Chinese Holidays to Celebrate in China

You can say "zài jiàn" (goodbye) loud and strong to your turkey and Santa filled days if you plan to study Chinese in China. The good news is you can trade in these holiday favourites for hóng bāo’s(red envelopes filled with money), dragon dumplings, and moon cakes. Here's the CSA quick guide to celebrating holidays while living in Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, or Dalian.
Here are our 4 favourite holidays (and a few bonuses!) to get you excited for this new chapter of holiday-fever in your life.


1. Autumn Festival

Zhōng qiū jié as its known in Chinese comes quickly for students studying in China during their school's fall semester. Spend your day eating and exchanging moon cakes, lighting lanterns and letting them float away, and enjoying the first break from the heat of summer. The only downside is if the holiday falls during the school week, you can expect full well to make up those classes on the weekend. That's right, Saturday AM classes!.

2. National Holiday

While it may be tempting to spend this week long holiday exploring another part of China or doing some personal travel....DONT. You and every other Chinese in the country will be stuffing the trains and airplanes silly trying to visit elsewhere. Transit insanity aside, this weeklong break is warmly welcomed. Instead of travel, opt to have a staycation and get to know your new home better. Grab your friends and have some weeknight beers (it is cheaper than water after all!). Draft a letter to your home country's government demanding that you too get a week off for national holiday instead of just a day.

3. Happy New Year!

No days off of school for this bad boy either. The Chinese still recognize and celebrate the Gregorian calendar New Year (despite their more traditional use of the lunar calendar). Nothing too special happens on this day, but I always liked how I got to be in the New Year 13 hours before all my friends back home. It pays to be in the future!

4. Spring Festival, or Chinese New Year

The best Chinese holiday is, of course, Chinese New Year!! The secret if course is that it's nothing like you've celebrated back home (even with your Chinese friends or culture club). Nothing matches being in China during this tè bié rè qíng time of the year. It is basically Christmas on steroids. Folks travel great lengths to return to their hometowns and guò jié (spend new year) with their families. You'll bāo jiǎo zi (wrap up dumplings) on jiǎo zi (dumplings) on jiǎo zi, light more firecrackers than you know what to do with, and, if you're lucky, get your very own hóng bāo (red envelope filled with money) or two (cha-Ching!). 

Beware: everything in China basically shuts down during these 2 weeks. Plan on staying with Chinese friends or taking a little holiday to another country if you can. It's pretty creepy to see a once bustling mega-city like Beijing look more like a ghost town. If you want to eat more than McDonalds for 14 days, you'll be better off going elsewhere.
Bonus round!

Here’s a quick round up of some “unofficial” Chinese holidays. Each represent a facet of Chinese culture – whether holding on to traditional culture or relishing in the younger, more hip pop culture, each speak volumes about China’s current balance of old and new, traditional and modern. 

1. Christmas and Christmas Eve

Chinese exchange apples on Christmas Eve to honour the homonym 'peaceful country' and 'Apple.' Christmas is a highly commercialised affair within China, so don't be surprised if you come face to face with the realization you can have all the bells and whistles of the holiday without the good tidings of comfort and joy or making the Yuletide gay. Related: don't be surprised if you see "Merry Christmas" decorations year round in random places.

2. Single’s Day

11/11, aka the 4 singles, is the antithesis of all things St. Valentine: it's a day to celebrate the lovely single people in your life. No shame in going solo! 

3. Winter Solstice

In case it isn't obvious yet, I love Chinese food. Combining holiday fervour and Chinese food is awesome. Hence my inclusion of this day, where it's said dumplings were first created (to keep their ears warm from frost bite, obviously). As if you need an *excuse * to eat large sums of dumplings, today's the day to pig out!

So there you have it, a round up of the best days to look forward to during your fall semester studying in China. Whether you’re learning Mandarin in Tianjin, Beijing, Shanghai, or Dalian, you’re sure to enjoy a holiday season unlike any you’ve had before!

Written by Megan Lee



 In-Depth-China      CSA-blog

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