Beijing's Top 10 : Festivals and Events

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  1. Chinese New Year

    Also known as Spring Festival, Beijing’s favorite holiday is celebrated with a cacophony of fireworks, let off night and day across the city. There are also temple fairs with stilt-walkers, acrobats, and fortune-tellers. Everyone who can heads for their family home, where gifts are exchanged and children are kept quiet with red envelopes stuffed with cash so adults can watch the annual Spring Festival Gala on national television.

    • Three days from the first day of the first moon, usually late Jan or early Feb

    Guardian hung on doors to welcome Chinese New Year
  2. Lantern Festival

    Coinciding with a full moon, 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 yuanxiaio.

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

    Lantern Festival
  3. Tomb-Sweeping Festival

    Also known as Qing Ming, this festival is also a public holiday. Chinese families visit their ancestors’ graves to tidy them up, make offerings of snacks and alcohol, and burn incense and paper money.

    • Apr 5, but Apr 4 in leap years

  4. International Labor Day

    A reminder that China is still a Communist nation, Labor Day is celebrated with a week-long holiday, which marks the start of the domestic travel season. Shops, offices, and other businesses close for at least three days, and often for the whole week. Don’t plan on doing any out-of-town travel during this time.

    • May 1

  5. Dragon Boat Festival (Duanwu Jie)

    Drums thunder and paddles churn up the water as dragon-headed craft compete for top honors. The festival remembers the honest official, Qu Yuan, who, the story goes, drowned him-self 2,500 years ago after banishment from the court of the Duke of Chu. Shocked 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 every year.

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

  6. Mid-Autumn Festival

    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).

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

  7. Cricket-fighting

    Cricket season in Beijing has nothing to do with the genteel English game. The Chinese version involves ruthless antennae-on-antennae action as cricket-fanciers goad their insects into battle in the plastic bowls that serve as gladiatorial arenas. Once the favorite sport of emperors, it now takes place in backstreets all over town.

    • Mid-Sep to the end of Oct

  8. National Day

    Marking the anniversary of Mao’s 1949 speech in which he declared the foundation of the People’s Republic. Crowds turn out to watch massed parades of high-kicking soldiers, and a jam-packed Tian’an Men Square is colored red by a sea of hand-held, waving flags.

    National Day parade
    • Oct 1

  9. Christmas Day

    Not a traditional Chinese holiday but the festivities have been adopted via Hong Kong, which means that there is a stress on the commercial aspect. High-street stores are bedecked with Shengdan Laoren, the Chinese version of Father Christmas.

    • Dec 25

  10. New Year’s Day

    Although overshadowed by Chinese New Year, which takes place soon after, Western New Year is still a public holiday throughout China.

    • Jan 1

Top 10 Annual Cultural Events

  1. Chaoyang Festival

    Street theater, live music, circus, and dance.

    • Chaoyang Park

    • Late Jan, early Feb

  2. Beijing International Theater Festival

    A month of musicals, operas, puppet shows, and dramas.

    • Various venues

    • May

  3. Meet In Beijing

    Performance festival with an unpredictable mix of Chinese and foreign theater acts.

    • Various venues

    • May

  4. Midi Music Festival

    Home-grown punk, metal, rock, and dance. Venues and dates change.

    • May

  5. Art Beijing

    Contemporary art fair with exhibitors from around the globe.

    • National Agricultural Exhibition Center

    • Sep

  6. Beijing International Book Fair

    Three days for the trade and two days of public participation.

    • International Exhibition Center

    • Sep

  7. Beijing Pop Festival

    International name acts supported by local talent.

    • Chaoyang Park

    • Sep

  8. Beijing Biennale

    Chinese and international artists showcase their work.

    • National Art Museum

    • Odd years, late Sep–late Oct

  9. DIAF

    The former Da Shan Zi Art Festival, now known as the Dangdai International Art Festival.

    • Various venues

    • Sep/Oct

  10. Beijing International Music Festival

    Month-long extravaganza of soloists and orchestras.

    Various venues

    • Oct

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