The 9th day of the 9th lunar month is the traditional Chongyang
Festival, or Double Ninth Festival. It usually falls in October in
the Gregorian calendar. In an ancient and mysterious book Yi
Jing, or The Book of Changes, number "6" was thought to
be of Yin character, meaning feminine or negative, while
number "9" was thought to be Yang, meaning masculine or
positive. So the number nine in both month and day create the
Double Ninth Festival, or Chongyang Festival. Chong in
Chinese means "double." Also, as double ninth was pronounced the
same as the word to signify "forever", both are "Jiu Jiu," the
Chinese ancestors considered it an auspicious day worth
celebration. That's why ancient Chinese began to celebrate this
festival long time ago.
The custom of ascending a height to avoid epidemics was passed down
from long time ago. Therefore, the Double Ninth Festival is also
called "Height Ascending Festival". The height people will reach is
usually a mountain or a tower. Ancient literary figures have left
many poems depicting the activity. Even today, people still swarm
to famous or little known mountains on this day.
On this day, people will eat Double Ninth Gao (or
Cake). In Chinese, gao (cake) has the same pronunciation
with gao (height). People do so just to hope progress in
everything they are engaged in. There is no fixed ways for the
Double Ninth Cake, but super cakes will have as many as nine
layers, looking like a tower.
The Double Ninth Festival is also a time when chrysanthemum blooms.
China boasts diversified species of chrysanthemum and people have
loved them since ancient times. So enjoying the flourishing
chrysanthemum also becomes a key activity on this festival. Also,
people will drink chrysanthemum wine. Women used to stick such a
flower into their hair or hang its branches on windows or doors to
In 1989, the Chinese government decided the Double Ninth
Festival as Seniors' Day. Since then, all government units,
organizations and streets communities will organize an autumn trip
each year for those who have retired from their posts. At the
waterside or on the mountains, the seniors will find themselves
merged into nature. Younger generations will bring elder ones to
suburban areas or send gifts to them on this day.