Chinese Valentine's Day

Qi Xi (七夕; Pinyin: qī xī; "The Night of Sevens"), sometimes called Chinese Valentine's Day or Magpie Festival, falls on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month on the Chinese calendar; thus its name. Young girls traditionally demonstrate their domestic arts, especially melon carving, on this day and make wishes for a good husband. It is also known by the following names:
The Festival to Plead for Skills (乞巧節; qǐ qiǎo jié)
The Seventh Sister's Birthday (七姐誕; qī jiě dàn)
The Night of Skills (巧夕; qiǎo xī)

In 2007, this festival falls on August 19.

The Story of Chinese Valentine's Day
Chinese Valentine's Day is on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month in the Chinese calendar. A love story for this day is about the 7th daughter of Emperor of Heaven and an orphaned cowherd. The Emperor separated them. The 7th daughter was forced to move to the star Vega and the cowherd moved to the star Altair. They are allowed to meet only once a year on the day of 7th day of 7th lunar month.
The story began from the good-looking poor orphaned boy living with his elder brother and sister-in-law. After his parents past away, his brother inherited the house and the land. The boy owned an old ox. He needed to work on the farm's field with the ox everyday. So he was called a cowherd. His daily life was just like in a Cinderella story.
The 7th daughter of Emperor is good at handcrafting, especially weaving clothing. So she was called a Weaving Maid. The Emperor likes her skill to weave clouds and rainbows to beautify the world.
The ox was actually an immortal from the Heaven. He made mistakes in the Heaven and was punished as an ox in the Earth. One day, the ox suddenly said to the cowherd, "You are a nice person. If you want to get married, go to the brook and your wish will be come true." The cowherd went to the brook and saw all 7 pretty daughters of Emperor came down from Heaven and took a bath in there. Fascinated by the youngest and also the most beautiful one, he took away her fairy clothes secretly. The other six fairies went away after bath. The youngest couldn't fly back without her fairy clothes. Then the cowherd appeared and told her that he would not return her clothes unless she promised to be his wife. After a little hesitation and with a mixture of shyness and eagerness, she agreed to the request from this handsome man. So they married and had two children two years later.
One day, the old ox was dying and told the cowherd that he should keep his hide for emergency purpose.
The Emperor found the sky's not that beautiful as before without the 7th daughter weaving clouds and rainbows. He wanted his daughter's grandmother to find the missing daughter and to bring her back. . While the 7th princess was flying to the Heaven with her grandmother, the cowboy wore the ox hide, took his children in two bamboo baskets with his wife's old fairy clothes and chased after his wife in the sky. The grandmother made a milky way in the sky with her hairpin, which kept them separated. The 7th princess was moved to the star Vega (The swooping - Eagle) in the Lyra (Harp) constellation. And the cowherd with his two children stayed in the star Altair (Flying one) in the Aquila (Eagle) constellation. The star of Vega is also known as the Weaving Maid Star and the star of Altair is as the Cowherd Star in China.
Magpies were moved by their true love and many of them gathered and formed a bridge for the couple to meet in the evening of the 7th day of the 7th lunar month, which is the day the Emperor allowed them to meet once a year.
They said that it's hard to find a magpie on Chinese Valentine's Day in China, because all magpies fly to make the bridge for the Weaving Maid and Cowherd. The one thing to prove that is the feathers on the head of the magpies are much lesser after the Chinese Valentine's Day. If the night Chinese Valentine's Day rains, the rain are the tears of the Weaving Maid and Cowherd.

Travel to China

Throughout China, there is only one time zone. China is never on daylight savings time!

China has a low crime rate; however crime has increased in the past few years, principally in the major cities. Foreigners have seldom been victims of violent crime. It is still wise to be cautious with your personal possession in public place. There are pickpockets active in crowded areas such as stations, markets, shopping areas, etc. Do not show off your money in public. Use your safe in the hotel room and don't bring too much cash with you when you don't need it.

Five working days in a week is the official government regulation. Working hours are 8 hours a day, normally from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. with one hour break for lunch. All the government offices, institutions, schools, hospitals and other units do not work on Saturdays and Sundays, except some factories whose "weekends" may be within the week to avoid the electricity high peak. The emergency clinic is open when the hospital is closed. Shops are open everyday, normally from 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.

The Chinese Laundries are not as popular as in the U.S. There is also no coin-op Laundromats. However, laundry services are available at most hotels, usually via the floor attendants.

The Bank of China accepts MasterCard, American Express, Dynasty, Visa, JCB, and Diners Club cards. 2% is always charged for card transactions.

Various customs relate to meal times at the Chinese table. Round dining tables are preferred over rectangular ones as they seat more people and allow diners to face each other without any implicit or explicit status differentiation in seating (such as the western tradition of the head of a household sitting at the 'head' of the table). At a meal, social status is leveled, and all are equal. Mealtimes are the arena for family discussions, though the discussion of 'misfortune' topics such as death is considered bad manners.

Other bad mannered practices include playing with the chopsticks during a meal (for example banging them on the table), or using a spoon used for personal eating for serving from a communal plate or bowl. Never eat everything on your plate, this is also bad manners.

When you depart China there is a 90 Yuan ($11) departure tax (payable only in Chinese currency). If traveling with a tour, departure taxes are usually included; but if you are traveling as a FIT (Foreign Independent Traveler), don't forget to save enough Yuan. Departure tax on all domestic flights is 50 Yuan ($6), payable at a special airport tax desk before check-in.

Foreign tourists are required to fill in a cursory Health Declaration Form (distributed before arrival).

Today, attitudes towards tipping are changing. Although the practice is not officially recognized, tips are now frequently offered to and accepted by travel guides, tour bus drivers, porters and waiters in top-class hotels and restaurants.

However, tipping is still not expected in most restaurants and hotels. So ask the guide whether a tip is necessary and how much when you are uncertain. Sometimes, small gifts such as paperbacks, cassette tapes and western cigarettes appear to be preferred.

Gift packaging should be red or any other festive color. White and black are ominous and should be avoided. It is not proper, and is even considered to be unfortunate, to take a clock as a gift or to choose one having to do with the number four, which sounds like death in Chinese. Even though even numbers are considered as good luck, the number four is an exception. Do not brag about your gift in front of the recipient, and you should use both hands when presenting it. Generally, the recipient may graciously refuse the present when first offered. In this case, you should correctly assess the situation and present it once again. If the recipient did not open your gift, it does not mean that he or she is not interested in it. It is polite to open it after you leave.

Electricity in China is 220V, 50 cycles, AC. Two-pin sockets and some three-pin sockets are in use. Most of the hotels have a socket in the bathroom for both 110V and 220V. However, outside of the bathroom, only 220V sockets are provided. Although an adapter may be borrowed from the hotel, it is recommended you bring your own adapter plug.

The tap water is not suitable for drinking. Only drink bottled water. Close your mouth in a shower. Use bottled water for bushing your teeth!

China does not recognize dual nationality. The Nationality Law of China holds that as soon as a Chinese takes a foreign citizenship, he will automatically lose his Chinese citizenship. Never bring your Chinese adopted child back into China on a Chinese passport!!!They may not let you leave the country with your child.

Some restrooms in China are still pretty primitive -- so be prepared. Take your own toilet paper. Most public toilets are the squat type so start exercising your thigh muscles and practice squatting.

Handshaking is considered formal greeting behavior in China. It is used to show respect, but only if the person is someone important, like a government official or a businessman. The grip should be firm, but not overly strong, and should not be prolonged because Chinese, like other Asians, prefer a brief handshake. After shaking hands, you may exchange your name or the title of your company with each other and then proceed to carry out the affairs.

Always carry a copy of the address of your hotel with you (in Chinese). If you get lost you can take a taxi home. Make sure everyone, including your children also have a hotel business card!

Tie multi colored ribbons on all your luggage so you can find it in the airport. Put your name and address on the inside and outside of your bags.

Make a copy of your passports. Put the originals in the hotel safe, and carry the copies as ID, unless you know you are going to need them for business. Your passports,and adoption documents, and airline tickets are very very important and need to be locked up in a safe. Don't carry these things around unless you need them.

Buy and wear a money belt. Put a small amount of cash in your backpack or pocket, so you don't need to pull the money belt out.

Red Egg & Ginger Party

In Ancient Chinese culture, a baby's first month birthday was celebrated with a Red Egg and Ginger Party where proud parents introduced their new baby to friends and relatives. Traditionally, a newborn was not given a name or formally accepted into the family until this time because, as in other countries, infant mortality rates in China were quite high. A baby who reached one month of age was likely to survive, and so the event was celebrated.
The naming of the baby was very important because the Chinese believed that one's name can influence everything that happens in life. In selecting a name for the baby, it was up to the family to decide if the given name will be the child's formal name or a "milk name."

The milk name is a nickname used until the child starts school, or even up until marriage. If given a milk name, often a girls' name was chosen for a boy, because it was thought that a male child was the " special prey of evil spirits" and that these spirits will be tricked if the boy had a girl's name. A female, and sometimes a male child, was given an animal name or called some sort of derogatory name in a joking sort of way.

A child's formal name was usually picked by it's grandparents or in some areas, a fortune-teller. This was the name that was presented during the Red Egg and Ginger Party.Traditionally, the baby's head was also shaved during this party. The girls' head was shaved before the image of "Mother", the Goddess of Children, and the boy's head was shaved before the ancestral table. The symbolism of this practice is not entirely known, but it is speculated that this is the removing of the birth hair, to mark the point of the child's independent existence. Today, many Asian grandparents believe that shaving the girls' head at birth is a way to encourage the growth of long, lustrous hair although this practice isn't usually done during Asian American celebrations today.In these modern times, parents continue to hold this celebration to signify the formal acceptance of the new child into the family. The celebration dinner for the guests can happen at home or in a restaurant.
What's the significance of Red Eggs and Ginger?
As in weddings or festivals, the color red represents happiness and good luck.
Eggs are significant because they symbolize fertility and the renewal of life. Also, their shape is traditionally associated with harmony and unity. According to some sources, an even number of eggs means a daughter has been born, while an odd number represents a son.

Ginger is important because in the yin (cold) and yang (warm) balance of Chinese food, ginger adds a touch of 'hotness' to the nutritional needs of the new mother, who is tired and weak (or too yin) after giving birth.Guests receive red-dyed eggs and ginger at the party. Additionally, instead of sending thank you cards to the guests, more traditional parents may send thank you gifts consisting of small round biscuits with pork in them.
What gifts should I bring?
Guests attending red egg and ginger parties can bring gifts of clothing or lucky money:

Tiger Clothes - Babies are given tiger hats, tiger shoes, and tiger bibs. In Chinese folklore, the tiger is the king of beasts and is believed to have special powers for protecting children. The tiger hat that covers their heads has gold, silver and jade charms sewn on it for good luck.
The tiger shoes have embroidered eyes that are sewn wide-open. These open eyes on their feet help keep children from tripping as they first learn to walk!
Lucky Money - Lysee or "lucky money" in red envelopes is often given to baby boys, while girls may receive expensive jewelry by close relatives.

Double Ninth Day - October 19th, 2007

The beginnings of the Double Ninth Festival can be traced to Chinese philosophy. According to Chinese beliefs, there are two opposing principles in nature called yin and yang. Yin refers to the feminine and negative, while yang refers to the masculine and positive. Everything, including numbers, is classified as either yin or yang. Even numbers are yin but odd numbers are yang.

The ninth day of the ninth month is a day when the two highest single yang numbers meet. The day is also known as Chongyang, double yang, and it has been celebrated since ancient times. It might also have something to do with the fact that double nine is pronounced the same as the Chinese character for “forever,” making the day truly and auspicious one.
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Chrysanthemum wine for health
A legend about Chongyang tells of Huang Jing, who was studying magic from Fei Changfang. Fei had become immortal after years of studying Taoism.

One day, as the two were climbing a mountain, Fei foretold that something terrible would happen to Huang's hometown on the ninth day of the ninth month. Fei told Huan to go home immediately. In order to save his loved ones, he was to prepare a red bag with a spray of a plant called zhuyu for each of his family members. They were to tie the bag to their arm and climb to the top of a mountain. More importantly, they were to drink chrysanthemum wine.

Huang and his family did exactly as his teacher ordered. They climbed up the mountain early on the morning of the ninth day of the ninth month and did not return home until the evening. When they did go home, a sorry sight met them – all their pets and livestock were dead.
When Fei heard this, he said that the animals had died instead of Huang Jing's family, who had averted disaster because they had carried out his instructions.

Both the zhuyu and chrysanthemum are known for their cleansing quality and are used to air out houses and cure illnesses. Zhuyu also has a long history as a medicine. In ancient times, it was thought to drive away evil spirits and even prevent people from catching a chill during late autumn.

This legend has given rise to the traditional activities of Chongyang Festival – mountain climbing, carrying a spray of zhuyu, and drinking chrysanthemum wine.
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To the mountains....
Because Chongyang Festival takes place in late autumn, many people take the opportunity to enjoy the bright clear weather before the cold winter comes. People usually go hiking and mountain climbing races are popular, with the winners getting a wreath of zhuyu as a prize.
The journey up the mountains has another significance. Once at the peak, where the view far and wide can be seen, people think of their loved ones who are far away, and wish that they can come home sooner.

Rice cakes, called "gao" which is a homonym for the Chinese character meaning "height", are sold during Chongyang. Some shops even sell them with small flags to symbolize sprigs of zhuyu.
For those who don't live near mountains, going on a picnic and eating these Chongyang cakes take the place of the climb up the summit. It doesn't hurt either that eating those cakes, which can be several layers tall, is supposed to bring prosperity.
Since it is also a time when beautiful chrysanthemum blossoms bloom, Chongyang has evolved into a day of watching and appreciating these flowers. On the days leading up to the festival, school children learn poems about the chrysanthemum and these lovely blossoms are the featured exhibits in some localities.
In literature...
A famous poet of the Tang Dynasty, Wang Wei, composed a poem about the Double Ninth Festival:
As a lonely stranger in the strange land,
Every holiday the homesickness amplifies.
Knowing that my brothers have reached the peak,
All but one is present at the planting of zhuyu.

Even Mao Zedong, the father of the People's Republic of China, wrote a poem called "Double Nine":

Man ages all too easily, not Nature;
Year by year the Double Ninth returns.
On this Double Ninth,
The yellow blooms on the battle field smell sweeter.

Each year the autumn wind blow fierce,Unlike spring's splendour,Yet surpassing spring's splendour,See the endless expanse of frosty sky and water.

Other celebrations today
Because the number nine is the highest single digit, putting two nines together has come to symbolize long life. Today, Chongyang is a time to pay respects to the elderly and a time for them to enjoy themselves. In 1989, the Chinese government designated Chongyang as a day for senior citizens.
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Hungry Ghosts Festival - August 15, 2008

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Just as Halloween is for Americans, the ‘Hungry Ghost festival’ is for the Chinese. For those who have never heard of this festival, here are the essential ‘spooky’ facts on this festival.

Hungry Ghost festival is a popular occasion that is taken very seriously by the Chinese. This festival that falls on the 7th month of the lunar New Year is celebrated mainly in China and other countries like Singapore & Malaysia. It is believed by the Chinese that during this month, the gates of hell are opened to free the hungry ghosts who then wander to seek food on Earth. Some even think that the ghosts would seek revenge on those who had wronged them in their lives. The reason why the Chinese celebrate this festival is to remember their dead family members and pay tribute to them. They also feel that offering food to the deceased appeases them and wards off bad luck.

Another belief among the Chinese is that the dead return to visit their living relatives during the 7th month and thus they prepare a sumptuous meal for the ‘hungry ghosts’. The Chinese feel that they have to satisfy the ghosts in order to get good fortune and luck in their lives.

During the 7th month, the Chinese offer prayers to the deceased relatives and burn joss sticks. In Singapore, it is a common sight to see entertaining ‘wayang’ shows and concerts performed on outdoor stages in some neighborhoods. These events are always held at night. There is a belief that this entertainment would please those wandering ghosts.

An interesting superstition that the Chinese have about the festival is that it is bad to go swimming during the 7th month. They think that an evil ghost might cause you to drown in the swimming pool. In addition to this, children are also advised to return home early and not to wander around alone at night. This belief is due to the reason that the wandering ghosts might possess children.

Offerings to the Dead
The Chinese also do a lot of offerings to the deceased. These offerings are made by burning fake money notes, which are also known as ‘hell money’ and even paper television or radio sets. Some families also burn paper houses & cars to give to their dead relatives. The Chinese feel that these offerings reach the ghosts and help them live comfortably in their world.

The Chinese regard the 15th of the month as an important date to give a feast to the ghosts. On this date, the family will cook a lot of dishes and offer them to the deceased. This is done to please the ghosts and also to gain good luck for the family. 15 days after the feast, the festival will be over, as the Chinese believe that the ghosts return back to where they come from.

Qing Ming Jie (Tomb Sweeping Day) - April 4, 2008

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One of the most important festival in the Chinese calendar is the " Qing Ming" or Tomb Sweeping Day.

Qing Ming Jie or Ching Ming Festival ("Pure Brightness Festival") is a traditional Chinese holiday celebrated on the 106th day after the winter solstice, occurring on April 4 or April 5 of the Gregorian calendar. It marks the middle of spring and is a sacred day of the dead.

The holiday is also known by a number of other names in the English language:
--All Souls Day
--Clear Brightness Festival
--Festival for Tending Graves
--Grave Sweeping Day
--Tomb Sweeping Day

The concept of Filial Piety or obedience to one's elderly or ancestors is a very important concept in the Chinese culture. Traditionally, the Chinese believed that the spirits of deceased ancestors looked after the family. Sacrifices of food and spirit money could keep them happy, and the family would prosper through good harvests and more children. Till today, this is still a very important cultural concept for the Chinese.

The ancestor's altar or photo is commonly found in the family home and offerings and incence is always provided.

Once a year, during Qing Ming, the Chinese visit their family graves to tend to any underbrush that has grown out of hand around the grave. Weeds are pulled, and dirt swept away, and the family will set out offerings of food and spirit money.

Honoring Ancestors
Honoring ancestors begins with proper positioning of a gravesite and coffin. Rich families will believe in the concept of "feng shui", or geomancy and as far as possible, will choose an area that faces south, with groves of pine trees to create the best flow of cosmic energy required to keep ancestors happy.

A "happy ancestor" will in turn, bless the living family! Family members will visit the gravesite of their ancestors at least once a year to tend to the tombs, especially on Qing Ming. The Chinese will cook up good food to their ancestors at altar tables on Qing Ming in their homes. The food usually consists of chicken, eggs, or other dishes a deceased ancestor was fond of. Accompanied by rice, the dishes and eating utensils are carefully arranged acccording to a certain position so as to bring good luck.

Many times, incence or paper offerings are burnt and offered to the ancestors as well. These are known as "hell money" or "paper money" in the belief that the dead needs to spend money in their afterlife as well.

Family Traditions
Because many graves are located in remote locations, and sometimes a family has more than one grave to visit, a trip to clean and pray at ancestral graves during Qing Ming can be a trip at the crack of dawn and to last until last light.

Many times, this is a entire family trip, whereby parents will share the value of Qing Ming with their young children and impressing onto them the Chinese tradition of honoring their ancestors.

It is not uncommon to find traffic jams and chaotic mess at these remote graveyards which are normally quiet but tend to see massive crowd whenever Qing Ming comes about.

Waiting for Hope

Video sent by ludo
A priceless video about China adoptions. Grab a box of tissues and turn up your speakers. The music adds so much. I found this on another China adoption blog and had to share.

Guangzhou, China

This is where we will spend most of our time when in China. The Consulate office is there so this is where we will do all our paperwork related to the adoption.

Population: 6.66 millionUrban Population: 3.95 millionArea: 7,434 sq km

Nationalities: Han, Li, Yao, Zhuang, Miao, Hui, Manchu and She

History: with a history of 2,200 years, regarded as the the earilest among the international trade port cities in the world; built as Chuting by the Chu people on the middle reaches of the Yangtse River in the 9th century B.C.; established as Nanhai Prefecture in the Qin dynasty and became Nanyue Kingdom in the Western Han dynasty; the starting point of the Silk Road on the sea which links China with the Arabian and western countries in trading; the China's only foreign trade port at sea before the Qing dynasty

Climatic Features: subtropical humid monsoon climate, hot and rainy

Average Temperature: 21.7C annually with the highest of 38.7C and lowest of 0CRainfall: annual precipitation 1982.7 mm, with rainfall concentrated in spring and autumn

Mountains: Western Hills, which belong to the Taihang Range; Mt. Jundushan, in the north, which is part of the Mt. Yanshan

Rivers: Pearl River (West River, North River, East River), Nanhai, Liuhua Lake, Li Lake, Dongshan Lake

Products: paddy rice, potato, wheat, corn, jowar, silk, sugarcane, earthnut and hemp Tropical or Subtropical Fruits: banana, cirtrus, lichee, and pineapple

Local Highlights: Yue DramaFamous Guangdong Folk Music: Bubugao and Xiyangyang

Handcraft: Ivory Carving, Sandalwood Fan


China, situated in East Asia, is the world's third largest country by area and the largest by population. It is one of the most ancient civilizations in the world with a history of 5000 years. Much of the country is covered by plateaus, hills, mountains and desert. The plains, China's granaries, only cover 12% of its land, feeding more than 1/5 of the world's population. China's incredible population and the Chinese Government's efforts to ensure adequate food and housing for its booming populace is the main reason behind the One Child Policy.

China's One Child Policy

With a population of 1.2 billion, one of the most serious social and economic problems still facing China is its huge population growth. Every year, China's population grows by 14 million people—three-quarters of Australia's entire population!

Up until the 1970s the Chinese government regarded a growing population as a benefit in bringing about swift economic development. By 1963, the average number of children born to a Chinese woman was 7.5.

In recent decades, China's government has viewed population growth differently. With one-fifth of the world's population, but only 7 per cent of the world's arable land, continuing strong population growth would bring about great hardships, extreme poverty and famine.

The Chinese government decided in the 1970s to control population growth. This has proved a very complex task. The main strategy the government introduced in 1982 was a radical
family planning program to encourage couples to restrict their family size to just one child. This has become known as the 'One Child Policy'.

It is absolutely imperative that we all support the One Child Policy in our country. If we don't, our people will go hungry. Do you think we want our people to be a burden to the rest of the world? It is our duty to have only one child. I thank you if you can understand this. Rongzhao Li, Wuhan, Hubei Province.

Since 1982, detailed annual population plans have been drawn up for all provinces and cities. Birth targets or quotas have been set and controlled and all pregnancies are supposed to be planned and authorised. In February 1995, the government announced a new campaign to reinforce the policy to hold the country's population to 1.3 billion up to the year 2000. Later that same year, the government decided that the population should be held at 1.4 billion by the year 2010.

Because the One Child Policy is implemented and monitored by local and provincial authorities, it has been applied differently across the nation. For example, there has been stricter enforcement of the policy in urban areas than in rural areas.
The policy is attempting a huge shift in the values of most Chinese people. Government campaigns are still achieving only limited success.

Did you know? China has worked consistently on its extensive community health program, raising the average life expectancy from 35 years in 1949 to 71 years

Policy incentives

  1. salary bonus (urban)
  2. bigger land allocation (rural)
  3. extended maternity leave
  4. paid medical and hospital expenses
  5. priority access to housing, employment and schooling for the child

Disobeying the policy

  1. withdrawal of family allowance and medical benefits
  2. fines (even against everyone in the village or town)
  3. demotion or discharge from a government job

Exceptions to the rule

  1. membership of a minority ethnic group (can be allowed two or even more children)
  2. having a first child with a disability that is likely to result in inability to work
  3. pregnancy after adopting a child
  4. risk of 'losing the family line' without a second child (the first child being a girl)
  5. rural families with 'real difficulties' (all children so far being girls)

Did you know? When the People's Republic of China was
established in 1949, 68 per cent of women could not read or write. Today, 90 per cent of Chinese women are literate.


Click here to see the 60 minutes special on China's Boy/Girl Gap.


The Chinese Moon Festival (or the Mid-Autumn Festival) is on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month. Chinese culture is deeply imbedded in traditional festivals. Just like Christmas and Thanksgiving in the West, the Moon Festival is one of the most important traditional events for the Chinese. The Moon Festival is full of legendary stories. For example, legend says that Chang Er flew to the moon, where she has lived ever since. You might see her dancing on the moon during the Moon Festival. The Moon Festival is also an occasion for family reunions. When the full moon rises, families get together to watch the full moon, eat moon cakes (picture below), and sing moon poems. The moon cake is the food for the Moon Festival. The Chinese eat the moon cake at night with the full moon in the sky.

CHINESE NEW YEAR - February 7, 2008

The Chinese New Year is the biggest holiday celebrated among Chinese people. It is often referred to as the spring festival because it signals the beginning of spring. It is a time when families and friends get together to say goodbye to the old and welcome the new.

The Chinese believe that as they enter a new year, they should put behind them all things of the past. They clean their houses, pay off debts, purchase new clothes, paint their doors and window panes, and even get new haircuts. These activities symbolize new life and new beginnings. Homes are decorated with flowers and paper lanterns stating wishes of prosperity, good luck, happiness, good fortune, wealth, and longevity for the coming year.

The dragon is another popular symbol for Chinese New Year. It is a symbol of strength, goodness, and good luck, and supernatural forces. A Chinese New Year celebration would not be complete without fireworks, which are supposed to scare away all evil spirits and misfortunes, preventing them from coming into the New Year.

Because Chinese New Year follows the lunar calendar, rather than the solar calendar used in the US, the holiday never falls on the same day. On a lunar calendar, the New Year begins the first night of the new moon after the sun enters Aquarius. This date is anywhere between January 20 and February 19.

The Chinese calendar has been in continuous use for centuries, which predates the International Calendar (based on the Gregorian Calendar) we use at the present day which goes back only some 425 years. The calendar measures time, from short durations of minutes and hours, to intervals of time measured in months, years and centuries, entirely based on the astronomical observations of the movement of the Sun, Moon and stars.

There are three ways to name a Chinese year:

1. By an animal (like a mascot). There are 12 animal names; so by this system, year names are re-cycled every 12 years. This system is extremely practical. A child does not have to learn a new answer to the question, "How old are you?" in each new year. Old people often lose track of their age, because they are rarely asked about their current age. Every one just have to remember that he or she was born in the "Year of Dog" or whatever. Take, for example, the Year of Dog, any one who was born in the Year of Dog in 2006 was either 0 or 12, 24, 36, 48, 60, 72, 84 or 96 years old.

2. By its Formal Name (Stem-Branch). The new year is the year of bingxu. In the 'Stem-Branch' system, the years are named in 60-year cycles, and the Name of the Year is repeated every 60 years. 2006 was the 7th year in the current 60-year cycle.

3. 2006 was Year 4703 by the Chinese calendar. [A few Chinese astrological/zodiac websites believe this year should be considered as Year 4704 for zodiac calculations.]

– JANUARY 29, 2006 started the Year of the Red Fire Dog
--FEBRUARY 18, 2007 started the Year of the Red Fire Pig

--February 7, 2008 starts the Year of the Brown Earth Rat
On the Chinese calendar, 2008 begins the Lunar Year 4706

1912, 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008 - The Year of the Rat begins a new Zodiac Cycle. People born in the year of the RAT are blessed with great personal charm. The Rat is adaptable, aggressive, and creative. Rat people are hard working, thrifty, and can save a lot of money. They are elegant by nature and strive for the better things in life. Bright and gregarious, rat's intellectual versatility is not always immediately recognized. Rat people make good business people, accountants, and bankers.

THE LANTERN FESTIVAL – February 21, 2008

The Lantern Festival or Yuanxiao Jie is a traditional Chinese festival, which falls on the 15th of the first month of the Chinese New Year. It is the last day of two week long Chinese New Year cerebration. Everyone gathers to enjoy the beautiful lanterns. Children will carry their own lanterns to participate in the showcase. Usually there is competition for the most beautiful lantern. Some of the lanterns may be works of art, painted with birds, animals, flowers, zodiac signs, and scenes from legend and history. People hang glowing lanterns in temples, and carry lanterns to an evening parade under the light of the full moon.


The Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated in China on the fifth day of the fifth moon or month of the lunar calendar and for this reason is sometimes called Double Five Day. The celebration is held in honor of a former scholar and official, Ch'u Yuan, who lived in the third century B.C. According to legend Ch'u Yuan tried to advise his king wisely but the king did not want to hear what he was saying so he banished Ch'u Yuan to an isolated village, where he lived for seven years writing scholarly books. When, on the fifth day of the fifth month of the seventh year, he heard that his predictions had all come true he drowned himself in the river in an act of despair. Some fishermen who had seen him leap into the river took out their boats and tried to save him while their wives wrapped cooked rice in banana leaves and threw the rice balls into the river hoping that the fish would eat them instead of Ch'u Yuan's body. On this day, the Chinese still eat special rice balls called tsungs, throw some of the rice balls into the river as an offering to the spirit of Ch'u Yuan, and hold dragon boat races to the beat of drums as they re-create the search for the body of Ch'u Yuan.