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Customs and Habits

China is both an ancient country with a history as long as 5,000 years and a big family with 56 nationalities. It has many special customs and habits that are particularly manifested in traditional festivals. The festivals of the spring, the summer, the autumn and the winter attract the tourists both at home and abroad. Most festivals in China are celebrated according to the Chinese lunar calendar. Since the first day of the lunar month is determined by when the moon is at its thinnest, these lunar months, of course, do not coincide with those of the Western calendar. As a result these festivals fall on different dates each year.

  Spring Festival

The day, falling on the first day of the first month of the lunar year (usually in January or February), is a major traditional festival. The evening before the Spring Festival is called New Year's Eve. In the evening, all streets, lanes and villages are lit with red lanterns, and red scrolls with antithetical couplets are seen pasted at the gates of houses that are thoroughly cleaned. Members of families get together and stay up all through the night, having a family reunion dinner and talking about the past and the future. The get-together banquet is usually a must for every Chinese family.

When the clock rings to indicate the arrival of the new year, numerous fireworks are let off by different households almost at the same time to create a thunderous roar. The grand ceremony is meant to send off the old and usher in the new.

  Early the next morning and on the following days, everybody wears new clothes and go to pay New Year Calls on relatives and friends to extend new year greetings. Rural towns and villages will present a scene of gaiety, with big crowds doing yangko, waist drum, lion and other folk dances with some walking on stilts.

The main food on Spring Festival for people in northern China is Jiaozi, or dumpling with meat and vegetable stuffing, and for people in southern China is New Year Cake made of glutinous rice flour. The moment between the New Year's Eve and the Spring Festival is traditionally called "Jiaozi time", and Jiaozi is served to send off the old and greet the new, and it is supposed to bring good fortune. The New Year Cake is called in Chinese as "Niangao", which has the meaning that the new year will be better than the outgoing year.

  Lantern Festival

The festival falls on the 15th day of the first lunar month. During the festival, various types of lanterns are exhibited. In addition to lantern exhibitions, the Lantern Festival includes plays, firework displays, acrobatics and dances. On the night of the Lantern Festival, every family eats yuanxiao, which is a symbol of family unity, affection and happiness.

  Qingming (Pure Brightness) Festival

Qingming is one of the 24 important days that divide different periods in the traditional Chinese lunar calendar. It is often on the 12th day of the third lunar month in April. On the day, people go to pay respects to the dead at their tombs and hold memorial ceremonies in honor of their ancestors.

  Dragon Boat Festival

The festival is dedicated to the great patriotic poet Qu Yuan (340-278 B.C.) who is believed to have drowned himself on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month (usually June). Grand dragon boat-racing and other activities are held during the festival. Zongzi, a pyramid -shaped dumpling made of glutinous rice wrapped in bamboo or reed leaves, is served on the day.

  Mid-Autumn Festival

The Mid-Autumn Festival falls on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month (September or October). In China, a full moon is symbolic of family reunion, which is why that day is also known as the "Day of Reunion". On that night, family members eat mooncakes while viewing the round moon in the sky. The cake in the shape of the moon signifies family reunion. Many organizations and groups hold Mid-Autumn Evening Parties.

  Ethnic minority groups in China also have a great variety of colorful festivals. The festivals have distinctive ethnic styles and features. They include:

Nadam Fair

Nadam is a Mongolian word meaning "recreation". The festival is a traditional gathering of people in Inner Mongolia. It is held in July or August annually when the pastures are at their greenest, and usually lasts three to ten days. The site of the fair is on green pastures, surrounded by white yurts flying multi-color flags. The festival is celebrated with horseracing, wrestling, archery and other competitions as well as theatrical performances. Agricultural products, by-products, native products and animal products from different prefectures are exchanged at the fair.

  Korban Bairam

It is one of the three largest Islamic festivals and also an important red-letter day for Chinese Moslems, who will go to pray at mosques on the day. Uygur and Kazak ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region observe the festival with songs, dances, horseracing, wrestling and other activities.

  Tibetan New Year

It is celebrated on the first day of the first month by the Tibetan calendar as a significant festival for the Tibetan ethnic group. Special ceremonies are held on the day. On the eve of the festival, every household will paint lucky signs with wheat flour on kitchen walls and gates. Resin is burned on the roof, while painted seedlings of cereal crops and wheatears are displayed in the house. The first day of the festival is for family reunion. On the second day, people will go to call on their relatives and friends. The festival is also observed with wrestling, horseracing, archery and other sports competitions. Grand groups dancing Tibetan operas are performed.

  Tibetan Lantern Festival

This is one of the traditionally important festivals for the Tibetans. It is celebrated in two places on two different days. Johkang Temple, one of the major temples in Lhasa, capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region, holds the Lantern Festival celebrations on the 15th day of the first month by the Tibetan calendar, while the Gumbum monastery, the largest lamasery in Qinghai Province, observes the festival on the 15th day of the first month of the lunar year. During the festival, colorful and huge yak-butter sculptures of birds, animals, flowers, plants, mountains, rivers, pavilions, towers and Buddhist legends are shown. People crowd to see these artistic creations during the festival.

  The Eighth Day of the Fourth Month Festival

It is a traditional festival on the lunar calendar for the Miao ethnic minority group. On the day, Miao people will gather at a fountain in Guiyang City, capital of Guizhou Province. Songs, dances, Wushu competition and other activities are held in celebration of the festival. Some dance and play reed pipes, and acrobatics are performed.


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