title:Important Chinese Festivals
author:Wong Yee Lee
Chinese New Year/Lunar New Year (January/February)
It is usually in the winter of a year. The exact date would follow the one in Lunar Calendar. Entering the New Year month, every family would clean and tidy both the inside and the outside of their houses. New Year food would also be prepared. ‘Lin Gao’, the Chinese cake symbolizing the rise of family every year, would be a must. New Year couplets would be displayed around house. All families would be busy until the New Year’s Eve and a big New Year eve’s dinner would be served for the gathering to welcome the beginning of a New Year. Children and unmarried adults would love the occasion because red packets would be given to them from all married couples and older generations. As a tradition, on the first few days of the first lunar month, people would spend their time visiting relatives and friends.
Spring Lantern Festival/ Yuen Siu Festival (January/February)
It is also known as the Chinese Valentine’s Day and it marks the end of the Chinese New Year. Young couples would celebrate on this day. Lanterns of different designs would be hung in different places.
Ching Ming Festival (March/April)
It is a day when people pay their visits to the graves of your ancestors. Joss sticks, incense and paper offerings would be burnt for the dead people. Roasted while piglets, steamed chicken, fruit and wine would be offered to the dead too. Some people tend to bring chrysanthemum instead of those mentioned above, so remember not to give chrysanthemum to Chinese people. It is said the it is also a day when the dead wander about above ground and so sometimes people carry willow branches or hang them outside their doors on this day to scare away the ghosts.
Birthday of Tin Hau (April/May)
It is not a very big festival but a very important one for the people living on fishing islands. It is a festival to show respect to the Goddess of the Sea, Tin Hau for good catches in the sea and a safe year ahead.
Cheung Chau Bun Festival (April/May)
It is a festival which belongs to the Cheung Chau Island. In the past, people climbed bun towers built with bamboos which were covered with blessed buns outside. The higher people climbed on it meant the more luck they would receive in the year. Since the accident happened in 1978, this competition was no longer allowed. People on the island would keep vegetarian for three days during the festival.
Dragon Boat Festival (June)
It is a festival to show respect to a patriotic scholar – Chu Yuan, who drowned himself to protest against his emperor. Rice dumpling, which is popular during the festival, is made of glutinous rice, salted meat with a salty egg yolk and wrapped with bamboo leaves. It is believed that these dumplings would scare away any fish which would harm the body of Chu Yuan after him jumping into the sea. However, some believe that dragon boat festival started before the death of Chu Yuan. The dragon boat has the head and a tail of a dragon. Since the dragon is the god of the water world, After the dragon boats sail in the water, the water will be blessed. It is also a tradition for people to wash their hair and body with the blessed water on the day so as to be blessed for the coming year.
Hungry Ghost Festival (August/September)
It is the time when the gate of Hell opens and all ghosts will come to the earth. People would offer roasted pork, steamed chicken, and fruits to the ghosts. They would also burn paper offerings to the dead in the streets. It is also said that people should not walk or respond to anybody calling them when walking in the street at night.
Mid-autumn Festival (September/October)
Mooncake is the gift you give to your friends and relatives at the festival. Apart from that, salted sausages and star fruit are other popular gifts. It is the happiest for the children because they would enjoy walking in the streets with their lanterns. ‘Wax-boiling’ has become very popular but the government in Hong Kong has made it forbidden after many accidents from burning wax. Of course people would make use of the chance to look at the full moon on the day on their balconies or just at home. Traditional mooncakes are made with sweet lotus seed paste with one or more egg yolks. Modern mooncakes come in various styles. Tastes like green tea, red beans, hams and nuts, or even mooncake ice-cream are all available. Just name it and you may find it.
Chung Yeung Festival (September/October)
There has been a legend from the East Han Dynasty. A man was told to leave home and go to a hill top of the date to avoid a disaster which would kill all lives there. So he left home with his family and drank chrysanthemum wine as he had been told. When he came back after the day, he found that all livestock were killed. Since then, after almost 2000 years, it is believed that it is a day when people should leave home and show their respect to their ancestors on the day.