Three important holidays in China are the Lunar New Year (Spring Festival), Dragon Boat Festival, and Mid-Autumn Festival. Each is associated with a season, and has its own special legends, customs, and foods. These holidays are celebrated by Chinese people and people of Chinese heritage all over the world, even here in Boston. Try this quiz.
The Chinese New Year is celebrated on the first through fifteenth days of the first month -- in late winter just before the onset of spring. Since Chinese traditionally followed the lunar calendar, the New Year falls not on January 1, but on a variable date in January or February on the Gregorian calendar. Each new year is assigned an animal sign from the Chinese zodiac, a cycle of signs that repeats every twelve years. This holiday is a time to celebrate family togetherness, remember ancestors, visit friends and neighbors, welcome in the spring, and bring in good luck for the new year. Dragon dances, lion dances, firecrackers, and "red envelopes" of lucky money are some of the customs associated with this holiday. The Lantern Festival on the 15th day of the new year closes out the holiday. Many special foods like nian gao are eaten at Chinese New Year. The most important thing, above all, is for family to be together. Have you seen the lion dances in Boston Chinatown?
DRagon boat Festival
The Dragon Boat Festival is held on the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar year, in late spring or early summer. This holiday commemorates the ancient poet, Qu Yuan (340-278 BC), known for his moral righteousness. Qu Yuan drowned in a river, and local fishermen took their boats out to search for him. People threw food like eggs and zongzi (sticky rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves) into the river to keep the fish from his body. These were the origins of the annual Dragon Boat races held on this holiday, and the eating of zongzi to celebrate. Dragon Boat races are popular all over the world now, and there is an international competition. Have you been to the dragon boat races in Cambridge?
The Mid-Autumn Festival, or Moon Festival, falls on the fifteenth day of the eighth month of the Chinese lunar calendar. It is the second most important holiday after the Spring Festival (New Year). The holiday comes at the time when the moon is fullest and brightest: the full moon closest to the autumn equinox, known as the "Harvest Moon" in America. In ancient times, people made offerings to the moon to give thanks for the harvest. Traditional customs include moon viewing, worshiping the "Lady in the Moon," and eating moon cakes. Moon cakes are small round cakes with a filling inside. Often a whole egg yolk can be found in the center of the cake, looking like a full moon. Do you notice any similarities with other fall holidays?