FESTIVALS AND EVENTS

1. Chinese New Year

prac_info Three days from the 1st day of the 1st moon, usually late Jan or early Feb

Also known as Spring Festival, Beijing’s favorite holiday sees fireworks let off night and day across the city, plus temple fairs with stilt-walkers, acrobats, and fortune-tellers. Families make jiaozi (dumplings) together and exchange gifts, then the adults watch the annual Spring Festival Gala on television.

TopTen

Fireworks and traditional dances heralding Chinese New Year

2. Lantern Festival

prac_info The 15th day of the lunar calendar (end of Feb)

This festival marks the end of the 15-day Spring Festival celebrations. Lanterns bearing auspicious characters or in the shape of animals are hung everywhere. It is also a time for eating the sticky rice balls known as yuanxiao.

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Decorative Lantern

3. Tomb-Sweeping Festival (Qing Ming)

prac_info Apr 5, but Apr 4 in leap years

On this public holiday, Chinese families visit their ancestors’ graves to tidy them up, make offerings of snacks and alcohol, and burn incense and paper money.

4. International Labor Day

prac_info May 1

Labor Day is celebrated with a three-day holiday, which marks the start of the domestic travel season. Shops, offices, and other businesses close for the entire holiday, and often for a whole week. Don’t plan on doing any out-of-town travel during this time.

5. Dragon Boat Festival (Duanwu Jie)

prac_info The 5th day of the 5th lunar month (early Jun)

This festival remembers the honest official, Qu Yuan, who drowned himself about 2,500 years ago, after banishment from the court of the Duke of Chu. Citizens threw rice cakes into the water to distract the fish from nibbling on his body, hence the wholesale consumption of these delicacies on this date. Drums thunder as dragon-headed craft compete for top honors.

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Dragon Boat Festival competition

6. Chinese Valentine’s Day

prac_info The 7th day of the 7th lunar month (usually Aug)

This festival celebrates the forbidden love between a mortal and a goddess. Couples exchange gifts, and single women take fruit or flowers to a temple and pray for love.

7. Mid-Autumn Festival

prac_info The 15th day of the 8th lunar month (usually Sep)

Also known as the Harvest or Moon Festival, this is traditionally a time for family reunions and for giving boxes of sweet and savory mooncakes (yuebing).

8. National Day

prac_info Oct 1

On the anniversary of the foundation of the People’s Republic, crowds turn out to watch military parades in Tian’an Men Square, which is colored red by a sea of waving flags.

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National Day on Tian’an Men Square

9. Hairy Crab Season

prac_info Oct to early Dec

This is a two-month celebration of China’s favorite winter delicacy, hairy crabs, which are in season during the ninth and tenth months of the Chinese lunar calendar. Prized for their creamy meat, these are served in packed restaurants across the city.

10. Christmas Day

prac_info Dec 25

Not a traditional Chinese holiday but the festivities have been adopted via Hong Kong, which means that the focus is on squarely consumerism.

TOP 10 CULTURAL EVENTS

1. Temple Fairs

prac_info Jan/Feb

Colorful street fairs outside the city’s large temples during Chinese New Year.

2. Longqing Gorge Ice and Snow Festival

prac_info Longqing Gorge • Jan & Feb

Showcases giant ice and snow sculptures illuminated by pretty colored lights in a rural setting 25 miles (40 km) northwest of Beijing (see Longqing Gorge).

3. Surge

prac_info Spring and autumn

Emerging artists’ exhibitions take place at the Red Gate Gallery.

4. Beijing International Film Festival

prac_info Various venues • Apr

This is China’s largest film festival.

5. Beijing Music Festival (BMF)

prac_info Oct

Featuring the biggest names in music.

6. Art Beijing

prac_info National Agricultural Exhibition Center • May

Contemporary art fair with exhibitors from around the globe.

7. Croisements Festival

prac_info May–Jun

Festival blending French and Chinese culture, often on the same stage.

8. NLGX Performing Arts Festival

prac_info Jun–Aug

International players perform in venues in Nan Luogu Xiang.

9. Beijing Dance Festival

prac_info Jul

Established modern dance companies perform alongside emerging talent.

10. Meet in Beijing Festival

prac_info Apr–Jun

A festival of theater, dance, and music by groups from several continents.

TopTen

Opera, Meet in Beijing Festival

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