Festivals, Events and Holidays in Beijing
Beijing has a calendar of festivals and holidays throughout the year. Here you will find information and a description of the events with links to their websites where available...
Most annual festivals in China are scheduled based on the lunar calendar, so dates will vary from year to year.
Chinese New Year
Also known as the Spring Festival, or Chun Jie, Chinese New Year begins on the first day of the first month in the lunar calendar (January or February) and ends with the Lantern Festival on the 15th. Chinese New Year is the most important festival in Beijing so many temples host fairs, and most businesses close for at least several days. The Chinese New Year is a time for people to visit with family, so traffic may be especially bad at this time of year.
The annual Lantern Festival takes place on the last day of the Chinese New Year. The tradition behind this holiday originates in the story of the heavenly Jade Emperor who was angered that a town killed his favourite goose. The Emperor decided to burn the town to punish it. However, the townspeople were warned by a sympathetic fairy and decided to burn lanterns so that when the Jade Emperor looked down on the town, he would be fooled into thinking it was already on fire. Today, on the first full moon of the lunar calendar, the Chinese burn lanterns and celebrate with food, dancing, parades and fireworks.
Qing Ming (Tomb Sweeping Day)
Every April, families gather to pay their respects to their deceased ancestors and to clean and decorate their grave sites. Kites may be flown and symbolic money burned to help ancestors in the afterlife.
Meet in Beijing
This month-long arts festival features dance, theatre and music performances as well as visual arts exhibitions from Chinese and international performers. Events take place at various locations throughout Beijing in April and/or May.
Duan Wu Jie (Dragon Boat Festival)
The name of this festival literally means “holiday on the fifth day of the fifth month”. It was created to honour the poet Qu Yuan, who is said to have protested against a corrupt emperor by jumping into a river in the third century. While fishermen were trying to save him, they reportedly threw dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves into the river to divert the fish and to prevent them from eating the man. Today a traditional part of the celebration is eating zongzi, which are triangular, glutinous rice dumplings wrapped in banana or other leaves. The festival includes dramatic dragon-boat races.
Celebrated on 1 October, this day commemorates the creation of the People's Republic of China, which occurred on 1 October 1949. Parades and fireworks take place throughout Beijing. National Day marks the beginning of National Day Golden Week, a week-long holiday in China.
Also known as the Moon Festival, Lantern Festival or the Zhongqiu Festival, this festival celebrating the end of the autumn harvest takes place on the 15th day of the eighth month (in the lunar calendar). Dances, lighting lanterns and eating “moon cakes” are traditional activities revolving around the main activity: moon watching.
Beijing International Music Festival
The Beijing International Festival is a two-week festival, normally in October, of performances, workshops and seminars by international classical musicians.