China Research Project:
Festivals and Foods
By: Alicia, Austin & Emily
China Prep Module
December 5th, 2012
Mid-Autumn Festival/Moon Festival
When: Happens on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month
The emperors in ancient China offered sacrifices to the sun in spring and to the moon in autumn
Later on, aristocrats and other literary figures expand this ceremony to common people
People enjoyed a full, bright moon on this day; worshiping it and expressing their thoughts and
feelings under it
The folklore about this was that there were ten suns rising in the sky
The sun dried up all the crops and drove people into poverty
A man, along the name of HouYi, was worried about the people who were suffering
from the poverty and ascended to the top of the Kunlun Mountain
He drew his extraordinary bow, aimed, and shot for the suns one after another
He left the last sun and ordered it to rise and set according to time
Because of this, many people respected and loved him
One day HouYi was on his way to Kunlun Mountain when he ran upon the Empress
of Heaven Wangmu
Empress Wangmu handed him a parcel of elixir and told HouYi that one would
ascend immediately to heaven and become a celestial being
HouYi did not want to be parted with his wife Chang E, so he gave the elixir to her
to keep for the time being
Chang E hid it in a treasure box when a person called Peng Meng unexpectedly saw
One day when HouYi went off to go hunting, Peng Meng appeared to Chang E with a sword in his hand
He forced Chang E to hand over the elixir, but as she was bringing out the elixir and swallowed it
Immediately, her body floated off the ground and flew towards heaven
When HouYi returned home, the maidservants told him what had happened
Grieved, he looked up to the moon and called out his wife's name
To his surprise, he noticed that the moon was especially clear and bright and he saw on it, there was a swaying shadow
that looked exactly like his wife
He tried to chase after the moon, but the more he ran, the more the moon retreated from him. He could not get to the
moon at all
When people heard that Chang E had become a celestial being, they arranged an incense table under the moonlight and
prayed for her for a good fortune and peace
This custom of worshiping the moon spread among people
The moon looks especially big and round on the 15th day of each lunar month
People selected August 15 to celebrate this event because it is when the crops and fruits are all ripe
and the weather is good.
•Today, people enjoy the full moon and eat moon
cakes on that day, putting food on tables and
looking up at the sky while talking about their
When: it starts on the first day of the first lunar month until the lantern festival,
which is 15 days after
In 2013, the Spring Festival will begin on February 10
It is also widely known as Chinese New Year
There is a beast (Nian) that goes around villages
killing and eating people
The beast is tamed by an old man, who asks the
beast if it can eat other beasts instead of people.
The old man reminds the beast that people are no
match to him anyways.
The old man disappears with the beast, and now
people can enjoy their lives.
Before the man left, he told the people to put up
red decorations on their doors and windows at the
end of each year. If the beast were to sneak back
again, it would be scared because red is the colour
he feared the most.
Nian is approaching the Peace Blossom
village. Everyone flees, but an old man
arrives at the village. While everyone thinks
he’s crazy, an old lady warns him about the
beast and tells him that he should leave as
well. He laughs it off, asking if he can stay in
her house overnight.
By the time Nian arrives at the village, the
atmosphere is much more different than
usual. In one house, which happened to be
the house that the old man was staying in for
the time being, it was decorated with red
decorations. Inside of the house, the man had
lit up candles, and showed no fear.
The beast is angry and approaches the house,
but it becomes scared once he hears loud
crackling noises, caused by firecrackers. The
beast runs away from the village.
When the people of the Peach Blossom
village returned, they were surprised to see
that everything was alright, compared to
everything being horribly destroyed as usual.
They also find out that the old man is not
They see what the old man has done, and
realize that the colour red, flames, and
explosions are what Nian feared the most.
Before the Spring Festival
Families would clean their whole
house, including the indoors,
outdoors, their clothes, bedding,
Doing this, they believed that this
would bring in good fortune for
the new year
They would also decorate their
clean rooms with Spring Festival
Pictures of the god of doors and
wealth would be posted on their
This would be done to ward off
any evil spirits
During the Spring Festival
Common Chinese New Year activities include:
During this festival, it would be a time for people to come home and celebrate
the festival with their families
Gifts were given for children, elderly, friends, and relatives
Gifts include decorations, new clothes, and shoes
Each child would also get money as a New Years gift (red pocket)
What NOT to do
Words you should not say during the
Bad, dead, kill, ill, ache (and any other
People think that the whole year will be
terrible if you say these words
Sweeping the floor is strongly
This should be done prior to the
If you swept the floor, you would be
sweeping off and driving away the good
luck for the new year
You must be careful when holding
plates, cups, and other fragile items
Cutting hair should be avoided until
the second day of the lunar month
Spring Festival Food
Nian Gao (Glutinous Rice Cake)
The Southern Chinese would eat this
Made of sticky rice, sugar, chestnuts, Chinese dates
and lotus leaves
Jiao Zi (Chinese Dumplings)
According to a legend – the more dumplings you
eat during the celebration, the more money you
make in the new year
Traditionally eaten during Chinese New Year
Nutritious and delicious
Usually contain pork and vegetables
Meals are also more luxurious during this time
Chicken, fish, and bean curd are a must
Ji, yu, dou fu represent auspciousness(promising
success), abundance, and richness
The Lantern Festival
When: The Lantern Festival starts on the 15th day of the first lunar month,
following the Spring Festival.
In 2013, the Lantern Festival will take place on February 24th.
This festival officially ends Chinese New Year celebrations.
With the Lantern Festival, there are dozens upon dozens of ideas and myths on
how this festival came to be. But the more commonly accepted idea is that
during the Han dynasty (about when Buddhism was becoming big), an emperor
had heard that monks would light lanterns on the 15th day of the first lunar
month to worship and pay respects to the Buddha. The emperor had liked this
idea so much, that he ordered his palace be lit up with lanterns on that day.
Through this, the Lantern Festival has become very big, and has now spread all
around throughout Asia.
During the festival, lanterns are hung up not only just for occasion, but because
they represent people’s doubts, and they are lit up by the lanterns and thus
turning them to beliefs.
Guessing lanterns is another huge part in the festival. Owners would write
riddles on their lanterns, and if an individual thought they knew the answer,
they would take down the lantern, bring it to the owner and answer the riddle.
If they were correct, they would win a small prize! This is a way of testing one’s
wit and wisdom.
TangYuan (Glutinous Rice Balls)
This dish is served in all Chinese speaking regions
Symbolizes completeness, unity, and Harmony within the family.
Also eaten to remind us that we are a year older, and to look forward to another year, perhaps
with resolution to do better or to have a good year all around.
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