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Special Days Brighten Up Chinese Life

Not every day is a holiday in China but sometimes it seems that way.

Several holidays have been around for centuries. One with incredible staying power is the Dragon Boat Festival held on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month. It memorializes Qu Yuan, a poet and official born in 340 BC.

According to legend, he drowned himself in 278 BC consumed with despair over his country's decline. To recall his watery demise, dragon boat races are held on rivers and lakes.

Also, a special snack--zongzi--helps keep his memory fresh. Although you can usually find zongzi--glutinous rice wrapped in reed leaves--at Shanghai Railway Station most of the year, in other parts of the country it is only made at this time.

Another favorite holiday is Mid-Autumn Festival, which occurs during the full moon in October. It is a must to eat moon-cakes on this special evening. The round moon and round moon-cakes symbolize reunion--families sharing the special evening together.

Everyone strolls outside to gaze at the full moon. Individual, round sweet cakes made with nuts, sweet bean paste and sometimes egg are available in shops throughout Shanghai.

Then there's the Lantern Festival on the 15th day of the first moon, which prompts another evening walkabout. This time holding lanterns is a particularly fun time for children.

In early April a day is set aside for families to gather to sweep the graves of their ancestors. In the countryside, families may take a picnic while visiting the tomb which they spruce up, many times planting flowers and burning paper money to ward off evil spirits.

One holiday peculiar to Yunnan Province is the Water Splashing Festival on April 13-15. Water is sprinkled and splashed on family, friends, classmates and folks who happen to be nearby in a friendly, playful fashion. Why? For a general spring psychological cleaning. Folklore has it that the water washes away the worries of the old year in order to begin another with a clean slate.

Special days are set aside to recognize working women, March 8, and children, June 1.The anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party that took place in Shanghai is July 1. The most important holiday is National Day, October 1. Always a big celebration, it was the largest ever last year, the 50th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China.

When I was in Beijing in last February, Tiananmen Square was off limits because of restoration in preparation for the big day. I also saw that further improvements were taking place along the main east-west corridor that runs between the Forbidden City and the square.

Spring Festival, or Chinese New Year, is the celebration of the beginning of the lunar year. It usually occurs in late January or early to mid-February. This festival is celebrated by Chinese people every-where in China and overseas. The main thing to do on Spring Festival is get together with loved ones. During this time, there are many "Temple Fairs," which feature lots of yummy snacks and interesting, colorful handicrafts.

From Shanghai Star

Spring Festival on the Loess Plateau
Festivals and Holidays
Spring Festival
Chinese New Year: Tradition in Change
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