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Chinese Spring Festivals

Posted: Wednesday, May 20, 2009 By Ni Hao Books

Chinese Spring Festivals

There are two major festivals during spring time in China. The first is the Qingming festival, which happens on the 12th of the 3rd lunar month. Chinese people spend the day visiting the graves of their ancestors. They clean the graves, offer food which include fruit and wine to their ancestors, and burn paper money which is believed to allow the dead to buy things on the other side. Chinese people place a great emphasis on showing respect to their ancestors. Most Chinese believe their ancestors can bestow blessings or curses from the other side.

Because I grew up in the communist regime, most people in the city tried to do away with old traditions like this. The mostly atheist population don't believe the ancestors might still be present as spirits or can affect us in any ways. So during this holiday, many people choose to go hiking instead, which for city dwellers is a rare opportunity to enjoy nature. The higher the mountain one can climb, the better.

When I was in school, we were organized by the school to bring flowers to veterans' graves. It was a nice fieldtrip for us little kids and while we didn't understand much of the meaning of visiting graves, we were able to enjoy the nice spring weather and a day out instead of attending school.

Another major holiday during the spring time is the Dragon Boat festival (DuanWu Festival). This festival originated from the story related to the poet Qu Yuan. He was a loyal minister to the emperor of the Chu state during the Warring States period, before the unification of China by Qin Shi Huang. Due of jealousy stemming from others in the court, Qu Yuan was sent to exile. While on exile, he wrote great poetries expressing his love for his country and concerns of its future. When his country, the state of Chu, was about to be conquered by other states, Qu Yuan committed suicide by jumping into the river. Once people heard of his suicide, they rushed to the river on boats trying to look for him. They drummed and splashed water trying to keep the fish from eating his body. They also threw in rice for the fish to eat. The food they threw into the water eventually became "zongzi", which is sticky rice with various fillings wrapped in bamboo leaves. There are salted zongzi with pork, salted eggs, beans fillings, and sweet zongzi with red bean filling. When I was young, zongzi were only sold during DuanWu festival, but nowadays, I can find them sold everyday at any Asian supermarket. The boats racing to save the poet with drums and paddles became the "Dragon Boat Race", which has become an international sport in recent years. In the US you can find it at many cities, such as San Francisco, Miami, and Houston.


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