Festivals, Events and Holidays in Shanghai

Shanghai 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...

China has a long history of festivals that stretches back thousands of years. These traditional festivals, which centre on family and food, are still celebrated today. Some festivals are based on the lunar calendar and are celebrated on different days every year.

Public holidays are a busy time in Shanghai, as locals and tourists alike flood the city. Very large crowds are common at popular tourist attractions and on public transport. Any travel over public holidays should be carefully planned and reservations made well in advance.

Seven official public holidays, which combine both traditional and modern festivals, are celebrated nationally.

Official Holidays

New Year (1 January): Little significance is attached to this public holiday based on Western tradition. Young people like to observe it with parties and gatherings.

Chinese New Year (lunar festival): Also known as the Spring Festival, this is the most important festival in China. It is celebrated on the first day of the new lunar cycle and marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring. Families gather to eat and spend time together, and it is often the only opportunity in the year they have to see each other. Parents give their children money in a hongbao, which is a small red envelope. Food is an important part of the festival, and families often prepare a reunion dinner with dumplings, longevity noodles and fish. Fireworks are very popular and can be seen and heard across the country, especially on Chuxi or New Year's Eve.

Qingming Festival (2-4 April): The Tomb Sweeping Festival remembers and honours ancestors. Offerings such as tea, food and paper are placed at relatives' graves.

Labour Day (1 May): International Workers' Day is a popular time to travel, so tourist spots and travel hubs are exceptionally busy.

Dragon Boat Festival (lunar festival): Held in the summer, this festival traditionally takes place on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, and has its origins in the story of the ancient poet Qu Yuan. The most important features are Dragon Boat racing (in a traditional boat rowed by a team) and the eating of zongzi, a sticky dumpling wrapped in bamboo leaves.

Mid-Autumn Festival (lunar festival): A festival celebrating the moon in its biggest and brightest phase. Mooncakes (small round cakes traditionally made of red bean and egg) are eaten at this time. Families gather to eat, talk, and sit up late into the night watching the moon. Lanterns are hung around the house and sky lanterns are released. In Shanghai, however, sky lanterns are banned for security reasons.

National Day (1 October): This holiday celebrates the founding of the People's Republic of China. Local governments organise activities including concerts and firework displays, while military inspections are held every five years. Cities are decorated with flags and posters.

Other holidays

International Women's Day (8 March): Women may be given a half-day holiday from work.

Children's Day (4 May): Parents and children spend the day together, usually at events organised by local schools or clubs. Tourist attractions have special discounts for children.

Double Seventh Festival: Qixi Festival or Chinese Valentine's Day is celebrated on the seventh day of the seventh month of the lunar calender. Young people exchange flowers and gifts, and shops have sales.

Shanghai Festivals and Events

In March, the Shanghai International Literary Festival hosts a gathering of authors, poets and readers for a month of workshops, readings and other events related to the written word. This festival attracts local and international writers across all genres.

In late March, early April, Shanghai celebrates the Peach Blossom Festival over a two-week period. Visitors come to the peach orchards in the Nanhui District to admire the trees. Local homes are transformed into temporary guesthouses, caf├ęs and restaurants. This traditional festival is known as Nongjia le.

In summer, the Shanghai International Film Festival has screenings of local and international films, as well as a competition called the Golden Goblet awards.

The China Tea Expo celebrates the long history of tea and its place in Chinese culture. Events include a trade show, traditional tea ceremonies and tastings, as well as lectures.

  • For information about expos and trade fairs: Click here
  • For information about other traditional festivals: Click here