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Chinese Festivals

Festival Shanghai Jakob Montrasio

Courtesy of Jakob Montrasio

Shanghai throws colorful and family-friendly festivals year-round.

October 27, 2010

Spring Festival

You’ll recognize the abundance of red and gold strewn about homes and streets, and you’ve seen the parades with the famous dragon dance as part of the Chinese New Year celebrations. But there’s much more to this festival than what has traveled across the world. The Spring Festival, as it’s known in China, is the most important celebration of the year. Family members return home for a New Year’s feast and to greet the new year with fire crackers. The red decorations bear messages of happiness and health for the upcoming year.
Recommended Activity:
Longhua Bell Toll: As the oldest and largest Buddhist temple in Shanghai, the temple fair will be bustling with activity when the bell rings in the New Year.
+86-21-64566899
2853 Longhua Road
Public Transit: Bus 73, 56

Lantern Festival

On the night of the first full moon of the Chinese calendar year, the Spring Festival celebrations come to a close with the Lantern Festival. Beautiful lanterns ranging from miniscule to gigantic light up the city to reflect the brightness of the full moon. The most common is the red balloon-shaped lanterns, but there will be plenty that display the new year’s zodiac sign too. The traditional food of the day is Yuan Xiao, a small dumpling ball made from sticky rice flour with a sweet or savory filling.
Recommended Activities:
Yuyuan Lantern Show: Yuyuan holds a lantern show in which many colorful and intricate lanterns are on display through the bridge along the river.
+86-21-63559999
269 Middle Fang Bang Road
Public Transit: Bus 932

Guyi Garden: In addition to displaying beautiful lanterns, the garden has a traditional riddle contest to participate in.
+86-21-59122225
218 Huyi Road, Jiading District
Public Transit: Bus Beijia Line

Qingming Festival

On the 104th day after the winter solstice, the Chinese honor their ancestors. Locals will visit the graves of their ancestors to sweep off the tombs and offer them gifts such as food, tea, wine or chopsticks. You may wish to join the locals in carrying around willow branches throughout the day to ward off the evil spirits that wander on the festival. Other activities of the day include family gatherings, the first spring plowing, song, dance and flying kites in the shapes of animals.

Dragon Boat Festival

In May, the Chinese mourn the death of the poet Qu Yuan who is said to have committed suicide by drowning himself in a river. The patriot poet was such a hero to the people that they launched their boats and threw rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo to keep the fish from consuming him. Today the ZongZi dumplings are still thrown into the river, but the participants save some to eat themselves too (so hunt one down to try). Teams of rowers train for weeks leading up to the festival and launch themselves in large boats decorated like dragons to race against each other.
Recommended Activities:
Zhujiajiao Ancient Watertown: This ancient town has plenty of waterways and bridges from which to watch the Festival activities.
+86-21-59240077
23 Caoping Road, Zhujiajiao
Public Transit: Bus Song Zhu Line, Shang Zhu Line

Suzhou River: A Dragon Boat competition will be held from the Jiangning Road Bridge to the Changhua Road Bridge.
Public Transit: Bus 112, 830, 206

Double Seventh Festival

On the seventh day of the seventh lunar month, the Chinese celebrate love. The story behind this tradition is one of star-crossed lovers, Niulang the mortal and Zhinu the fairy. On this day, women make offerings to the Niulang and Zhinu in the front yard. At night young men and women will release lotus lanterns into the water, which will float over rivers, lakes and ponds, carrying their desires for good spouses.

Mid-Autumn Festival

On the 15th day of the eighth lunar month, the Chinese celebrate the moon. Families and friends gather together to take a walk down memory lane while partaking in traditional mooncake and basking in the moonlight. Mooncakes are Chinese pastries that have a thick, sweet filling and are usually eaten with tea for the holiday. You’ll definitely want to try one.
Recommended Activities:
Guilin Park: Celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival as they did in the Tang Dynasty. People dress in traditional costume and visitors will have the chance to taste sweet-scented osmanthus wine and play games from the Tang Dynasty while admiring the light of the full moon.
128 Guilin Road
Public Transit: Bus 43, 89, 92, 93, Hu Xin Line, Nan She Line

Huangpu River Cruise: See some of Shanghai’s sights from a different view while admiring the moon.
1333 Wai Ma Road
Public Transit: Bus 930, 920

Double Ninth Festival

The ninth day of the ninth lunar month, the Chinese celebrate the significance of the number nine. It is a significant number because it is the largest single digit number and has the same pronunciation as “long live.” The day is spent celebrating and honoring the elderly. There are many activities that range from visiting family and friends to climbing mountains. Mountain climbing is a tradition from long ago when ascending heights was the best was to escape epidemics. Some other activities include eating Double Ninth cake, drinking chrysanthemum wine and wearing zhuyu, a plant that is considered to have cleansing qualities.
Recommended Activity: Oriental Pearl TV Tower: This 1,535-foot tower is the highest TV tower in Asia, and on the day of the Double Ninth Festival, competitors come out to climb it.
1 Century Avenue, Pudong New Area
Public Transit: Bus 870, 871, 872, 81, 82; Metro Line 2

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