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The average person in Ancient China worked hard every day. They worked long hours each day and didn't have weekends off. However, throughout the year there were a number of national festivals. Families would gather together during these times and celebrate. Many of these festivals are still celebrated in China.
Spring Festival (Chinese New Year)
The most important festival of the year was the Spring Festival or Chinese New Year
. The entire celebration lasts for 15 days. It starts with the first day of the New Year and ends with the Lantern Festival.
The Ancient Chinese have celebrated the Spring Festival as far back as the Shang Dynasty over 3000 years ago. According to Chinese mythology the celebration first started when a small village used the noise of firecrackers and drums to scare off the monster Nian.
The Spring Festival is a time for getting together with family, exchanging gifts, and lighting fireworks. The color red is also popular as it was used to help scare off the monster Nian.
The last day of the Spring Festival is a special celebration called the Lantern Festival. This festival first came about during the Han Dynasty. Lanterns were lit in honor of Buddha. Other traditions on this day include guessing riddles (which began during the Song Dynasty), eating rice dumplings, the lion dance, and the dragon dance.
The Qingming Festival occurs between April 4-6. It is also called the Clear and Bright Festival. Traditionally it marked the time of year for farmers to begin plowing and sowing the fields. It is considered a day of sacrifice to the ancestors. Traditions include sweeping the tombs of the dead, flying kites, planting trees, and eating only cold food.
Dragon Boat Festival
The Dragon Boat Festival dates all the way back to the Warring States Period of the Zhou Dynasty. Legend has it that a famous poet named Qu Yuan killed himself on this day by jumping into a river when he learned that his homeland had been conquered. This festival takes place on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month. Traditions on this day include dragon boat racing, eating rice dumplings called zongzi, and wearing a perfume pouch to ward off evil spirits.
The Night of Sevens Festival
The Night of the Sevens Festival falls on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month. This festival was first celebrated during the Han Dynasty. The legend behind the festival is a love story that tells of a cowhand who fell in love with a maiden from heaven. However, the lovers were separated by the Queen of heaven. After trying to get back together for a long time, they finally met again on this day. Traditionally the day was a day to worship the stars and for young girls to pray for a good husband. Today it has become more of lovers' day like Valentine's Day.
The Moon Festival is celebrated in late September and celebrates the bounty of the harvest. It is also called the Mid-Autumn Festival. It has been celebrated in Ancient China since the Zhou Dynasty. The main tradition on this day is to eat moon cakes. This tradition started during the Mongol rule of the Yuan Dynasty.
Double Ninth Festival
This day is celebrated on the ninth day of the ninth lunar month. The number nine was special to the Ancient Chinese. It was the lucky number of the emperor and the dragon. Originally people would climb to the top of a hill or mountain and drink chrysanthemum tea to ward off evil spirits.
Winter Solstice Festival
This festival signals the shortest day of the year. It first became a popular day to celebrate during the Han Dynasty. This was an important festival throughout the history of Ancient China. People took the day off and met with friends and relatives. They also offered sacrifices to their ancestors.
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