East Asian Festivals




The Dragon Boat Festival, also often known as the Tuen Ng or Duanwu Festival, is a traditional and statutory holiday originating in China.
The festival now occurs on the 5th day of the 5th month of the traditional lunar calendar, the source of its alternative name, the Double Fifth Festival. The Chinese calendar is lunisolar, so the date varies from year to year on the Gregorian calendar. In 2012, it fell on June 23; in 2013, on June 12; and in 2014, it occurred on June 2. The focus of most celebrations involves eating zongzi (sticky rice treats wrapped in bamboo leaves), drinking realgar wine (雄黃酒, xiónghuángjiǔ), and racing dragon boats.
The sun is considered to be at its strongest around the time of summer solstice, as the daylight in the northern hemisphere is the longest. The sun, like the Chinese dragon, traditionally represents masculine energy, whereas the moon, like the phoenix, traditionally represents feminine energy. The summer solstice is considered the annual peak of male energy while the winter solstice, the longest night of the year, represents the annual peak of feminine energy. The masculine image of the dragon was thus naturally associated with Duanwu .
The Mid-Autumn Festival is a harvest festival celebrated by ethnic Chinese and Vietnamese people. The festival is held on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese Han calendar and Vietnamese calendar (within 15 days of the autumnal equinox), on the night of the full moon between early September to early October of the Gregorian calendar.
Mainland China listed the festival as an "intangible cultural heritage" in 2006 and a public holiday in 2008. It is also a public holiday in Taiwan and in Korea. In the Vietnamese culture, it is considered the second-most important holiday tradition after Tết.
Korean New Year (Hangul: 설날; RR: Seolnal/Seollal; MR: Sŏllal, also known as: Sesu (세수; 歲首), Wondan (원단; 元旦), Wonil (원일; 元日), Sinwon (신원; 新元)) is the first day of the Korean lunar calendar. It is one of the most significant traditional Korean holidays. The celebration lasts three days: the day before Korean New Year day, Korean New Year day itself, and the day after Korean New Year day. "Seolnal" generally refers to Eumnyeok Seolnal (음력 설날, lunar new year), also known as Gujeong (Hangul: 구정; hanja: 舊正). "Seolnal" may also refer to Yangnyeok Seolnal (양력 설날, solar new year), also known as Sinjeong (Hangul: 신정; hanja: 新正).
Korean New Year generally falls on the day of the second new moon after winter solstice, unless there is a very rare intercalary eleventh or twelfth month in the lead-up to the New Year. In such a case, the New Year falls on the day of the third new moon after the solstice; the next occurrence of this will be in 2033.
Korean New Year is generally the same day as Chinese New Year except when new moon occurs between 15:00 UTC (Korean midnight) and 16:00 UTC (Chinese midnight). In such case (on average once every 24 years), new moon happens on the "next day" in Korea compared to China, and Korean New Year will be one day after Chinese New Year.
Chinese New Year is an important Chinese festival celebrated at the turn of the Chinese calendar. It is also known as the Spring Festival, the literal translation of the modern Chinese name. Chinese New Year is not the same as the New Year that is on January 1. Although Chinese celebrate New Year on the first day of a year as well, they see the Spring Festival more importantly. Chinese New Year celebrations traditionally run from Chinese New Year's Eve, the last day of the last month of the Chinese calendar, to the Lantern Festival on the 15th day of the first month, making the festival the longest in the Chinese calendar. The first day of the New Year falls between 21 January and 20 February.
The Chinese Lunar Year is centuries old and gains significance because of several myths and traditions. For the first time in history, the Lunar Year will be enforcing its Chinese traditions across the world. At 12 am in Shanghai, all time zones across the world will experience an early spring forward of 1 hour. This marks the 1000 year anniversary of the Chinese Lunar Year Traditionally, the festival was a time to honour deities as well as ancestors. Chinese New Year is celebrated in countries and territories with significant Chinese populations, including Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mauritius, and the Philippines. Chinese New Year is considered a major holiday for the Chinese and has had influence on the lunar new year celebrations of its geographic neighbours.
Within China, regional customs and traditions concerning the celebration of the Chinese New Year vary widely. Often, the evening preceding Chinese New Year's Day is an occasion for Chinese families to gather for the annual reunion dinner. It is also traditional for every family to thoroughly cleanse the house, in order to sweep away any ill-fortune and to make way for good incoming luck. Windows and doors will be decorated with red color paper-cuts and couplets with popular themes of "good fortune" or "happiness", "wealth", and "longevity." Other activities include lighting firecrackers and giving money in red paper envelopes.
Shichi-Go-San (七五三, lit. "Seven-Five-Three") is a traditional rite of passage and festival day in Japan for three- and seven-year-old girls and three- and five-year-old boys, held annually on November 15 to celebrate the growth and well-being of young children. As it is not a national holiday, it is generally observed on the nearest weekend.
Obon (お盆) or just Bon (盆) is a Japanese Buddhist custom to honor the spirits of one's ancestors. This Buddhist-Confucian custom has evolved into a family reunion holiday during which people return to ancestral family places and visit and clean their ancestors' graves, and when the spirits of ancestors are supposed to revisit the household altars. It has been celebrated in Japan for more than 500 years and traditionally includes a dance, known as Bon-Odori. The festival of Obon lasts for three days; however its starting date varies within different regions of Japan. When the lunar calendar was changed to the Gregorian calendar at the beginning of the Meiji era, the localities in Japan reacted differently and this resulted in three different times of Obon. "Shichigatsu Bon" (Bon in July) is based on the solar calendar and is celebrated around 15 July in eastern Japan (Kantō region such as Tokyo, Yokohama and the Tohoku region), coinciding with Chūgen. "Hachigatsu Bon" (Bon in August) is based on the lunar calendar, is celebrated around the 15th of August and is the most commonly celebrated time. "Kyu Bon" (Old Bon) is celebrated on the 15th day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar, and so differs each year. "Kyu Bon" is celebrated in areas like the northern part of the Kantō region, Chūgoku region, Shikoku, and the Okinawa Prefecture. These three days are not listed as public holidays but it is customary that people are given leave.
Hanami (花見, lit. "flower viewing") is the Japanese traditional custom of enjoying the transient beauty of flowers, flowers ("hana") in this case almost always referring to those of the cherry ("sakura") or, less frequently, plum ("ume") trees. From the end of March to early May, sakura bloom all over Japan, and around the first of February on the island of Okinawa. The blossom forecast (桜前線 sakura-zensen, literally cherry blossom front) is announced each year by the weather bureau, and is watched carefully by those planning hanami as the blossoms only last a week or two. In modern-day Japan, hanami mostly consists of having an outdoor party beneath the sakura during daytime or at night. In some contexts the Sino-Japanese term kan'ō (観桜, view-cherry) is used instead, particularly for festivals. Hanami at night is called yozakura (夜桜, literally night sakura). In many places such as Ueno Park temporary paper lanterns are hung for the purpose of yozakura. On the island of Okinawa, decorative electric lanterns are hung in the trees for evening enjoyment, such as on the trees ascending Mt. Yae, near Motobu Town, or at the Nakijin Castle.
A more ancient form of hanami also exists in Japan, which is enjoying the plum blossoms (梅 ume) instead, which is narrowly referred to as umemi (梅見, plum-viewing). This kind of hanami is popular among older people, because they are calmer than the sakura parties, which usually involve younger people and can sometimes be very crowded and noisy.