On the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar, the moon is full and the Chinese people celebrate the Moon, or Mid-autumn, Festival. The round shape to a Chinese symbolizes family reunion. Therefore the Moon Festival is a holiday for members of a family to get together.
On that day, sons and daughters will bring their family members back to their parents' house for a reunion. Sometimes people who have already settled overseas will come back to visit their parents on that day.
Every Chinese holiday is accompanied by some sort of special food. On the Moon Festival, people eat moon cakes, a kind of cookie or cake filled with sugar, fat, sesame, walnut, the yoke of preserved eggs, ham, etc. In Chinese fairy tales, the fairy Chang E lived on the moon, along with a wood cutter named Wu Gang and a jade rabbit, Chang E's pet. In the old days, people paid respect to the fairy Chang E and her pet rabbit.
The custom of paying homage to the fairy and rabbit is gone, but the moon festival remains an important Chinese holiday.
Why the Chinese eat Moon Cakes
During the Yuan dynasty (A.D.1280-1368) China was ruled by the Mongolian people. Leaders from the preceding Sung dynasty (A.D.960-1280) were unhappy at submitting to foreign rule, and set how to coordinate the rebellion without it being discovered. The leaders of the rebellion, knowing that the Moon Festival was drawing near, ordered the making of special cakes. Backed into each moon cake was a message with the outline of the attack. On the night of the Moon Festival, the rebels successfully attacked and overthrew the government. What followed was the establishment of the Ming dynasty (A.D. 1368-1644). Today, moon cakes are eaten to commemorate this legend.
Adapted from http://www.chinavista.com /experience/moon/moon.html

Spring Festival/Chinese New Year

Far and away the most important holiday in China is Spring Festival, also known as the Chinese New Year. To the Chinese people it is as important as Christmas is to people in the West. The dates for this annual celebration are determined by the lunar calendar rather than the Gregorian calendar, so the timing of the holiday varies from late January to mid February.
To the ordinary Chinese, the festival actually begins on the eve of the lunar New Year's Day and ends on the fifth day of the first month of the lunar calendar. But the 15th of the first month, which is called the Lantern Festival, signifies the official end of the Spring Festival in many parts of the country.
Preparations for the New Year begin the during last few days of the last moon, when houses are thoroughly cleaned, debts repaid, hair cut and new clothes purchased. Houses are festooned with paper scrolls bearing auspicious antithetical couplets, or 对联, and many people burn incense at home and in the temples to pay respects to ancestors and ask the gods for good health in the coming year.
"Guo Nian," meaning "passing the year," is the common term among the Chinese people for celebrating the Spring Festival. It actually means greeting the new year. At midnight at the turn of the old and new year, people used to let off fire-crackers which serve to drive away evil spirits and to greet the arrival of the new year. In an instant the whole city would be engulfed in the deafening noise of the firecrackers.
On New Year's Eve, all the members of the family come together to feast. Jiaozi, 饺子,a steamed dumpling, is popular in the north, while southerners favor a sticky sweet glutinous rice pudding called nian gao, 年糕.
Adapted from http://www.chinavista.com /experience/spring/spring.html

Lantern Festival
Falling on the 15th day of the first month of the Lunar Year, the Lantern Festival takes place under a full moon, and marks the end of **Chinese New Year** festivities. The Lantern Festival dates back to shrouded legends of the Han Dynasty over 2000 years ago.

In one such legend, the Jade Emperor in Heaven was so angered at a town for killing his favorite goose, that he decided to destroy it with a storm of fire. However, a good-hearted fairy heard of this act of vengeance, and warned the people of the town to light lanterns throughout the town on the appointed day. The townsfolk did as they were told, and from the Heavens, it looked as if the village was ablaze. Satisfied that his goose had already been avenged, the Jade Emperor decided not to destroy the town. From that day on, people celebrated the anniversary of their deliverance by carried lanterns of different shapes and colors through the streets on the first full moon of the year, providing a spectacular backdrop for lion dances, dragon dances, and fireworks.
The Modern Lantern Festival
While the Lantern Festival has changed very little over the last two millennia, technological advances have made the celebration moreand more complex and visually stimulating. Indeed, the festival as celebrated in some places (such as Taipei, Taiwan) can put even the most garish American Christmas decorations to shame. They often sport unique displays of light that leave the viewer in awe.
Master craftsman will construct multicolored paper lanterns in the likeness of butterflies, dragons, birds, dragonflies, and many other animals; these accentuate the more common, red, spherical lanterns. Brilliantly-lit floats and mechanically driven light displays draw the attention of the young and old alike. Sometimes, entire streets are blocked off, with lanterns mounted above and to the sides, creating a hallway of lamps. Some cities in North China even make lanterns from blocks of ice! And just as in days gone by, the billion-watt background sets the scene for dragon and lion dances, parades, and other festivities.

Yuan Xiao and Tang Yuan are balls of glutinous rice, sometimes rolled around a filling of sesame, peanuts, vegetable, or meat. Tang Yuan are often cooked in red-bean or other kinds of soup. The round shape symbolizes wholeness and unity.

Duan Wu/Dragon Boat Festival
Duan Wu Jie, 端午节,commonly known as the Dumpling Festival, though also known as the Dragon Boat Festival, is a day for commemorating a Chinese poet Qu Yuan and other national patriots. This day falls on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, and it reminds oneself of one's responsibilities and duties to one's country. Chinese eat rice dumplings and participate in dragon boat competitions on this day.
There was this learned and patriotic poet called Qu Yuan (340 - 278 B.C.) during the period of the Warring States. He was a loyal official in the Chu Kingdom. Evil court officials, who were jealous of Qu Yuan's abilities, influenced the emperor to banish him from Chu Kingdom. During the next 20 years, Qu Yuan traveled widely and wrote poems on what he saw and thought. Qu Yuan was disheartened when he saw the Qin Kingdom conquer the Chu Kingdom. Overwhelmed by misery, Qu Yuan clasped a stone to his chest and plunged into the Mi Luo River in Hunan province. When news of Qu Yuan's suicide reached the fishermen, they set sail to look for his body, hence the tradition of holding dragon boat races. Unfortunately, Qu Yuan's body was nowhere to be found and the people threw rice into the river for Qu Yuan to feed on. Later the local fishermen were told in their dreams that the fishes and other creatures in the river ate the rice instead of Qu Yuan. Thus, the second time they threw rice into the river, they stuffed it into bamboo sections. This later evolved into what Chinese do now: wrap rice in bamboo leaves stuffed with meat, beans, salted egg yolks, mushrooms, etc. Chinese start making and exchanging rice dumplings among relatives and friends as early as one week beforehand. Some of them will also set aside the dumplings to offer them to their ancestors.

From http://www.rgs.edu.sg/aec /duanwujie.html

Celebrated two weeks after the vernal equinox, Tomb Sweeping Day is one of the few traditional Chinese holidays that follows the solar calendar-- typically falling on April 4, 5, or 6. Its Chinese name "Qing Ming" literally means "Clear Brightness," hinting at its importance as a celebration of Spring. Similar to the spring festivals of other cultures, Tomb Sweeping Day celebrates the rebirth of nature, while marking the beginning of the planting season and other outdoor activities.

In ancient times, people celebrated Qing Ming Jie with dancing, singing, picnics, and kite flying. Colored boiled eggs would be broken to symbolize the opening of life. In the capital, the Emperor would plant trees on the palace grounds to celebrate the renewing nature of spring. In the villages, young men and women would court each other.

With the passing of time, this celebration of life became a day to the honor past ancestors. Following folk religion, the Chinese believed that the spirits of deceased ancestors looked after the family. Sacrifices of food and spirit money could keep them happy, and the family would prosper through good harvests and more children.
Today, Chinese visit their family graves to tend to any underbrush that has grown. Weeds are pulled, and dirt swept away, and the family will set out offerings of food and spirit money. Unlike the sacrifices at a family's home altar, the offerings at the tomb usually consist of dry, bland food. One theory is that since any number of ghosts rome around a grave area, the less appealing food will be consumed by the ancestors, and not be plundered by strangers.

Honoring ancestors begins with proper positioning of a gravesite and coffin. Experts in feng shui, or geomancy, determine the quality of land by the surrounding aspects of streams, rivers, trees, hills, and so forth. An area that faces south, with groves of pine trees creates the best flow of cosmic energy required to keep ancestors happy. Unfortunately, nowadays, with China's burgeoning population, public cemetaries have quickly surplanted private gravesites. Family elders will visit the gravesite at least once a year to tend to the tombs.
While bland food is placed by the tombs on Qing Ming Jie, the Chinese regularly provide scrumptious offerings to their ancestors at altar tables in their homes. The food usually consists of chicken, eggs, or other dishes a deceased ancestor was fond of. Accompanied by rice, the dishes and eating utensils are carefully arranged so as to bring good luck. Sometimes, a family will put burning incense with the offering so as to expedite the transfer of nutritious elements to the ancestors. In some parts of China, the food is then eaten by the entire family.

Besides the traditions of honoring the dead, people also often fly kits on Tomb Sweeping Day. Kites can come in all kinds of shapes, sizes, and colors. Designs could include frogs, dragonflies, butterflies, crabs, bats, and storks.
From http://www.c-c-c.org/chinesecul ture/festival/qingming/qingming .html

Qingming Festival: Hanshi
Haishi Day (or Cold Food Day) is the very day just before the Qingming Festival (also named Tomb Sweeping Festival, or Clear and Bright Festival). On the day every year, no fire or smoke is allowed and people shall eat cold food for the whole day.
According to the legend, the day is in memory of Jie Zhitui who lived in the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476BC).
Jie was a good official in the Jin State, working for Crown Prince Chong'er. When Jin State was in turmoil, Chong'er was forced to leave for other states with his henchmen, including Jie. On the way of exile they went through all kinds of hardships and difficulties. To save the starving Chong'er, Jie even cut the flesh off his own leg and boiled for Chong'er. After ascending the throne, Chong'er began to forget Jie by and by. Jie was so sad that he prepared to leave and live in seclusion with his mother in mountains.
Chong'er felt so guilty that he in person went to the mountains to look for Jie. For it was impossible to find him in the endless trees and hills, Chong'er ordered to set the mountain on fire, so as to force Jie out. But Jie didn't show up; he and his mother were found to be dead in arms after the fire was put out, together with a note written by him in blood: "I cut off my own flesh to dedicate to you, only to wish my king will always be clear and bright. "
In order to keep in memory of Jie Zitui, Chong'er issued an order to make the day Haishi Day, also named Cold Food Day. And on the Cold Food Day every year, no fire or smoke was allowed and people should eat cold food for the whole day.
It was not until the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) about 300 years ago that the practice of Hanshi (or eating cold food) was replaced by that of Qingming, which had now become an important occasion for people to offer rememberances and sacrifices to their ancestors
http://www.chinapage.com /festival/qingming.html

The Double Ninth Festival (重阳节 Chóngyángjié), observed on the ninth day of the ninth month in the Chinese calendar, is a traditional Chinese holiday, mentioned in writing since before the East Han period (thus, before AD 25).
According to the I Ching, nine is the yang number; the ninth day of the ninth lunar month (or double nine) has too much yang (a traditional Chinese spiritual concept) and is thus a potentially dangerous date. Hence, the day is also called "Double Yang Festival" (重阳节). To protect against the danger, it is customary to climb a high mountain, drink chrysanthemum wine, and wear the zhuyu (茱萸) plant, Cornus officinalis. (Both chrysanthemum and zhuyu are considered to have cleansing qualities and are used on other occasions to air out houses and cure illnesses.) Also on this holiday, some Chinese also visit the graves of their ancestors to pay their respects.
It is said that in the ancient China, probably in Han dynasty, on September 9th(on the Lunar calendar), the emperor and his attendants would wear the zhuyu plant, eat the rice cakes and drink the chrysanthemum wine to dispel bad luck and pray for longevity.
Double Ninth may have originated as a day to drive away danger, but like the Chinese New Year, over time it became a day of celebration. In contemporary times it is an occasion for hiking and chrysanthemum appreciation. Stores sell rice cakes (糕 "gāo", a homophone for height 高) inserted with mini colorful flags to represent zhuyu. Most people drink chrysanthemum tea, while a few strict traditionalists drink homemade chrysanthemum wine. Children in school learn poems about chrysanthemums, and many localities host a chrysanthemum exhibit. Mountain climbing races are also popular; winners get to wear a wreath made of zhuyu.
This is an often-quoted poem about the holiday:
"Double Ninth, Missing My Shandong Brothers" - Wang Wei (Tang Dynasty)
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《九(jiǔ)月(yuè)九(jiǔ)日 (rì)憶(yì)山(shān)東(dōng)兄(xiōng)弟(dì)》 王維
獨(dú)在(zài)異(yì)鄉(xiāng)為 (wéi)異(yì)客(kè),
遙 (yáo)知(zhī)兄(xiōng)弟(dì)登(dēng)高(gāo)處(chù),
遍(biàn)插(chā)茱(zhū)萸 (yú)少(shǎo)一(yì)人(rén)
As a lonely stranger in the strange land,
Every holiday the homesickness amplifies.
Knowing that my brothers have reached the peak,
All but one is present at the planting of zhuyu.

From http://www.targetchinese.com/targetpedia/the-double-ninth-festival-the-origin-and-a-poem/

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