Twentieth Century Impressions of Hongkong, Shanghai, and other Treaty Ports of China/Ceremonies/Festivals

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Twentieth Century Impressions of Hongkong, Shanghai, and other Treaty Ports of China edited by Arnold Wright
Chapter: Ceremonies and Customs of the Chinese. Subchapter: Festivals by S. W. Tso


The Chinese year is marked by four festivals, during each of which occurs a settling day, when accounts are paid as at Lady Day, Midsummer Day, Michaelmas Day, and Christmas Day in England. The first settling day is the fifth day of the fifth moon, the second occurs in the eighth moon, and the third in the eleventh. On these days it is optional, in some cases, whether a man pays his accounts or not. The fourth settling day is the last day in the year, when, in the absence of any very unusual circumstances, all accounts must be paid. A creditor will wait for his money until midnight, but if he allows the account to remain unpaid after that hour it is tantamount to giving the debtor another year's grace.

The New Year Festival is by far the most important. It begins on the first day of the first moon in the Chinese year (about the beginning of February), and for ten days practically every Chinaman keeps holiday, and business is at a standstill. Sounds of feasting and merriment, the wailing of weird instruments of music, and the explosion of countless fire-crackers create together an incessant din. The thoroughfares are thronged by day with holiday-makers in brilliant raiment, and are illuminated at night by myriads of diversely coloured paper lanterns.

The Dragon Boat Festival in the fifth moon is held in commemoration of a loyal minister of Cho, named Wat Yuen, who lived during the Chau dynasty and committed suicide by drowning himself. This festival falls on the fifth day of the fifth moon, about the time of the summer solstice.

The Eighth, or Harvest Moon, Festival, occurs in mid-autumn, that is, on the fifteenth day of the eighth moon, and is celebrated by the lighting of all kinds of lanterns, in the fashioning of which the Chinese display wonderful ingenuity both of design and construction.

The Eleventh Moon, or Winter, Festival, is a movable feast.

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The settling day connected with each of these festivals is observed as a holiday, the other holidays kept by the Chinese being about one month in the Ching Ming, which falls in the third moon, when business men and their employés take leave by turns within this month to worship at the tombs of their ancestors, and the ten days at new year already referred to. In Hongkong, Shanghai, and the outports, Chinese in the employment of European firms have the leave customarily given on Bank and other holidays.

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In the ninth moon many Chinese proceed to the mountains to conduct the autumnal sacrifices, and during this moon, as well as during the third and fifth moons, there is, as has already been stated, neither marrying nor giving in marriage.