending on the size of the boat whereby a team works on the oar in order to reach on the shore before the others. One member might sit on the front or the middle and build the other members’ morale by beating the drum in the way the rowers are rowing. This builds up the concentration of the rowers. The Chinese argue that the essence of the boat race is to remember how people rowed boats in an effort to save Qu Yuan when he drowned himself in the river. Nations such as Britain and Japan also embrace this tradition.
People eat rice dumplings natively known as Zongzi during the Dragon Boat Festival. When Qu Yuan drowned himself in the river, the locals threw rice dumplings into the river believing that they would prevent the fish from eating Yuans body remains and that is why Zongzi is eaten.
Other activities carried out during the festival include wearing perfumed medicine pouches, spell writing and taking really long walks.
Some of the places where one can enjoy the race are:
Yueyang International Dragon Boat Race: Miluo River Dragon Boat Race Center, Yueyang,
Hunan Zigui Dragon Boat Racing: Xujiachong Bay, Zuigu County, Yichang,
Hubei Miao People’s International Canoe Festival: Qingshui River, Guizhou, Hangzhou
Xixi Dragon Boat Race: Xixi Wetland Park.