Noteworthy Dates in the Chinese Calendar – May 2023 Edition

May is packed with notable dates and is a joyful time as warm weather hits the capital and we get a five-day holiday for Labour Day!

Read on to find out more about special days this month!

Labour Day 劳动节 – May 1st

Labour Day (also known as May Day), a holiday celebrating the working class, was established by the Chinese government in 1949. During the 1950s and 1960s, Labour Day was considered one of the most important holidays in China. By the 1990s the holiday had morphed into a more laid-back one, and now people celebrate by relaxing, shopping and traveling. It was a Golden Week holiday until 2008 when it was decreased to a one-day holiday.

Youth Day 五四青年节 – May 4th

May 4th commemorates the beginning of the May 4th movement in China. On this day in 1919 students in Beijing began protesting against the Chinese government’s response to the Treaty of Versailles, particularly the decision to allow Japan to keep territories in Shandong that had been surrendered by Germany in 1914. After the protest spread to include working people nationwide, causing social and economic disruption, China refused to sign the treaty. The protests are seen as one of the contributing factors to the rise of communism in China.

Youth Day is now celebrated as part of the wider Labour Day holiday, and is time when many students do volunteer activities in their communities.

Sisters’ Meal (姐妹节 Jiěmèi Jié): May 4th-6th in Guizhou Province

The festival is a chance to see the Miao dress in their traditional clothing and silver jewellery.

Sisters’ Meals is an important festival celebrating both spring and love for the Miao people in Guizhou Province in China’s south-west. It began as a opportunity for young people from different villages to meet their future spouse. Young men go to different villages to ask for “sisters’ rice”, a special rice dish cooked by young single women. The rice is dyed five colours and  steamed. The young men and women, dressed in traditional clothing, dance and sing a question and answer routine where the men have to answer the women’s questions.

After the singing and dancing, the women give the men “sisters’ rice”, with a secret message hidden in the rice. For example, a bamboo hook means further contact is desired; buds of the Chinese toon tree or parsley symbolize marriage; garlic stalk is a polite refusal.

In modern times the festival has become a tourist attraction and important source of income for the Miao people.

Third Lunar Month Street Festival / Third Moon Fair (三月街):  May 4th-10th in Dali, Yunnan Province

During this festival, the streets of Dali become full of market stalls selling every conceivable item, particularly goods produced by ethnic minority peoples in the area such as Bai, Yi and Naxi. The origins of this huge market are unknown, but a local legend tells of a demon who came to Dali and was scared off by Guanyin (a Bodhisattva widely known in English as the Goddess of Mercy). Since that event, the local people have gathered yearly to celebrate Guanyin, so another name for the festival is Guanyin Fair.

Lixia 立夏 – May 6th

Lixia is the 7th solar term out of the 24, and marks the beginning of summer. It begins when the sun reaches the celestial longitude of 45°. This holiday isn’t widely celebrated in China, but in some areas south of the Yangtze, people eat Lixia eggs on the first day, as traditionally it was believed that eating eggs in the summer would prevent health problems in children. These are boiled eggs (sometimes salted duck eggs), prepared the day before Lixia. Eggs are usually boiled in tea leaves and should be eaten while hot.

Children also paint eggs and put boiled eggs into colourful woven bags; they play tapping games with them, tapping their egg against another child’s egg until one breaks, the winner being the child with the unbroken egg. 

How will you spend your May holiday? Let us know in the comments below. We always love hearing your thoughts and insights! 

Photo Credits
– Cultural Keys

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