The Lantern Festival is a celebration of the first full moon of the year, and also the birthday of Tianguan, one of the Taoist gods responsible for good fortune. On this day, people walk the streets carrying lighted lanterns, and red lanterns of all sorts are released into the sky at various public places. As a tradition of Lantern Festival, people eat Tangyuan, a kind of dumpling made of sweet rice and rolled into ping-pong sized balls and filled with sweet fillings. Eating Tangyuan symbolizes family unity and happiness.
Tomb Sweeping Day
Tomb Sweeping Day is believed to have originated in the Tang Dynasty, with Emperor Xuanzong. He noticed that there were an abundance of overly extravagant ceremonies and festivals being enacted, in honor of various ancestors. As a way of putting an end to this over-zealous celebrating, he passed a decree which stated that such celebrations could only happen at the graves of the ancestors, and only on one day of the year, Quingming.
Dragon Boat Festival
The Dragon Boat Festival originated in the Zhou Dynasty, in honor of a man named Qu Yuan, who was a poet and statesman, and a minister to the Zhou Emperor. Qu Yuan was a wise and kind and honest man, who did much to eliminate the corruption rampant in the Zhou court.
This was a time in Chinese history when, though the Zhou Dynasty was the ruling power, a number of feudal states were vying for power, and internecine warfare was rampant. Qu Yuan advised the Zhou Emperor to avoid going to war with the Qin – one of these feudal states. This advice was not popular with the other members of the court, and Qu Yuan ended up being exiled.
When the Zhou were defeated by the Qin, Qu Yuan, in despair, threw himself into the Milou River, one the fifth day of the fifth month in 278 BC. His last poem was:
Many a heavy sigh I have in my despair, Grieving that I was born in such an unlucky time. I yoked a team of jade dragons to a phoenix chariot, And waited for the wind to come, To soar up on my journey
Upon hearing of Qu Yuan’s suicide, the local fisherman paddled out in their long boats, beating drums and throwing glutinous rice balls (zong zi) into the water, so that the fish wouldn’t eat Qu Yuan’s body.
Since that time, people have commemorated Qu Yuan by celebrating the anniversary of his death with activities that include dragon boat races and the eating of zong zi. Because Qu Yuan was a great poet, Duanwu Jie is sometimes also celebrated as “Poet’s Day.”
The Chinese New Year
The Chinese New Year has been known as the main religious holiday in China. It involves burning paper statues of gods, allowing the spirits to fly up to heaven and report on the family's behavior. They are replaced with new statues.
Hungry Ghost Festival
It is said that hungry ghosts, (the dead who have not had a proper funeral), are let out of the underworld on this day. People try to claim the ghosts by making offerings, saying prayers, and entertaining them with musical events.