Qingming Festival in Shanghai

Planning a trip around the holidays on your own calendar can be challenging enough – throw in planning around the holidays on a foreign calendar and you’ve really got complications. With an upcoming trip to China, however, it’s worth checking on the Chinese calendar to see if there are any holidays or festivals coming up. One in particular that is coming up is the Qingming Festival in early April.

Since it’s on the solar calendar, the date of the Qingming Festival on the Gregorian calendar changes each year. In 2011, the holiday is on April 5th and the whole festival runs from April 3-5. If you’re planning to be in Shanghai or elsewhere in China this April, you might be wondering whether this holiday will get in the way of your travel plans. The Qingming Festival is when families visit and clean the graves of their ancestors, spending the day essentially picnicking at their ancestors’ graves to honor their memories. Another popular activity is kite flying, and generally being outside to enjoy what is usually nice weather after a long winter.

While Qingming is a public holiday in China, then, the festivities are largely personal and family-oriented. You may see people walking to visit their ancestors’ tombs, or in public places flying kites, but this isn’t the kind of festival that involves big parades or concerts or fireworks.

Interestingly, it’s only recently that Qingming is back on the calendar as an official public holiday at all. It has long been a traditional Chinese holiday, but from 1949 until 2008 people weren’t really allowed to celebrate it. Since it’s back on the calendar, you may find some businesses closed for part of the day on April 5th while people visit their ancestors’ tombs, but it may also be a good excuse to get out of the city for a long weekend. There are several side trips from Shanghai that are excellent options for a 3-4 day weekend, including the beautiful canal cities of Hangzhou or Wuzhen.

– by Jessica of BootsnAll

photo by Eddie Awad