Vacationing in China: The Complete Guide to Chinese Holidays

Guide for vacations in China

Vacations are the most eagerly awaited time of year for all, during which we can finally relax or change scenery even for just a few days. The first question we ask ourselves though is always the same: where should we go?

In recent years China has become a growingly popular tourist destination not just for solo travelers but also for families.

However when you decide to travel to China for vacation, you have to pay particular attention to the time period; by carefully choosing the dates you can attend very fascinating cultural celebrations or festivals from a historic point of view.

At the same time it’s possible to avoid the worst times to be a tourist in the country (if you choose wrong your vacation can turn into a real nightmare, with endless lines to buy tickets to tourist sites and hordes of people visiting the attractions along with you that won’t allow you to enjoy what you paid and waited in line for).

In this guide I’ll try to list the main Chinese holidays (there are, in fact, many other minor and strictly cultural ones that by now are almost completely lost, though no less interesting) and everything you need to know about them: anniversaries, legends, historical and cultural elements and some travel advice.

Chinese New Year (Chun jie 春节 or “Spring Festival”)

They exact dates for 2019 to 2030:

2019: Tuesday, February 5
2020: Saturday, January 25
2021: Friday, February 12
2022: Tuesday, February 1st
2023: Sunday, January 22
2024: Saturday, February 10
2025: Wednesday, January 29
2026: Tuesday, February 17
2027: Saturday, February 6
2028: Wednesday, January 26
2029: Tuesday, February 13
2030: Sunday, February 3

A brief presentation

Chun jie 春节 (literally “Spring Festival”) is probably the most well-known Chinese holiday abroad, known by the name “Chinese New Year” because this observance in fact refers to the beginning of the new year according to the traditional Chinese calendar (Nongli 农历) or lunar calendar, which governs all other traditional holidays.

The first day of the Chinese new year coincides with the appearance of the first new moon between January 21 and February 20 of the Gregorian calendar. So there isn’t a fixed date universally recognized as the new year. Every new year, as we well know, is also marked by a specific Chinese zodiac sign where each animal is the bringer of various meanings. 2019 is the year of the pig, while 2020 will be the year of the rat, the first of 12 Chinese signs that will begin a new cycle.

Chinese New Year, in a certain sense, has the same level of importance as Christmas has for Western countries. They prefer spending time with family, with big meals, and relaxing from the frenzy that marks the rest of the year.


According to an ancient legend, in the past there was a monster called Nian (Nian 年, or “year”) who lived in the depths of the sea. At the end of each lunar year, the monster Nian came out of his lair onto dry land to kill human beings.

This is why, a few days before the end of the year, the men quickly escaped into the mountains with the hope of saving themselves. One year an old beggar arrived in a village who revealed the way to escape the Nian to the inhabitants: the monster, in fact, was afraid of the color red, fire, and loud noises.

Over time the news spread throughout the country, and at the end of each lunar year, everyone took on the habit of attaching red papers on their doors, burning bamboo and later shooting fireworks to keep the monster away.

This legend would explain the reason why red has become the color of Chinese New Year, as well as all Chinese holidays in general. In addition you can attend unending pyrotechnic shows during New Year that can last for hours (I attended a 6 hour fireworks show).


There are still many traditions tied to this festival.

For example, one of the activities that you can’t miss during this period is cleaning the house and its (Saochen ri 扫尘日) decoration, to free oneself from the dust of the past year and welcome the new one. This activity also consists in decorating the whole home, with red dominating the scene.

It’s common custom to hang up verses of good luck on the sides of the front doors of their homes and shops, attaching everywhere the character fu 福, symbol of luck and good fortune (these are often hung upside down, forming a Chinese term called dao 倒 and has the same pronunciation as dao 到 “to arrive”, indicating the arrival of good luck), hanging red lanterns in shops, in the streets, in parks, etc., besides the very famous Chinese knots and engraved papers that are two excellent examples of traditional Chinese handicrafts.

Another typical custom that takes place during this period is to give little ones the famous red envelopes (Hongbao 红包) which contain money as a symbol of luck and good fortune, often defined as yasuiqian 压岁钱.

With the advancement of technology, the red envelopes have been substituted by digital ones through Wechat or Alipay.

Generally they start at a minimum of 100 RMB going up to a few thousands that are often used to buy toys, sweets or saved for future studies.

Fireworks are the audio protagonists of this holiday. Originally they had the purpose of keeping away the monster Nian and all evil spirits; today, instead, they’ve become an absolute MUST for New Years, so much so that in some areas, for security reasons, bans have been imposed.

Lastly, the most important thing to do during New Year is to spend the holiday with your family. Everyone returns to their hometown to be with their loved ones (who they probably see very rarely because they work or study in faraway cities) and this is when they have their most important meal of the year, or Nian ye fan 年夜饭 (New Year family dinner).

Typical dishes

The main dish for the big New Year’s meal is fish, and the reason is quite simple: the Chinese character for “fish” is yu 鱼 a homophone of yu 裕 “abundance”, which is in line with the spirit of the holiday to attract good luck and fortune. Besides fish there will certainly be the omnipresent won tons (jiaozi 饺子) and “New Year cake” (niangao 年糕).

Even this last dish is tied to luck because it is homophone of niangao 年高 (literally “venerable age”, or wishes for a long life). Finally, among the large variety of dishes for this occasion, we can’t forget the labazhou 腊八粥, a sort of rice porridge with various grains and dried fruit.

Travel advice

This is probably the most beloved holiday in China, which is why everyone does their best to return home and spend these days with their family. The main form of transportation for this huge exodus is obviously the train.

Trying to find a single train ticket becomes a real challenge because not only are they purchased well in advance so as to secure a trip to their hometown, but these are already sold out a few hours after they become available online. So be prepared for long waits and lines at train stations and especially overcrowded trains, where even standing room places aren’t available.

If you plan on traveling during this period, I recommend that you consider taking a flight rather than the train. You’ll spend a little bit more but your mental health will be eternally grateful. Even tourist places will be really crowded, but not as bad as during the National Holiday vacation.

In any case, get up very early so that you can get to the site you want to see when it opens; that way you will have a little time to visit in peace before the place fills with Chinese tourists. In addition, many shops close for the holidays and you’ll experience a different China than usual where business doesn’t come first.

Festival of Lanterns (Yuanxiao jie 元宵节)

The exact dates for 2019 to 2030:

2019: Tuesday, February 19
2020: Saturday, February 8
2021: Friday, February 26
2022: Tuesday, February 15
2023: Sunday, February 5
2024: Saturday, February 24
2025: Wednesday, February 12
2026: Tuesday, March 3
2027: Saturday, February 20
2028: Wednesday, February 9
2029: Tuesday, February 27
2030: Sunday, February 17

Brief presentation

The Festival of Lanterns is celebrated on the 15th day of the first lunar month, so exactly two weeks after Chinese New Year. For this reason it is considered the celebration that closes festivities on the arrival of the new year.

It’s called the “Festival of Lanterns” because the main activity on this day is to see every type of Chinese lantern hung in all the houses, shops, streets and parks, as a symbol of good luck – obviously in red. It is also the first big holiday immediately after the New Years celebration.


Here too there are numerous legends surrounding the birth of this holiday. One of the most famous has to do with the Jade Emperor. One day a gru came down from heaven, and once he arrived on earth he was killed by hunters, which provoked the rage of the Jade Emperor who thought to hurl a firestorm on the hunters’ village as divine punishment.

However the emperor’s daughter warned the inhabitants about her father’s imminent actions. One day an old man came to the village who told each inhabitant to hang a red lantern outside their doors, light fires in the street and shoot fireworks before, during and after the 15th lunar day so as to make the village appear in flames in the Jade Emperor’s eyes.

On the 15th, the emperor sent an army to destroy the village, but seeing it already in flames they decided to turn back and report what they saw. The Jade Emperor was satisfied and decided not to attack the village.

Another legend goes back to the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-220 A.D.), when the Ming Emperor ordered all the inhabitants to light lanterns to venerate and show respect to Buddha during the 15th lunar day, in imitation of the Buddhist monk’s customs. From that moment on, this practice became a tradition handed down from dynasty to dynasty up until our days.


Here too there are many traditions that have survived until our day. Besides hanging all sorts of red lanterns in homes, shops, streets and parks, which attracts lots of tourists who come to see this nighttime red light show, there’s also the habit of solving riddles about the lanterns.

This game of intellect attracts numerous challengers from all social classes. Also, as takes place during Chinese New Year, you can see many dances in the streets, such as the lion or dragon dances, as well as fireworks.

Typical dishes

There’s a typical dish connected with this holiday that you’ll find everywhere in China during this time period. If it’s offered to you, accept it; it’s really good. I’m talking about yuanxiao 元宵 (a name used in the north which recalls the name of the holiday) or tangyuan 汤圆 (a name used in the south that more closely explains the meaning of the dish): sticky rice balls that can be either filled or empty, which are generally sweet and served in the water in which they are cooked.

Very important advice: be very careful when you eat them. Chew them carefully because they’re very slippery and you run the risk of easily choking on them. I once personally had a bad experience.

Travel advice

Since it’s the same time period as the Chinese New Year, the same suggestions apply. Yet, being at the end of the Spring Festival the volume of travel will have calmed down and you’ll be more free to travel where you want in peace. Everything goes back to normal and even many shops reopen after the vacation.

Qingming Festival (Qingming jie 清明节 or “Memorial of the Dead”)

The exact dates for 2019 to 2030:

2019: Friday, April 5
2020: Saturday, April 4
2021: Sunday, April 4
2022: Tuesday, April 5
2023: Wednesday, April 5
2024: Thursday, April 4
2025: Friday, April 4
2026: Sunday, April 5
2027: Monday, April 5
2028: Tuesday, April 4
2029: Wednesday, April 4
2030: Friday, April 5

A brief presentation

The Qingming Festival might almost be considered the equivalent of our November 2, the day memorializing the dead. This day is also known as the “Day of Cleaning the Tombs”, in reference to one of the main activities that takes place on this occasion.

On this day, which always falls between April 4and 5, Chinese families gather at the tombs of their loved ones and ancestors to offer homage through ritual offerings. This holiday clearly shows the importance of showing respect towards ancestors and the dead, which is deeply rooted in Chinese culture.


It is said that the Qingming Festival was initially instituted to commemorate a man who lived during the period of Springs and Autumns (722-481 B.C.), Jie Zitui, a supporter of Duke Wen di Jin, and started the “festival of cold food”. According to historical sources, Duke Wen spent 19 years in exile, and in this period of time there was a day where he and his supporters were without food. Jie Zuitui then prepared a meat dish cut from his own thigh, which the Duke appreciated very much.

Moved by this gesture, he promised one day to repay him, as with those who helped him in those years. However when Duke Wen finally managed to return to Jin and become king, Jie Zitui had retired with his mother to a mountain and decided not to accept any compensation. Unable to find him, the Duke decided to set fire to the mountain so that he would come out, only to discover that Jie died along with his mother in the fire.

Full of remorse, the Duke prohibited the lighting of fires for three days in memory of Jie Zitui, including even fire for cooking food. That’s how the Han shi jie 寒食节 festival started, or the “festival of cold food”.

The next year the Duke again came to the mountain and was amazed that all of the burned trees were lush and green (it was the middle of Spring), so he cleaned Jie’s tomb and paid him respect. Over time the festival of cold food was joined to what is today called the Qingming Festival, or “festival of pure luminosity”.

The origin of this festival is certainly from the time of Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.). It’s said that in that period rich men held excessively expensive ceremonies to commemorate their dead. This brought the emperor to put the brakes on this extravagance and he imposed that respecting the ancestors only be demonstrated during Qingming.


The traditions tied to this day all center around commemorating the dead, showing them respect and offering them tribute. The main activity is the “cleaning of the tombs” (sao mu 扫墓): it doesn’t matter where the Chinese may be, for at least that one day they must return to their hometown and pray for their ancestors and clean their tombs by pulling out weeds or maybe adding some fresh soil on top of the old.

At the same time, it’s custom to bring a food offering and burn paper money (not real money) and incense, so as to ensure the dead have food and money. Today though, with the popularity of cremation, these customs have been scaled back to just a prayer and flowers.

Another activity is to fly kites both night and day, hanging little lanterns on them and creating an artificial starry night. In the past, it was believed that setting a kite free by cutting its cord while still in the air, this would keep sickness away and bring luck.

Typical dishes

Even though the Qingming Festival is tied to the now forgotten festival of cold food, this ancient custom of not lighting fires remains in some places where they eat cold cakes (qingming bing 清明饼), eggs, snails, etc. However a dish that could be considered typical of this occasion are the qingtuan 青团, green balls of sticky rice filled with vegetables that vary from area to area.

Travel advice

Like the other holidays already mentioned, the Chinese will do everything they can to return to their home cities to pay tribute to their ancestors. In all likelihood trains and buses will be crowded, and with 2-3 days of vacation available, tourist attractions will be somewhat crowded.

But don’t worry, the rule of getting up early to be there when they open also applies, because this is not a national holiday and many decide just to visit the deceased then return home without wanting to play the tourist.

Dragon boat festival (Duanwu jie 端午节)

Exact dates for 2019 to 2030:

2019: Friday, June 7
2020: Thursday, June 25
2021: Monday, June 14
2022: Friday, June 3
2023: Thursday, June 22
2024: Monday, June 10
2025: Saturday, May 31
2026: Friday, June 19
2027: Wednesday, June 9
2028: Sunday, May 28
2029: Saturday, June 16
2030: Wednesday, June 5

A brief presentation

The dragon boat festival is also a traditional Chinese festival that falls on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, also known as the “double fives” (Chongwu jie 重五节). In addition this is a celebration closely tied to sports; in fact, on this day there are numerous boat races throughout China.

Thanks to its popularity, today these competitions are held in many parts of the world, giving luster to this traditional Chinese holiday. The wooden boats are generally in the shape of Chinese dragons 20 to 35 meters long and can carry a large number of rowers.

The races are also accompanied by the rhythmic beat of drums that not only motivate the rowers and give them a rhythm, but also conform to the dictates of ancient tradition tied to this celebration.


Legend says that these festivities are tied to a figure who lived during the time of the Warring States (453-221 B.C.), the poet and functionary of the Chu state called Qu Yuan. It says that the patriotic Qu Yuan was deliberately drowned in the Miluo River after discovering that his beloved state had fallen to the forces of the Qin State.

Known as a good-hearted man, the local people tried to save him by setting out onto the river aboard long, narrow boats in the shape of a dragon.

Moreover, to keep the creatures in the river from eating his body, the men threw food in the water to distract the fish’s attention and tried to scare them with the deafening sound of drums and oars banging on the surface of the water.

From this the dragon boat races were born, commemorating the tragic death of the poet Qu Yuan.


Tradition says that on this day fantastic dragon shaped boats should race to the rhythm of the drums throughout China and even beyond national borders. Moreover there are traditions involving decorating the house by hanging twigs of wormwood to keep sickness away upon the arrival of summer.

They exchange gifts of silk bracelets in five colors (green, red, yellow, black and white) as a symbol of longevity and luck, often given to children. Lastly, people carry with them little scented bags to keep away bad germs and serve as a good omen.

Typical dishes

The very best dish for the dragon boat festival is called Zongzi 粽子, steamed sticky rice triangles with different fillings wrapped in bamboo leaves.

It’s thought that this became a typical dish during the time of the Warring States when, to keep the body of Qu Yuan from being eaten by fish, the men on the boats threw food (the zongzi in fact) into the water to distract the river creatures. There’s also a typical drink for this celebration, Xionghuang jiu 雄黄酒 or “yellow wine” made of rice, millet or wheat.

Travel advice

You won’t find much confusion at main tourist sites during this festival, but you’ll probably find overcrowding in the cities where they hold dragon boat races.

As a sporting event, this also attracts visitors from all over the world and it might be hard to find a good place to watch the races. In general though it’s not a time where travel absolutely should be avoided. So relax and enjoy your stay in China by traveling worry-free.

Chinese Valentine’s Day (Qixi jie 七夕节or “Festival of the double sevens”)

Exact dates for 2019 to 2030:

2019: Wednesday, August 7
2020: Tuesday, August 25
2021: Saturday, August 14
2022: Thursday, August 4
2023: Tuesday, August 22
2024: Saturday, August 10
2025: Friday, August 29
2026: Wednesday, August 19
2027: Sunday, August 8
2028: Saturday, August 26
2029: Thursday, August 16
2030: Monday, August 5

A brief presentation

Qixi jie is part of Chinese traditional festivals and is considered the most romantic holiday in China, which is why they consider it Chinese Valentine’s Day.

This holiday is also known as the “Festival of the double sevens” since it falls on the seventh day of the seventh month (the term qi 七 means “seven”, while the term xi夕 means “night”). This holiday is also known as the “Festival of young women” emphasizing the desire of young women looking for true love.


This festival goes back to the legendary love between Zhinü (the star Vega) and Niulang (the star Altair). One day Niulang, an orphan herdsman with a gentle heart met an elderly old man who brought him a sick, heavenly blue ox. With the young man’s help, the ox got better quickly and to show his gratitude, he introduced Niulang to a heavenly woman named Zhinü.

The two fell in love, got married and spent happy days together (Niulang working in the fields and Zhinü weaving at home) and even had two kids: one boy and one girl. This carefree time didn’t last long though. Zhinü’s actions reached the Queen of Heaven who decided to bring her back.

Niulang, then, together with his two children and the help of the heavenly blue ox, reached heaven to take back his love, but in the moment that they meet, the queen unleashes an enormous river (the Milky Way) between the two lovers to keep them from getting close to each other.

Nevertheless the immense pain of the two lovers touches the queen, who allows them to meet once a year during the seventh day of the seventh lunar month thanks to a bridge formed of magpies that crosses the heavenly river who are also moved by the couple’s pain. It’s also believed that any rain that falls on this day indicates the spray from the river created by the magpies or the crying of the two lovers.


According to tradition, on this day young women pray to Zhinü for great weaving abilities and to find true love, as well as to make little sewn gifts. However these days the legend has almost completely disappeared and given way to the more international Valentine’s Day where chocolates and flowers are given to one’s love.

Typical dishes

There are no actual typical dishes for celebrating this holiday. But noteworthy are the Qiao guo 巧果 or Qixi guo 七夕果 produced in the area of Shanghai. This is a type of cookie given to new brides by their husbands on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month.

Travel advice

Even though it’s a traditional Chinese holiday, the normal influx of tourists remains rather unchanged. Without the provision of any vacation time, this can easily be considered a normal travel day in August. Take advantage of it and travel far and wide with your significant other!

Mid-Autumn Festival (Zhongqiu jie 中秋节 or “Moon Festival”)

Exact dates for 2019 to 2030:

2019: Friday, September 13
2020: Thursday, October 1
2021: Tuesday, September 21
2022: Saturday, September 10
2023: Friday, September 29
2024: Tuesday, September 17
2025: Monday, October 6
2026: Friday, September 25
2027: Wednesday, September 15
2028: Tuesday, October 3
2029: Saturday, September 22
2030: Friday, September 12

A brief presentation

The Mid-Autumn Festival is called this because it is celebrated in the middle of this season, exactly on the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month. This holiday is also known as the “Moon Festival” because during this period the moon reaches its maximum splendor. The Mid-Autumn Festival is also the second most-important holiday in China after Chinese New Year.

Since the Shang Dynasty (1600-1046 B.C.), the harvest festival in China was always celebrated during the full Autumn moon since this is the result of lunar action. A good harvest had the power to reunite the family and for this reason they worshiped the moon, thanking it for its benevolent actions.

The holiday though only began being celebrated around the Tang Dynasty. Since the harvest and family are an important part of the holiday, this became a very important holiday for the entire nation.


The legend surrounding this holiday has the Chinese moon goddess Chang’e as protagonist along with her beloved Houyi. There are many versions, but the most famous took place during the rule of Emperor Yao. Houyi was an immortal, Chang’e was a handmaiden to the Jade Emperor.

Over time the two fell in love but that put Houyi in a bad light in front of the emperor, who decided to send the couple to the earth to live as mortals. In that time there were ten suns that looked like birds located in the eastern sea, where each day one left to travel around the earth. One day they decided to travel all together and burned the earth.

So Emperor Yao ordered Houyi to get rid of the nine suns and save just one to put an end to that tragedy. As a reward, Houyi obtained the pill of immortality on the condition that he would only eat it after a year of prayer and fasting in anticipation of the right moment.

Taking advantage of a day without her husband there, Chang’e swallowed the pill, and seeing that she could now fly, after an argument with her husband she escaped to Heaven. Houyi couldn’t reach her and was forced to return to Earth, while Chang’e arrived on the Moon where she coughed up part of the pill; which made it so she couldn’t return to the Earth.

The maiden then asked a rabbit that lived on the Moon (also known as the Jade Rabbit and the one who prepared medicinal herbs for the gods) to make another pill to bring her back to her husband. It’s said that Chang’e and the Jade Rabbit are to this day pounding the mortar to make a pill to allow the woman to go back to Houyi, who built a house on the Sun in opposition to his wife’s on the Moon (Houyi would therefore be the yang 阳 and Chang’e the yin 阴).

It’s also said that once a year in mid-Autumn, Houyi is able to meet his wife, and that’s why on that one night the moon is brighter than usual.


Tradition requires that this holiday be celebrated with the family and other loved ones, giving gifts to the Moon, lighting red lanterns and burning incense. Nevertheless one of the few traditions remaining is to make and eat “moon sweets”.

Typical dishes

As was just mentioned, the typical dish for this holiday are the “moon sweets” or Yuebing 月饼. This is a round or rectangular traditional Chinese dessert that often contains one or two egg yolks to symbolize the full moon. Traditionally you can find Chinese characters that symbolize longevity and harmony on the surface of the sweet.

Travel advice

Traveling during this time period could be a problem, not so much due to the holiday in and of itself, but more so for the fact that it coincides with one of the longest vacation periods in China, the National Holiday.

I always tell everyone, unfortunately from personal experience, to never travel during the National Holiday and the so-called Golden Week which runs from October 1 to 7, and often includes the Mid-Autumn festival.

Traveling by train can be complicated and crowded, as is traveling by car or bus: in fact, the highways can be filled with kilometers-long traffic lines.

If this holiday falls on the edge or in the middle of Golden Week I strongly recommend that you not travel and take this time to relax at home from school or work. Trust me. If this festival isn’t close to the National Holiday, then don’t worry and go where you want.

National Holiday (Guoqing jie 国庆节)

Exact dates for 2019 to 2030:

2019: Tuesday, October 1
2020: Thursday, October 1
2021: Friday, October 1
2022: Saturday, October 1
2023: Sunday, October 1
2024: Tuesday, October 1
2025: Wednesday, October 1
2026: Thursday, October 1
2027: Friday, October 1
2028: Sunday, October 1
2029: Monday, October 1
2030: Tuesday, October 1

A brief presentation

The National Holiday, as the name indicates, celebrates of the proclamation of the People’s Republic of China, October 1, 1949 in Tiananmen Square. The official founding took place on September 21th of the same year, but October 1st was chosen as the National Holiday.

There are three official vacation days, which when added to the previous and following weekends, make up the famous Golden Week. It was given this name due to the fact that these vacations fall in the middle of autumn and is a golden time for traveling in China.


There are as of yet no legends tied to this holiday (who knows, in the future we might tell of something extravagant regarding the birth of the Chinese nation).

However it has become a custom to hold large military parades during these days in the most symbolic places in the large cities (Tiananmen Square in Beijing being the foremost), hold flag raising ceremonies, shoot fireworks and party with singing and dancing. Thanks to Golden Week, we can say that traveling has become a holiday tradition.

Travel advice

Stay at home. Trust me.

As was already explained about the Mid-Autumn Festival, this is the worst week of the year to be a tourist in China. 7 vacation days bring all the Chinese to almost every tourist site, and there will be no escape for you. Traveling by train might be the worst choice, since it’s the main way of getting around in China and it will be almost impossible to get a ticket.

So forget about the train. If you’re thinking about traveling by bus or car, I implore you to change your mind. Almost any form of travel on wheels will become a real nightmare, and from personal experience I can say that on the highways you’ll move at an ant’s pace for hours and hours due to an unending line of tourist buses, cars, trucks and more.

As a result, avoid buses or cars. Stick with the planes. During this time flights can see a sharp rise in prices compared to normal, but even if you decide to avoid the crowds by spending more on an air ticket, the problem remains.

Once you get to a tourist destination you’ll then spend hours on line for entrance tickets, and when you finally reach the edge of a nervous breakdown, you’ll no longer be able to enjoy anything due to the crowds of people. Add to this an increase in prices for hotels and hostels.

As I’ve already suggested, stay at home during Golden Week and only travel before or after so as to avoid all this. If you don’t believe me and want to experience this for yourself…then good luck.

Festival of the Double Nines (Chongyang jie 重阳节 or “Festival of the double Yang”)

Exact dates for 2019 to 2030:

2019: Monday, October 7
2020: Sunday, October 25
2021: Thursday, October 14
2022: Tuesday, October 4
2023: Monday, October 23
2024: Friday, October 11
2025: Wednesday, October 29
2026: Sunday, October 18
2027: Friday, October 8
2028: Thursday, October 26
2029: Tuesday, October 16
2030: Saturday, October 5

A brief presentation

The Festival of the Double Nines is called that because it’s celebrated on the ninth day of the ninth lunar month. In China there’s a strong symbolism tied to numbers and one of the characteristics tied to number the 9 is that it’s considered the number of Yang 阳 (the opposite of Yin 阴 symbolized by the number 6); since there are two nines in the ninth day of the ninth month (two Yangs), the holiday is also known as the “Chongyang Festival” where chong 重 means “double” and therefore, “Festival of the Double Yang”.


Legends say that during the time of the Eastern Han (25-220 d.C.), a terrible plague monster lived in the waters of the Ru River. Each time it rose to the surface, the local people got sick and in a short time, they died. At that time there was a young man named Heng Jing, whose parents died the same way as the other locals and who survived the sickness.

Escaping certain death, he decided to study a way to get rid of the monster and reach an immortal who was said to live in the eastern parts. Seeing that he had good intentions and a good heart, the immortal decided to help him. One day the immortal told him to return to the village because the monster was going to appear on the ninth day of the ninth month.

Once back, Heng Jing exhorted his family to go to the top of the mountain with a Zhuyu leaf and chrysanthemum wine. Arriving at the surface, the monster was dazed by the smell of Zhuyu leaves and chrysanthemum, so Heng Jing killed him with his sword.


From that day on, climbing to the top of the mountains on the ninth day of the ninth month became a tradition handed down to our time. Today it has become an occasion for families to take a trip to the mountains (the holiday, in fact, is also called Denggao jie 登高节, or the “Festival of Reaching the Top” or “Festival of mountain climbing”), with the objective of keeping away future sicknesses, and to drink chrysanthemum wine and wear Zhuyu leaves (this is a type of dogwood from Korea and China).

Typical dishes

On this day it’s customary to drink chrysanthemum (a native plant in China) wine and cakes called Chongyang (Chongyang gao 重阳糕). This is a rice wheat and sugar cake decorated with Chinese dates, almonds and chestnuts.

Travel advice

As a cultural holiday and not a national one, there’s no problem at all traveling during this time period. You’ll probably find more crowds than “normal” if going to the mountains since that’s the main activity to celebrate the festival of the double nines. But don’t worry, you can travel freely and enjoy this traditional holiday.

Winter Solstice Festival (Dongzhi jie 冬至节 or “Winter Festival”)

Exact dates for 2019 to 2030:

2019: Sunday, December 22
2020: Monday, December 21
2021: Tuesday, December 21
2022: Thursday, December 22
2023: Friday, December 22
2024: Saturday, December 21
2025: Sunday, December 21
2026: Tuesday, December 22
2027: Wednesday, December 22
2028: Thursday, December 21
2029: Friday, December 21
2030: Sunday, December 22

A brief presentation

The Festival of the Winter Solstice is part of the traditional Chinese holidays and falls between December 21 and 23, which is the longest night of the year. Even though it’s a traditional holiday, there are no vacation days. In the past extreme importance was given to this day (for many it meant the beginning of a new year) and it was placed on almost the same level as the Spring Festival.

Legends and traditions

As was alluded to previously, this holiday was once given extreme importance, and was dedicated to the veneration of ancestors and the gathering of the whole family.

In this case too, there are many legends tied to this day, but one in particular would explain the reason why on this day it’s traditional to eat wontons. According to the legend of Zhang Zhongjing, a famous doctor from the Eastern Han Dynasty, one day he discovered that many in his cities suffered terribly from cold and hunger and had terrible frostbite on their ears.

During the Winter Festival, Zhongjing cooked up a remedy of food called Jiao Er filled with medicine and lamb. Later on people learned to cook these dishes and thus the modern wonton was born.

Typical dishes

As was just mentioned, the typical dish for this holiday are the wontons. However there are different customs between the north and south of China. In the north they eat the classic wontons while in the south they prefer the tangyuan, the same food eaten for the Festival of Lanterns during the Chinese New Year. In fact their round shape symbolizes the unity of the family.

Travel advice

Since there are no vacation days given for this traditional holiday, you can travel freely without any cares other than the usual when traveling. Even though it falls around Christmas, don’t worry because for the Chinese it’s mainly just a way of adapting to Western culture.

Labor Holiday (Laodong jie 劳动节)

Exact dates for 2019 to 2030:

2019: Wednesday, May 1
2020: Friday, May 1
2021: Saturday, May 1
2022: Sunday, May 1
2023: Monday, May 1
2024: Wednesday, May 1
2025: Thursday, May 1
2026: Friday, May 1
2027: Saturday, May 1
2028: Monday, May 1
2029: Tuesday, May 1
2030: Wednesday, May 1

A brief presentation

In this case it isn’t a holiday that is only celebrated in China, or the Far East in general; in fact this is an international holiday that is celebrated in many countries around the world, including China.

Travel advice

As an international holiday that includes China, traveling during this period isn’t a great idea. Even though it’s only one vacation day as in other places in the world, schools, universities and firms often take the opportunity to join up with the closest weekend (the one before or after) to create a vacation “bridge”.

Even so you won’t see a flood of people like during Golden Week but the majority of places of interest will be rather crowded compared to a “normal” day. Personally I’ve traveled during this period and can assure you that it’s absolutely doable so long as you have a good dose of patience (which you’ll always need in China).

Traveling in China means dealing with a world completely different than what we’re used to, and we owe this to the very rich culture that characterizes the country. This culture often leads to marvelous holidays that allow us to understand China and its people better. So travel now, aware of what awaits you and where these holidays come from, but above all don’t forget to check your calendar first!

Photo Credits: Creative Commons License Chinese New Year Parade 97 by Steve Rhodes

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get 3 Months FREE with EXPRESS VPN

+ Best VPN For China
+ 30-Day Money-Back Guarantee
+ 24/7 Live China Customer Support
+ 3 Months Free on 12 Months Package

Scroll to Top