Chinese traditional festivals that ESL teachers should know! (first)


As a big country with a long history, China has many traditional festivals. The Chinese Traditional festivals are counted by lunar year not calendar year. Therefore, if ESL teachers find some festivals presented by lunar year, then they may know it’s traditional festival.


There are many ESL teachers coming to teach English in China, since they are interested in Chinese culture. Chinese Traditional festivals are part of Chinese culture. Moreover, ESL teachers may also want to introduce some Chinese traditional festivals to their own countries’ friends. It’s same as when I was in the states. Today, I’m going to introduce some Chinese traditional festivals to ESL teachers or someone who are interested in Chinese culture.


Chinese New Year


Chinese New Year must be the top one Chinese traditional festival that most foreigners want to learn.  As I mentioned before, Chinese traditional festivals are counted by lunar year. Chinese New Year is lunar year January 1st.  It’s the first day of the first month in the lunar year. Lunar year indicates both the moon phase and the time of the solar year.  It’s different from a solar calendar. A lunar month is around 2 days shorter than a solar month. In order to “catch up” with the solar calendar, an extra month is inserted every few years. For example, there was a lunar September in 2014. Since there are not many extra lunar months, people think it’s lucky who are born in those lunar months.  That’s also the reason why Chinese New Year varies from year to year according to the lunar year.


In China, people celebrate Chinese New Year from the New Year’s Eve to the middle of the first month. The celebration lasts around 15 days.  Before the celebration, people will clean their houses and display traditional New Year decorations such as lanterns. Chinese New Year is also a reunion time for the family, which is the most important part of the Chinese New Year. People will normally visit relatives and friends, do some shopping, watch traditional Chinese ceremony, launch fireworks and plan for the coming year.


In China, it’s seven days off for Chinese New Year, which is the longest holiday.  Nowadays, some modern Chinese families may take the chance to visit tourist destinations.


Chinese New Year is also the only holiday that almost every shopping mal and working place is off and closes the door. Therefore, ESL teachers are better to prepare food ahead for the Chinese New Year.


Red pockets are also the traditional part of the Chinese New Year. The red pocket is a red envelope with money in it, which ranges from hundred to a few thousand Chinese Yuan. Usually the red pocket is given by adults, especially married couples, and elderly to young children in the New Year days. It was believed that the money in the red pocket will suppress the evil from the children, keep them healthy, and give them a long life. Sometimes, the schools will also give ESL teachers red pockets for wishing hard work in the coming year.


Firework is also a special sign for Chinese New Year. Fireworks are used to drive away the evil in China. Usually, it will be launched before the dinner of the New Year’s Eve and right after 12:00 PM on New Year’s Eve. ESL teachers will find out that they could not get into sleep at the night of New Year’s Eve, since the fireworks are too noisy. However, concerning about the environment, more and more young people have decreased the quantity of fireworks and change the traditional way of New Year.


Lantern Festival


Lantern Festival is another important festival in China, which is after Chinese New Year and fifteenth day of the first lunar month. It marks the final day of traditional Chinese New Year celebration. In China, there are two great ceremony parties. One is Chinese New Year; the other one is Lantern festival.


During Lantern Festival, people eat tangyuan or yuanxiao. In north part of China, it’s called yuanxiao. In south part of China, it’s called tangyuan.  We also watch lanterns and guess lantern riddles.  Today, when the festival comes, red lanterns can be seen in the street, in each house, and store. In the parks, lanterns of various shapes and types attract countless visitors. ESL teachers can go to the parks during the Lantern Festival to watch the lanterns. If ESL teachers learn some Mandarin when they are teaching English in China. They can also try to guess the lantern riddles, which is really fun.


Now Lantern Festival is getting popular in some western countries, such as London and San Francisco.


Chinese Valentine’s Day

The last Chinese Traditional Festival I want to say is the Chinese Valentine’s Day.  Chinese Valentine’s day is the seventh day of the seventh lunar month, falls on August 28th this year.  The festival originated from a romatic legend of two lovers, Zhinu and Niulang, who were the weaver maid and the cowherd. Their love was not allowed, thus they were banished to opposite sides of the Sliver River. Once a year, on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month, a flock of magpies would form a bridge to reunite the lovers for one day. That’s why it’s called Chinese Valentine’s Day. There’re other versions of the story, if ESL teachers are interested, they can do a research.


Unlike the Valentine’s Day in Western countries, there is no emphasis on giving chocolates, flowers and kisses. Instead, Chinese girls prepare fruits, melons and incense as offerings to Zhinu, the weaving maiden, praying to acquire high skills in needlecraft, as well as hoping to find satisfactory husbands, according to tradition.

However, the Chinese Valentine’s Day has become a festival for the lovers who show their true love to each other for giving some gifts nowadays.  Therefore, if anyone is pursuing a Chinese girl or boy, please remember to prepare some gifts for her/him on the Chinese Valentine’s Day.


There are many other Chinese Traditional Festivals. We’ll do more discussion later in other articles.