On Great Heat day, four more events on the Chinese calendar you won’t find on a Western one
The Chinese calendar is peppered with events and festivals alien to Western calendars. We explain why
Monday is Great Heat Day in the Chinese calendar – one of many traditional markers dividing the year up that lack an equivalent on Western calendars. This is because the Chinese calendar is based on solar events.
Here are four more days traditionally of great cultural significance on the Chinese calendar.
1. Duanwu Festival
An early summer festival known also as the Dragon Boat Festival, it is celebrated with boat races and a delicacy of glutinous rice wrapped in bamboo leaves. There are different stories as to how it became a holiday, but the story of poet Qu Yuan is perhaps the most enduring.
The legend dating back to China’s Warring Periods has it that following a period of political turmoil, Qu was forced to leave his home state, and when he had heard that it had been conquered by foreign forces he committed suicide by drowning in a river.
The boats symbolise the people who tried to come to his rescue but in vain and the glutinous rice dumplings serve as a reminder of the food that was thrown into the river after him as a spiritual offering as well as to ward away fishes that might consume his body.
2. Mid Autumn Festival
The harvest festival is celebrated with the lighting of lanterns and the eating of mooncakes. It is popular for children accompanied by their parents to bring lanterns to public squares and streets to mark the night of the full moon. These were traditionally simple cylindrical paper lanterns with a small candle inside, but in more modern times, manufacturers have produced plastic lanterns in the shape of popular superheroes and cartoon characters.
Mooncakes comprise of a lard crust with a filling, traditionally of red bean or lotus seed paste. It is customary for families, friends and businesses to give them as presents in the time leading up the Mid Autumn festival. This has in recent times generated high demand for premium mooncakes.
3. Chung Yeung Festival
This day falls on the ninth day of the ninth month of the Chinese calendar, and sees families visit the graves of their ancestors to pay their respects. Known in English as Grave Sweeping Day, Chinese families take up to the burial sites of their forebears generous offerings of fruit and a roast suckling pig. By custom they also clean the grave and its surroundings, and burn incense and paper offerings for the well-being of the spirit of the deceased.
Celebrated in China on the second day of the second month on the Chinese calendar, this agrarian festival comes with many traditions, some of which have been lost over the years. It is comparable to the customs surrounding Groundhog Day in North America, traditionally the first day of spring.
Long tai tou means“the dragon lifts its head” and is considered a fortuitous day for Chinese to get haircuts, as it is said to bring good luck. It marks the beginning of spring and thus the start of the farming season.
By tradition Chinese eat pancakes and noodles on this day. In the past it also involved getting rid of pests and insects thought to be detrimental to crop growth using perfumes and repellents.