Entering the 2024 Chinese New Year : Learn about traditional Chinese festivals

Year Of The Dragon

The year 2024 marks the Year of the Dragon according to the Chinese lunar calendar, a special year that carries deep traditional New Year cultural traditions and a wealth of folk activities. The dragon symbolizes auspiciousness, authority, and power in Chinese culture, making the New Year of the Dragon particularly imbued with auspicious meanings.

2024 Chinese New Year

Preparations for the New Year

In China, preparations for the New Year typically begin in the twelfth lunar month, referred to as “busy year.” People undertake a thorough cleaning to welcome the New Year in a cleansed environment. At the same time, every household is busy purchasing New Year goods, including various foods, clothing, and decorations, to prepare materially for the arrival of the New Year.

New Year’s Eve Celebrations

New Year’s Eve, the last day of the lunar year, is the climax of the New Year celebrations. On this night, every household prepares a sumptuous New Year’s Eve dinner for the family to sit together and enjoy the joy of family reunion. The dishes served at the New Year’s Eve dinner usually carry auspicious meanings, such as fish symbolizing surplus year after year, dumplings symbolizing the exchange of time and a rise in status, and rice cakes symbolizing continuous improvement.

In addition to the New Year’s Eve dinner, there are customs such as posting Spring Festival couplets, paper-cuttings for window decorations, and the character “Fu” for luck. The Spring Festival couplets, usually pairs of poetic lines, carry people’s good wishes for the New Year, while paper-cuttings and the “Fu” character add to the festive atmosphere of the holiday.

As night falls, the whole family stays up late to “guard the year,” waiting for the arrival of the New Year. With the ringing of the bells, fireworks and firecrackers sound off everywhere, a way to dispel the misfortunes of the past year and welcome the arrival of the New Year.

New Year Greetings and Red Envelopes

On the first day of the New Year, people get up early, dress in new clothes, and exchange New Year greetings. Younger members bow to their elders as a sign of respect, and in return, elders give red envelopes (money) to the younger ones, symbolizing the sending of blessings and good luck for the new year. Additionally, friends and relatives also exchange New Year greetings and wishes.

Rich and Colorful Folk Activities

During the New Year of the Dragon, various rich and colorful folk activities are held, such as dragon and lion dances, stilt-walking, and setting off firecrackers. These activities not only add to the festive atmosphere of the holiday but also showcase the charm of traditional Chinese culture.

Dragon and lion dances are among the most representative folk activities of the New Year of the Dragon. Both are performed to drive away evil spirits and pray for auspiciousness in the coming year. Dragon dancers, dressed in colorful costumes, hold dragon props and dance the giant dragon to the sound of gongs and drums; lion dancers imitate the movements of lions, endearing and beloved by spectators.

Moreover, setting off firecrackers is an indispensable traditional custom during the New Year. It is believed that firecrackers can drive away evil and bring good luck. With technological advances, modern firecrackers have become safer and more environmentally friendly, yet they still retain the traditional festive meaning.

Traditional Foods with Deep Meanings

During the New Year, traditional foods with deep meanings are prepared across China. Dumplings symbolize reunion and wealth, while sweet rice balls represent family harmony and happiness. In the Year of the Dragon New Year, people also make special dragon-related foods, such as dragon’s beard noodles and dragon scale cakes, to express their good wishes for the New Year.


In addition to the Year of the Dragon, there are many other traditional festivals held throughout the year in China. Each of these festivals has its own characteristics and carries rich cultural connotations and folk activities.

Lantern Festival

The Lantern Festival, also known as Shangyuan Festival or the Festival of Lanterns, is one of China’s traditional festivals, typically celebrated on the 15th day of the first lunar month. This year, it falls on February 24, 2024. The day’s celebrations are vibrant and diverse, integrating various folk traditions and customs, symbolizing reunion, harmony, and happiness.

History and Origins

The origins of the Lantern Festival are varied, but most are related to ancient myths, legends, and customs. The most well-known stories include the worship of the “Taiyi God” during Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty and the legend of Emperor Ming of the Eastern Han Dynasty advocating Buddhism and lighting lanterns in reverence to Buddha. These stories add profound cultural depth to the Lantern Festival.

Main Activities

Eating Tangyuan: Tangyuan is the traditional food of the Lantern Festival, made from glutinous rice with rich and diverse fillings such as red bean paste, sesame, and peanuts. Eating Tangyuan is not only a treat for the taste buds but also symbolizes family reunion and happiness.


Appreciating Lanterns: The lanterns of the Lantern Festival are a major highlight. Streets and lanes are adorned with various lanterns, from traditional paper lanterns to modern electronic ones, in different shapes and vibrant colors. Families and friends wander among these beautiful lanterns, admiring their beauty.

Solving Lantern Riddles: Solving lantern riddles is another traditional activity of the Lantern Festival. Riddles are written on paper and hung under the lanterns for people to guess. This tests people’s wisdom and creativity, adding fun to the festival.

Dragon and Lion Dances: In some areas, dragon and lion dances are performed during the Lantern Festival. Both dragons and lions are auspicious symbols in Chinese culture. These performances not only showcase the charm of folk arts but also symbolize prayers for good weather, national peace, and safety.

Cultural Significance

As a traditional Chinese festival, the Lantern Festival carries rich cultural connotations. It symbolizes reunion and harmony, representing a wonderful time for family gatherings and reunions with friends and relatives. At the same time, the Lantern Festival reflects the traditional spirit and artistic charm of Chinese culture, showcasing the Chinese people’s aspirations and pursuit of a beautiful life.

Ching Ming Festival

The Qingming Festival, also known as Tomb-Sweeping Day, Pure Brightness Festival, or Ancestors Day, stands as one of the most solemn and grand festivals for honoring ancestors among the Chinese people. It is a cultural tradition that embodies the respect for ancestors and the ethos of reminiscing about the distant past. The festival carries dual significances, being both a natural solar term and a cultural holiday, symbolizing both the change in season and the time for traditional observances.

History and Origins

The Qingming Festival has its roots in ancient ancestral beliefs and the customs of the spring sacrifices, holding both natural and cultural connotations. It merges the traditions of the Cold Food Festival and the Shangsi Festival, making it one of the eight significant seasonal celebrations. Originating from the ancient practices of imperial and noble tomb sacrifices, this custom was adopted by the general populace, evolving over generations into a fixed custom of ancestor worship and tomb-sweeping that is deeply ingrained in the Chinese national culture.

Time and Weather

The Qingming Festival occurs at the juncture of mid-spring and late spring, precisely 108 days after the winter solstice. The climatic and phenological characteristics of the Qingming solar term provide the essential conditions for the festival’s customs. During Qingming, when life is vibrant and nature renews itself, the world displays a visage of warmth and clarity. It’s an ideal time for outdoor excursions and ancestral tomb visits.

Main Customs

Tomb-Sweeping and Ancestor Worship: Qingming is dedicated to ancestral worship and tomb-sweeping. People visit their ancestors’ graves to present offerings like fresh flowers and paper money, expressing their respect and longing. This custom reflects the traditional Chinese virtues of reverence for elders and gratitude towards ancestors.
Spring Outings: Qingming also serves as a perfect occasion for spring outings. Taking advantage of the holiday, people venture outdoors to admire the beauty of spring and experience the charm of nature. These outings not only promote physical and mental well-being but also foster relationships among people.
Willow Planting: The tradition of planting willows during Qingming has ancient origins, believed to commemorate the agricultural deity Shennong. People insert fresh green willow branches under the eaves of their homes as a weather omen.
Culture and Significance: As a traditional Chinese festival, Qingming embodies profound cultural depth and national sentiment. It is not only a day for honoring ancestors but also a vital occasion for promoting filial piety, strengthening familial and national unity, and enhancing a sense of belonging. Furthermore, Qingming is a time for people to connect with nature and enjoy the spring season, reflecting the philosophy of harmonious coexistence between humans and nature.

In summary, the Qingming Festival is a day filled with respect, gratitude, and joy. It serves as a reminder of the ancestors’ benevolence and the transmission of traditional Chinese virtues. It also allows people to appreciate the beauty of spring and nature’s gifts. On this special day, let us collectively commemorate our forebears, give thanks for life, and cherish the present moment.

Dragon Boat Festival

The Dragon Boat Festival, also known as Duanwu Festival, Dragon Boat Festival, Double Fifth Festival, Dragon Festival, Zhongxiao Festival, and Tianzhong Festival, is one of the four major traditional festivals in China. It is a comprehensive folk festival that integrates worshiping gods and ancestors, praying for blessings and warding off evil, celebration, entertainment, and food. The festival originated in China as an ancient ceremony in which people raced dragon boats to worship the dragon ancestors. Later, it also became associated with the commemoration of Qu Yuan, a poet from the Warring States period’s Chu state, who drowned himself in the Miluo River on this day.

The Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated annually on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, featuring a rich array of customs. On this day, families across China eat zongzi, one of the most significant foods of the festival. Zongzi are rice dumplings with various shapes and fillings, symbolizing reunion and harvest. Additionally, people hang mugwort and calamus in their homes, plants believed to drive away evil spirits and protect family members’ health and safety. Dragon boat racing is another highlight of the festival, with teams competing in rivers, lakes, and seas to celebrate the occasion joyously.


The Dragon Boat Festival is not merely a simple holiday; it embodies profound and rich cultural connotations. It represents the worship of the dragon totem, commemorates historical figures like Qu Yuan, and expresses people’s desires for health, reunion, and a good life. During the festival, there is a strong sense of national identity and unity among the people.

Since 2008, the Dragon Boat Festival has been designated as a national public holiday. In 2006 and 2009, the State Council of China and UNESCO respectively included it in the first batch of national intangible cultural heritage and the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. These recognitions highlight the festival’s significant status in Chinese culture and the importance of its preservation and inheritance.

Qixi Festival

The Qixi Festival, also known as the Double Seventh Festival, Qiqiao Festival, or the Daughter’s Festival, is a traditional Chinese festival celebrated annually on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month. This festival originates from ancient star worship, particularly the worship of the Weaving Maiden (Vega), and has evolved into a comprehensive festival centered around women. In modern times, Qixi has been hailed as China’s “Valentine’s Day” because it carries the beautiful legend of the Cowherd and the Weaving Maiden, symbolizing steadfast love.

Historical and Cultural Background

The origin of the Qixi Festival is closely related to ancient star worship and the faith in the Weaving Maiden’s birthday. In ancient times, people would hold ceremonies on the evening of the seventh day of the seventh lunar month to worship the Weaving Maiden, praying for wisdom, dexterity, and a blissful marriage. Over time, the festival gradually incorporated the love story of the Cowherd and the Weaving Maiden, forming the Qixi Festival as we know it today.

Main Customs

The customs of the Qixi Festival are rich and diverse, filled with romance and skills-wishing elements. Women participate in needle threading to demonstrate their craftsmanship and intelligence; they also worship the Weaving Maiden, praying for skillfulness and a good marriage. Moreover, Qixi serves as a day for couples to express their love, exchanging gifts and spending this romantic festival together.

The Legend of the Cowherd and the Weaving Maiden

The most well-known aspect of the Qixi Festival is the legend of the Cowherd and the Weaving Maiden. The lovers, separated by the Milky Way, are only allowed to meet once a year on the bridge formed by magpies on Qixi. This legend not only adds a romantic hue to the festival but also marks it as a day symbolizing love.

Cowherd And The Weaving Maiden

Modern Significance

In contemporary society, the Qixi Festival has transcended its traditional meaning of skill-wishing and worship to take on more of a romantic and loving connotation. People express their love and pursuit of happiness on this day, making Qixi a festival filled with warmth and sweetness.

Mid-Autumn Festival

The Mid-Autumn Festival, as one of China’s significant traditional festivals, embodies profound cultural connotations and a wealth of folk activities. It brings about feelings of reunion warmth, homesickness, and the charm of Chinese culture.

History and Origins

The Mid-Autumn Festival originated from ancient moon worship, initially a festival for moon offerings by ancient people. Emperors of ancient times held moon worship ceremonies on the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month, coinciding with the middle of autumn, hence the name “Mid-Autumn Festival.” As history evolved, the Mid-Autumn Festival gradually spread to the common people, becoming a universal festival.


Time and Weather

The Mid-Autumn Festival is typically celebrated on the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month, right in the middle of autumn, which is why it is called “Mid-Autumn.” At this time, the sky is clear, and the moon is bright and luminous, providing excellent conditions for moon viewing.

Main Customs

  1. Moon Viewing: On the night of the Mid-Autumn Festival, families gather to admire the beautiful scene of the bright moon in the sky. While viewing the moon, people drink tea, eat mooncakes, talk about life, and enjoy the warm atmosphere of reunion.
  2. Eating Mooncakes: Mooncakes are traditional food during the Mid-Autumn Festival, symbolizing reunion and harvest. There is a wide variety of mooncakes, catering to different tastes with sweet and savory flavors.
  3. Carrying Lanterns: Children carry lanterns of various shapes during the festival, adding to the joyful atmosphere.
  4. Moon Worship: In some places, a moon worship ceremony is held on the night of the Mid-Autumn Festival to pray for safety, happiness, and reunion.
Moon Cake

Culture and Significance

The Mid-Autumn Festival is not only a celebration of the harvest but also a festival for expressing longing for one’s hometown and loved ones. On this day, people try to return to their hometowns to reunite with their families and spend the festival together, regardless of where they are. Moreover, the Mid-Autumn Festival reflects the Chinese nation’s pursuit of harmony, reunion, and a good life.

Modern Development

With the advancement of the times, the forms of celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival continue to innovate and develop. In addition to traditional activities like moon viewing and eating mooncakes, modern people also celebrate the festival by holding Mid-Autumn evening parties, poetry sessions for moon appreciation, and more. Meanwhile, the Mid-Autumn Festival has become an important vehicle for promoting the inheritance and development of Chinese culture.

Double Ninth Festival

The Double Ninth Festival, also known as Chongyang Festival, Autumn Dryness Festival, and “Autumn Outing,” is one of China’s traditional festivals, celebrated on the ninth day of the ninth lunar month every year. This festival encompasses a variety of folk activities and cultural connotations, serving as an important expression of respect and care for the elderly.

Historical Origins

The history of the Double Ninth Festival dates back to the Warring States period and has become increasingly prominent since the Wei and Jin dynasties, with many scholars and poets of successive generations celebrating it. By the Tang dynasty, the Double Ninth Festival was officially recognized as a folk festival, a tradition that has been carried on to this day. On May 20, 2006, the Double Ninth Festival was listed as part of China’s first batch of national intangible cultural heritage by the State Council, highlighting its significant place in Chinese culture.

Main Customs

  1. Mountain Climbing: The Double Ninth Festival is an ideal time for climbing mountains or tall buildings to appreciate the beauty of autumn and experience the majesty and harmony of nature.
  2. Chrysanthemum Appreciation: As the traditional flower of the festival, people visit parks or chrysanthemum exhibitions to admire the splendid beauty of chrysanthemums and embrace the essence of autumn.
  3. Wearing Cornelian Cherry: The cornelian cherry, a plant symbolizing the warding off of evil, is worn or placed at doorways on this day to pray for peace and good fortune.
  4. Eating Double Ninth Cake: The Double Ninth cake, made from rice flour and bean flour, symbolizes rising step by step. People eat this cake to celebrate the festival’s arrival.
  5. Drinking Chrysanthemum Wine: Chrysanthemum wine, a special beverage for the festival, is made by infusing wine with chrysanthemums. It is believed to have health benefits.

Cultural Significance

The Double Ninth Festival is not only a celebration of autumn but also a festival that promotes the traditional virtue of respecting and honoring the elderly. In 1989, the ninth day of the ninth lunar month was designated as Seniors’ Day, advocating for the spirit of respecting, honoring, loving, and helping the elderly. On this day, special attention is given to the elderly, offering them blessings and care to make them feel the warmth and respect of society.

Modern Development

With the progress of time, the celebration of the Double Ninth Festival has also seen continuous innovation and development. Apart from traditional customs, modern celebrations include holding cultural festivals for the Double Ninth Festival, health lectures for the elderly, and other activities to increase awareness and participation in the festival.

Winter solstice

The Winter Solstice, also known as the Extreme of Winter, the Winter Festival, and Sub-year among other names, is an important solar term in the Chinese lunar calendar and a traditional festival. It encompasses both natural and cultural significances, being the first of the twenty-four solar terms to be established, as well as a traditional festival for ancestor worship in Chinese folklore. The Winter Solstice occurs between December 22nd and 23rd of the Gregorian calendar, marking the imminent arrival of the cold season, and heralds the beginning of the “Counting of the Nine Cold Days.”

From a natural perspective, the Winter Solstice is the turning point where the sun’s direct rays start moving northward from the Tropic of Capricorn (23°26′S), after which the daylight hours in the Northern Hemisphere gradually increase. Despite the lengthening of daylight, the meteorological temperature around the Winter Solstice is not at its lowest; the real cold season is just beginning.

Winter Solstice

From a cultural viewpoint, the Winter Solstice is an important traditional festival celebrated with various activities and customs across the country. In ancient times, it was considered a major winter festival, often described with the saying “the Winter Solstice is as significant as the New Year.” On this day, the imperial court would take a rest day, and friends and family would exchange delicacies and visit each other. In the North, dumplings play an indispensable role on the Winter Solstice table, symbolizing the commemoration of the good deeds of Zhang Zhongjing, the sage of medicine. In some southern areas, like Tengzhou in Shandong, there is a custom of eating mutton, which is believed to originate from a story about Liu Bang, the founding emperor of the Han Dynasty, eating mutton cooked by Fan Kuai on Winter Solstice. In the water towns of the Jiangnan region, people eat red bean and glutinous rice, intended to ward off evil and prevent disaster. Additionally, the Winter Solstice serves as a day for ancestor worship, with the emperor performing sacrifices to Heaven in the suburbs, and the common people paying homage to their parents and elders.

The cultural connotations of the Winter Solstice are rich, serving not only as a marker of the natural solar term but also as a repository of human emotions. It allows people to feel the passage of time and the change of seasons, as well as to experience the warmth of family and the strength of tradition. On this special day, people celebrate in various ways, carrying forward the wisdom and sentiment of ancient culture.

Laba Festival

The Laba Festival, commonly known as “Laba,” falls on the eighth day of the twelfth lunar month and is one of China’s traditional festivals with a long history and rich cultural connotations.

Historical and Cultural Background

The Laba Festival originated from ancient sacrificial rituals, where people worshipped ancestors and deities, praying for a bountiful harvest and auspiciousness. According to “Sacrificial Records of Rural Deities,” the Laba sacrifice is held in the twelfth month of the year to gather all things and offer sacrifices. In the Xia dynasty, the Laba day was called “Jiapin,” during the Shang dynasty it was “Qingsi,” and in the Zhou dynasty, it was known as “Dala.” With the introduction and integration of Buddhism into China, Laba also became an important Buddhist festival known as the “Treasure Festival.”

Main Customs

Laba Porridge: This is the most well-known custom of the Laba Festival. People use a variety of ingredients such as white rice, red dates, lotus seeds, walnuts, chestnuts, longan, grapes, red beans, and peanuts, soaked in advance and slowly simmered into a sweet and delicious Laba porridge. This custom not only celebrates the harvest but also symbolizes good wishes for the coming year.
Laba Garlic: In the north, especially in the North China region, there is a custom of pickling Laba garlic on the Laba Festival. The main ingredients are vinegar and garlic cloves, and the resulting Laba garlic has a unique taste and antibacterial effects.
Boiling Five Beans: In some areas, people cook five kinds of beans with rice to make porridge on the Laba Festival. It is said that eating this five-bean porridge will protect the crops from pests in the coming year. People gift this porridge to friends and family, symbolizing surplus year after year.
Sacrifices: The Laba Festival is also a day for sacrifices. People worship deities such as Shennong, the God of Grain; Houji, the Minister of Agriculture; and other agricultural deities, expressing their reverence and gratitude. Buddhists also conduct Buddha worship activities on this day.

Laba Porridge

Modern Significance

In modern society, the Laba Festival is not just a traditional festival but also a moment for family reunions and emotional exchange. People return home to reunite with their families on this day, sharing Laba porridge, Laba garlic, and other delicacies, feeling the warmth of home and the joy of the festival.