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Top Chinese Festivals 2022

Ling (aka Katherine) is an Author, YouTuber, Teacher, and Founder of LingLing Mandarin. She has a Master's in Communication and Language.

top-chinese-festivals-2022

Year of the Tiger!

Get ready for the Year of the Tiger, find out all you need to know about all the major Chinese festivals in 2022!

China celebrates many traditional festivals, you’ve most likely heard of a few already, such as Chinese New Year / Spring Festival (春节 - chūn jié) or Dragon Boat Festival (端午节 - duān wǔ jié). But do you know the story behind these festivals or why they occur when they do? Have you heard about Qingming Festival or Mid-Autumn Festival?

Well, allow me to take you through a summary of all the major Chinese festivals celebrated today. If you already know all about them and are just here to find out when they are so you can plan your next trip to China then I've got you covered there too with the dates of them all.

Festival Dates

Let’s get straight to the dates of the major festivals for those of you eager to plan your visit to China. Although China has adopted the Gregorian calendar, Traditional Chinese festivals are based on the Chinese lunar-solar calendar, and therefore they do not all occur on the same day of the year every year according to the Gregorian calendar. So here are the dates of all the major traditional festivals in 2022, in chronological order, followed by a few modern festivals as well.

Traditional Festivals

FestivalChinese NameDate (Gregorian Calendar)Date (Lunar-solar Calendar)

Chinese New Year’s Eve

除夕 (chú xì)

30th January 2022

Last day of the lunar year

Chinese New Year / Spring Festival

春节 (chūn jié)

1st February 2022

1st day of 1st month

Lantern Festival

元宵节 (yuán xiāo jié)

15th February 2022

15th day of 1st month

Tomb Sweeping Festival

清明节 (qīng míng jié)

5th April 2022

104 days after winter solstice (solar latitude of 15°)

Dragon Boat Festival

端午节 (duān wǔ jié)

3rd June 2022

5th day of 5th month

Summer Solstice

夏至 (xià zhì)

21st June 2022

Double Seventh Day / Chinese Valentines Day

七夕节 (qī xì jié)

4th August 2022

7th day of 7th month

Hungry Ghost Festival

中元节 (zhōng yuán jié)

12th August 2022

15th night of 7th month

Mid-Autumn Festival

中秋节 (zhōng qiū jié)

10th September 2022

15th day of 8th month

Double Ninth Day

重阳节 (chóng yáng jié)

14th October 2022

9th day of 9th month

Winter Solstice

冬至 (dōng zhì)

21st December 2022

Modern Festivals

These aren’t all technically “festivals” but are celebrated in some way

FestivalChinese NameDate

Rising Sun Festival

元旦节 (yuán dàn jié)

1st January 2022

National Day (Golden Week)

国庆节 (guó qìng jié) / 黄景舟 (huáng jǐng zhōu)

1st October 2022 followed by six days official holiday for Golden Week

Double 11 Day / Singles’ Day

双11 (shuāng shí yī) / 光棍节 (guāng gùn jié)

11th November 2022

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Chinese New Years’ Eve - 除夕 (chú xì)

Date: 31st January 2022

The last day of the year is all about preparing for the new year to come and being together with family. Chinese people, whenever possible, will return to their hometown for this day to enjoy a 团圆饭 (tuán yuán fàn), a reunion meal.

Traditions and Celebrations

On top of eating the reunion meal with family, there are a number of other traditions, including:

  • 大扫除 (dà sǎo chú) - House sweeping - Sweep, scrub, and steam, but all before midnight! Many Chinese people will clean their house on New Year's Eve to symbolise sweeping away any bad luck from the previous year and make room for good fortune in the coming year. But after the reunion meal on New Year's Eve, all the brooms are put away because there is to be no cleaning on New Year's Day (and generally for a few days after) as this would be sweeping away the good luck for the New Year.
  • 贴春联 (tiē chūn lián) - Sticking up spring couplets
  • 看春晚 (kàn chūn wǎn) Watch Spring Festival gala - a modern tradition, the Spring Festival gala can be seen on TV (or in-person if you're lucky enough to get a ticket), and many Chinese watch this every year. It is a huge variety show, holding the record for the largest audience of any entertainment show in the world, featuring all sorts of performances from music and dance to comedy and drama. It is often available to watch on YouTube, I highly recommend watching it!
  • 放鞭炮 (fàng biān pào) - Setting off fireworks/firecrackers after midnight to mark the New Year

There are many traditions and superstitions at this time, mostly to ensure the best start to the New Year to come.

Story of Nian

One legend regarding the origin of New Year festival is that of 年兽 (Nián shòu), the beast called Nian. At the end of every lunar year, the terrifying monster 年 (Nián) would come out to hunt and eat animals and humans. However 年 was afraid of loud noises, fire, and the color red, so at this time red paper decorations were pasted on doors, lanterns burned all night, and firecrackers lit to scare away the beast.

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Spring Festival - 春节 (chūn jié)

Date: 1st February 2022 - 15th February 2022

Chinese New Year or Spring Festival is the first and most important festival of the Chinese year and can be seen being celebrated all over the world, not just China. Public celebrations and performances are very common and the signs and decorations of Chinese New Year can be seen all over (spring couplets, lanterns, and many more decorations, events, and promotions).

Traditions and Celebrations

Amongst the many traditions and celebrations for New Year, here are some of the most common:

  • 放鞭炮 (fàng biān pào) - Setting off firecrackers and fireworks to welcome the New Year and said to scare off evil (such as the monster 年)
  • 看舞狮舞龙 (kan wǔ shī wǔ lóng) - Watching Lion and Dragon dances and other cultural performances
  • 穿新衣服 (chuān xīn yī fú) - Wearing new clothes
  • 拜年 (bài nián) - Visiting family and friends and sending greetings
  • Exchanging gifts and 红包 (hóng bāo) - these red envelopes are often given to children and are also a common gift during many festivals and life events. These days it is very common for people to send virtual 红包 using apps like WeChat to each other.

Greetings

There are many greetings and wishes people express to one another at this time, generally anything wishing health, prosperity, and good fortune is a safe bet at the beginning of the New Year (and almost any time really), here are some examples of common greetings at Spring Festival:

GreetingPinyinMeaning

恭喜发财

gōng xǐ fā cái

Wish You Great Prosperity (literally meaning "congratulations on getting rich")

新年快乐 / 新年好

xīn nián kuài le / xīn nián hǎo

Happy New Year

身体健康

shēn tǐ jiàn kāng

Good Health

年年有余

nián nián yǒu yú

Every Year, Surplus and Abundance

大吉大利

dà jí dà lì

Good Fortune and Big Profits

For the Year of the Tiger: 龙腾虎跃

lóng téng hǔ yè

Dragon Soaring and Tiger Leaping (wishing a prosperous and thriving new year)

The term meaning to exchange greetings is 拜年 (bài nián) - 拜 literally refers to paying respect often traditionally in the form of kowtowing or bowing.

Food

Of course, having special meals together at this time of year (and for many other festivals) is very common. Certain types of food are particularly common and symbolic:

  • (yú) - Fish
  • 饺子 (jiǎo zi) - Dumplings
  • 春卷 (chuān juǎn) - Spring Rolls

Want to know the reason behind why we eat these foods at New Year? Then check out my video below where I explain why and more about our traditions at this time.

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Lantern Festival - 元宵节 (yuán xiāo jié)

Date: 15th February 2022

Lantern Festival marks the end of the Spring Festival holiday and the first full moon of the Chinese calendar year. As the name suggests, it is a time for lighting and admiring lanterns. In Chinese lanterns are called 灯笼 (dēng lóng). Often people will write wishes for the new year onto the lanterns and sometimes riddles for people to solve. The traditional round and red Chinese lanterns are coming throughout Chinese New Year, during Lantern Festival displays however the lanterns can be in all shapes, sizes, and colors! Lanterns may depict almost anything from dragons to historical and legendary figures.

Traditions and Celebrations

  • 吃汤圆 (chi tāng yuán) - People will often eat 汤圆 (tāng yuán) as the name sounds like 团员 (tuán yuán) which means reunion and symbolizes the wish for family togetherness. 汤圆 are sweet glutinous rice balls usually served in a soup.
  • Enjoy Lantern Festival parades, events, and displays - often including huge and colorful arrangements of lanterns.
  • Light and release lanterns into the sky or float adrift onto lakes, rivers, or the sea - these events are less common now since they pose a fire hazard and have been banned in many places in China
  • Fireworks and performances (e.g. Lion and Dragon dances) are a common feature throughout much of the Chinese New Year festival period (which ends on this day)

Colorful

One way to describe something as colorful in Chinese is the phrase 五颜六色 (wǔ yán liù sè)!

The Jade Emperor Tricked (Origin Story)

One story regarding the origin of the Lantern Festival describes a tricked played on the Jade Emperor. The story goes that some villagers killed the Emperor's favorite crane. Enraged by this, the Emperor planned to destroy the village with fire but fortunately for the villagers the Emperor's daughter found out his plan and decided to warn the villagers. The villagers lit lanterns all over the village on this day, so that it would appear as though the village was already on fire and this saved them from destruction.

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Tomb Sweeping Festival - 清明节 (qīng míng jié)

Date: 5th April 2022

This festival takes owes it’s Chinese name to the warmer and brighter climate at the time of year:

  • (qīng) = clear
  • (míng) = bright.

Traditions and Celebrations

It is traditionally a time to commemorate one’s ancestors, this often involves visiting their grave and sweeping and maintaining tombs (hence the English name of the festival, although often it is just called “Qingming Festival” in English as well).

But it is also a time to enjoy spring outings, particularly to admire the beautiful spring blossoms. We call this 寻春 (xún chūn) or looking for Spring!

Bridge scene from Along the River During the Qingming Festival scroll painting

Bridge scene from Along the River During the Qingming Festival scroll painting

Along the River During the Qingming Festival

One of the most famous pieces of Chinese art is the ancient Chinese scroll painting by 张择端 (zhāng zé duān) [1085 - 1145] called: 清明上河图 (qīng míng shàn ghé tú) generally translated as "Along the River During the Qingming Festival".

The original scroll was over 5 meters long and depicts the bustling street scene and festive spirit on this day. The Song dynasty original belongs to the collection of the Palace Museum in Beijing and can only be seen when it is put on exhibit every few years.

Dragon Boat Festival - 端午节 (duān wǔ jié)

Date: 3rd June 2022

The main activities during Dragon Boat festival are, unsurprisingly are dragon boat racing - known as 赛龙舟 (sài lóng zhōu) and eating 粽子 (zòng zi). Both of the traditions have their origin in the story of Qu Yuan.

屈原 (Qū Yuán) was a poet during the Warring States period (c. 475 - 221 BC), sent into exile but disturbed by the many defeats of his own state - that of 楚 (Chǔ) - he became deeply depressed and committed suicide in the Miluo River / 汨羅江 (mì luó jiāng).

While in exile, the locals had become very fond of him though and they tried to rescue him from the river by rushing into many boats and rowing out to him. Sadly they were unable to rescue him and out of fear that his body would be eaten by fish they threw sticky rice balls into the river so that the fish might eat those instead.

So the traditional dragon boat races which you can see in many places in China (and across the world) on this day and eating 粽子 (sticky rice wrapped in a bamboo leaf) commemorate 屈原 (Qū Yuán).

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Summer Solstice - 夏至 (xià zhì)

Date: 21st June 2022

Since China is in the northern hemisphere it celebrates Summer Solstice on the 21st of June. The day is at its longest and the wheat is ripe for harvest. 夏至 (xià zhì) or Summer Solstice was a festival/event particularly celebrated in ancient China as is the case in many cultures across the world and throughout history. At this time it is common to eat 面 (miàn) - noodles!

Eat dumplings on the Winter Solstice and eat noodles on the Summer Solstice

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Double Seventh Day / Chinese Valentine's Day - 七夕节 (qī xì jié)

Date: 4th August 2022

Double Seventh Day or 七夕节 (qī xì jié) occurs on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month, hence the name, and is often considered as Chinese Valentine's Day!

In modern times it is celebrated through typical romantic gestures of giving flowers, chocolates, and gifts to sweethearts.

The Cowherd and the Weaver Girl

The origin of this festival comes from the romantic story of the Weaver Girl, 织女 (zhí nǚ), and a Cowherd, 牛郎 (niú láng). 织女 (zhí nǚ) was originally a fairy living in heaven, but her life there was boring and she wanted to escape and fled to earth. 织女 (zhí nǚ) and the Ox Herd soon met and fell in love. They got married but without the knowledge of the mother of 织女 who was the goddess in heaven.

牛郎 (niú láng), the cowherd worked the fields whilst 织女 (zhí nǚ) stayed at home weaving. However, when her mother found out that she had married a mortal she brought 织女 (zhí nǚ) back to heaven. The cowherd was distraught but his Ox (who was actually the demoted god of cattle) asked 牛郎 to kill him so that he may take his hide and enter heaven. Distressed 牛郎 (niú láng) killed the Ox, put on his hide, and went in pursuit of his love 织女 (zhí nǚ) but before he could catch up to her, her mother (the goddess) created a huge river between them separating them for eternity - this river became the milky way.

节 (jié)

You might have noticed the character 节 (jié) in many of the festival names and perhaps you already guessed it but 节 is indeed the Chinese word for "festival."

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Hungry Ghost Festival - 中元节 (zhōng yuán jié)

Date: 12th August 2022

Sometimes simply known as Ghost Festival in English, this is an ancient Chinese festival where it was believed that ghosts are released to roam the earth during this month and visit family members and descendants, seeking food and entertainment. People traditionally will make offerings of food and fake money to appease the ghosts of their ancestors so that they will not cause trouble. Many cities in China have banned the burning of this money in the streets through due to pollution and fire concerns though. People also make all sorts of offerings for the dead though, not just money but even clothing, jewellery, alcohol, and more.

Traditions and Superstitions

  • 烧纸钱 (shāo zhǐ qián) - Burn fake money
  • 祭献祖先 (jì xiàn zǔ xiān) - Ancestoral offerings; burning incense, paying tribute, preparing a place at the family meal for dead ancestors
  • 放河灯 (fàng hé dēng) - Release floating river lanterns (to guide the ghosts)
  • Many people avoid swimming, leaving the house door open, walking alone at night

Mid-Autumn Festival - 中秋节 (zhōng qiū jié)

Date: 10th September 2022

This is my favourite festival and probably the 2nd most significant traditional Chinese festival (after Spring Festival). It is often called Moon Festival as the full moon nearest the fall equinox typically coincides with the the festival.

Mooncakes, or 月饼 (yuè bǐng) are the must eat food for this time of year and they can be found everywhere and these days come in all sorts of flavours and elaborate packaging! They are frequently giving as gifts between family and friends, and often to employees as well. Most people buy mooncakes in the shop but you can make your own too, which is something I have enjoyed doing of the last few years. It’s not as hard as you might think.

The roundness of the moon is also seen to represent union, and therefore it is also common to enjoy 团圆 (tuán yuán), or a reunion meal, with family during this time.

Traditions and Celebrations

  • Give and eat mooncakes - 月饼 (yuè bǐng)
  • 吃团圆 (chī tuán yuán) - Eat a family reunion meal
  • 挂灯笼 (guà dēng lóng) - Hang up lanterns
  • Retell the Story of Chang'e and Houyi - 嫦娥奔月 (cháng'é bēn yuè), Chang'e Flying to the Moon.

Chang'e Flying to the Moon

嫦娥奔月 (Cháng'é bēn yuè) or Chang'e Flying to the Moon is a popular story told during Mid-Autumn Festival. There are a few different versions but one versions goes as follows...

Chang'e and her husband Houyi, a legendary archer, were immortals living in heaven. One day the Jade Emperor asked Houyi for help, his ten sons had transformed into suns and were ruining the earth. Houyi shot down nine of these suns (killing nine of the Jade Emperor's sons) and saved the earth, but the Jade Emperor was not so pleased that his sons were dead. He chose to banish Houyi and Chang'e to earth and force them to lose their immortality.

On earth, Houyi went on a quest to find the pill of immortality for them to become immortals again. When he found the pill, he was warned of its power and that only half was required to achieve immortality. He brought the pill home and put it in a box, telling Chang'e not to open the box. However, Chang'e was too curious, she opened the box and discovered the pill. Houyi was nearly home and Chang'e panicked, accidentally swallowing the whole pill. She floated away into the sky because of the pill's power, Houyi could not bring himself to shoot his arrow at her to stop her flying away further. Chang'e landed eventually on the moon, destined to live their forever alone.

Houyi missed Chang'e greatly and every year on the day Chang'e flew away, the 15th day of the 8th month in the lunar calendar, he would make mooncakes to remember her.

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Double Ninth Day - 重阳节 (chóng yáng jié)

Date: 4th October 2022

Since ancient times, people have celebrated this festival, on the 9th day of the 9th month of the lunar calendar, through various traditions and customs:

  • 爬山 (pá shān) - Climbing mountains
  • 吃菊花糕 (chī jú huā gāo) - Eating Flower (Chrysanthemum) Cake
  • 喝菊花酒 (hē jú huā jiǔ) - Drink Chrysanthemum wine or tea 菊花茶 (jú huā chá)

As with many traditional Chinese festivals, people will also honor their ancestors in various ways on this day.

There are various myths and legends surrounding the festival, one such legend speaks of a devil who would plague the Ruhe valley in the Eastern Han dynasty making people sick and die. One man who's parents will killed by this plague, Huan Jing, took it upon himself to defeat this devil. He traveled to Zhongnan Mountain to learn the magic to defeat the devil. He was given a magic sword, chrysanthemum wine, and zhuyu plant. He gave chrysanthemum wine and zhuyu plants to the villagers to protect them and told them to go to the mountain for safety. When the devil returned, on the 9th day of the 9th month, it was weakened by the wine and zhuyu plant and Huan Jing was able to kill it.

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Winter Solstice - 夏至 (dōng zhì)

Date: 21st December 2022

Although observed far more significantly in ancient China, alongside similar events such as Spring and Autumn Equinox and Winter Solstice, it is no longer a public holiday in China but some people do mark it in various ways. Various foods are traditionally eaten on this day, although varying on the region:

  • 饺子 (jiǎo zi) - dumplings
  • 汤圆 (tāng yuán) - sweet glutinous rice balls with various fillings
  • (zhōu) - rice congee
  • 坚果 (jiān guǒ) - nuts

Bonus Festivals

Now that we’ve covered all the major traditional festivals I wanted to share with you a few bonus ones which you might not have heard of but are gaining in popularity in recent years. It is worth mentioning that owing to how vast and ethnically diverse China is, there are actually many more festivals celebrated in specific areas or by specific ethnic groups, which I hope to one day cover in more detail. Additionally some western festivals are now celebrated in China, although to a much lesser extent and often with a distinct Chinese twist, keep your eye out for more on those too. For now, here are the three bonus modern Chinese festivals.

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Rising Sun Day - 元旦节 (yuán dàn jié)

Date: 1st January 2022

元旦节 (yuán dàn jié) or Rising Sun Day is the Chinese name for New Year as it is celebrated in the Gregorian calendar, i.e. the 1st of January. It is celebrated in much the same way as it is across the world, fireworks and light displays and in recent years even drone displays. Although culturally it is far less significant than Spring Festival/Chinese New Year and the celebrations are much smaller, it is still a public holiday in China.

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National Day - 国庆节 (guó qìng jié)

Date: 1st October 2022

国庆节 (guó qìng jié), National Day is a modern festival/holiday but because of its political significance it is a public holiday in mainland China. It technically commemorates the inauguration of the People’s Republic of China on the 1st of October 1949.

However National Day is followed by 黄金周 (huang jing Zhou), Golden Week, and it is one of the longest public holidays in China, therefore many people take the opportunity to return home or travel around the country. There are many cultural events and performances at this time to enjoy and although travel can be busy it is a good time to enjoy Chinese culture in mainland China.

Double 11 Day / Singles’ Day - 双 11 (shuāng shí yī) / 光棍节 (guāng gùn jié)

Date: 11th November 2022

On November 11th (11/11) Chinese people celebrate Double 11 Day or Single’s Day, an unofficial modern holiday in China. The number one resembles a bare stick, the word for which is also used to refer to a single person in China, 光棍 (guāng gùn).

The holiday has grown in popularity in recent years and has become the biggest shopping day in the world! In 2019, two major e-commerce giants in China, Taobao and JD.com, generated over 60 billion USD in sales between them! On this day you will see promotions and sales everywhere.

Originally invented as an antidote to Valentine’s Day, you will also find lots of special events and parties put on at bars and clubs in cities.

Learn More

I hope you have enjoyed my summary of Chinese festivals and found it useful and informative. My wish is that you may also be able to travel and enjoy many of these festivals in China and experience the many interesting and beautiful cultural displays and events put on to celebrate them.

I often create videos for major Chinese festivals over on my YouTube channel so be sure to keep an eye out over there to learn even more. And I recently created two books for learning Chinese, featuring short stories and conversations set in modern China, with several of the festivals above featured. If you learning Chinese and want to have a deeper understanding of authentic language and culture all while enjoying entertaining and amusing stories then please consider taking a look at my book as I am sure you will have a great time learning with them. Follow the links below to Amazon to learn more and check out the book previews:

Chinese Conversations for Beginners

Chinese Conversations for Intermediate

Chinese Conversations Series

Chinese Conversations Series

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Katherine Ling

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