Celebrating Holidays in China

The most important aspect of every holiday is gathering with family and friends; eating, playing games and enjoying one another’s company. While more Westernized holidays like Christmas, Halloween and Valentine’s Day have become important in China, the country is full of rich history and tradition that has spread throughout society and influenced how the Chinese celebrate holidays. We’re going to explore the way locals celebrate their biggest holidays and how, as foreigners, we can get involved in the celebrations!

Spring Festival (Chinese New Year)
Spring Festival, also known as Chinese New Year, signifies the beginning of the lunar year. It’s also the most important holiday for the Chinese. Whenever I ask my Chinese friends how they celebrate they usually say, “We go to our hometown, eat, sleep and enjoy not working.” One thing that is different is as opposed to giving gifts, most people prefer to give “Hong Bao” or, red packets of lucky money.

Each region in China has its own traditions during this time. In big cities, for example, fireworks are not allowed, but in most people’s hometowns, the firework displays at this time are very important in keeping with tradition. I would highly suggest making a trip to a smaller town to celebrate the lunar new year and enjoying a firework show in the country where they were invented!

Another tradition during this time is to get new everything! From new clothes to new bedding, the Chinese do this to begin the new year with good energy and a fresh start. This, of course, makes malls and shopping centers bustling with sales and energy each year. Adorning your house with new flowers and foliage is also a common new year practice as a way to invite in good luck and energy. It is so popular that flower markets are always bustling throughout the city!

In Guangzhou during Spring Festival, there is a daily flower parade where different teams make floats completely filled with flowers.

Most companies also host a year-end dinner and Disney English is no exception. Our year-end dinner is hosted at a huge banquet hall that always has the most amazing food. It’s traditional for there to be entertainment at these events, which gives our talented cast members a chance to show off their skills. Each center rehearses, performs and competes in a showcase throughout the night and every year there is a different theme for each center to follow.

Take a look at last year’s Disney English South Region annual dinner! I was given the opportunity to host last year, and it was a blast!

Mid-Autumn Festival
The Mid-Autumn festival signifies abundance, new harvest and the beginning of a new school year. During this festival, locals tend to visit family, eat lavish dinners and give good wishes for the upcoming season. It’s traditional to eat moon cakes – sweet, lotus paste treats packed with good luck. Different regions across the country also eat special foods like crab, duck and even river snails.

A sweet treat that is fresh and in-season at this time is pomelo – a grapefruit-like fruit that is native to China. As a foreigner, it is a great time to meet with local friends, see the city through their eyes and enjoy homemade delicacies. Most cities also put on a light show or lantern show during this time.

Lanterns are popular during lots of festivals as they welcome good luck and prosperity.

Dragon Boat Festival
The Dragon Boat Festival is a holiday stemming from ancient boat race traditions that still continue today. Different teams, regions and districts compete and put on a show for spectators. The sounds of drums beating and people cheering provide you with an amazing chance to experience authentic Chinese culture. Of course, as with every festival, there is traditional food that accompanies it. “Zong Zi”, steamed rice dumplings, is the staple food of the Dragon Boat Festival. Wrapped in lotus or bamboo leaves and stuffed with several different fillings, zong zi can be sweet or savory but are always delicious. I tend to favor the savory ones that come with egg yolk, pulled pork and beans!

These treats are a must-try, unwrapping them is so satisfying. (Don’t bite into it without unwrapping it like I did the first time!)

These are just some of the festivals celebrated throughout China. Others include Qing Ming festival and lantern festival. Overall, Chinese holidays are a time for families and friends to get together, eat and enjoy each other’s company. There is no shortage of amazing food that goes along with these festivals as well. When you are in China be sure to explore parks, cultural centers and popular destinations to see how the locals celebrate and learn more about the lifestyle!

Senior Foreign Trainer