How Do China's Ethnic Minorities Celebrate Spring Festival?

February 28, 2018  Editor: Qiao Ziyu

China is a country with many ethnic groups that also have the tradition of celebrating Spring Festival in their own distinctive ways.

Let's take a look at some of the unique customs that can be found throughout the nation.

Manchu ethnic group

Manchu can be divided into four Banners — Red, Yellow, Blue, and White, and the Manchus belonging to different Banners will hang the exclusive flags. The Red Banner Manchus will hang red flags during Spring Festival, for example. Also, they will prepare the traditional dessert called Sa Qima before Spring Festival, which is made of refined powder, eggs, sugar, sesame and other ingredients.

After the Qing Dynasty was founded in 1644, Manchu society has changed a lot by learning Han customs and culture. Then, Spring Festival has developed into a co-celebrating festival.

Mongolian ethnic group

The Mongolian people have always worshiped white, so the first month on lunar calendar is also called "White Month" and Spring Festival is called "White Festival". The preparation for the festival begins from the 23rd day of the 12th lunar month.
In addition to cleaning Mongolian yurts and taking showers, they also need to dress in new clothes, putting red tassels and  saddles on the horses. They will present the whole cow or sheep with Hada, a piece of silk used as a greeting gift, to those close relatives and friends. On New Year's Eve, people will eat the hand-grilled-meat, meaning family reunion, and all the family members will wear their Mongolian robes to welcome the New Year with all of them sitting around the Mongolian yurt.

Zhuang ethnic group

The Spring Festival for Zhuang people lasts for three days from the 30th of the 12th lunar month to the second day of the first lunar month. On New Year's Eve, each family will prepare chickens and duck with more steamed rice than before, which is the symbol of wealth. Zongzi, a traditional Chinese rice-pudding, is the indispensable food for them, but they do not eat it at evenings. Except the ordinary Zongzi we all know, there is a kind of oversized Zongzi called "Feng Mo" weighing about two kilograms each. Some activities such as singing and dancing, will also be held during Spring Festival.
Korean ethnic group

On New Year's Eve, the whole family pulls an all-nighter to welcome the upcoming New Year. Men and women, no matter old or young, will indulge in songs and dances during the whole Spring Festival, and the traditional celebratory activity will be held on the 15th day of the first lunar month. On that day, some elected elderly people will see the moon on the Moon Stand, because they regard the bright moon as a blessing. Later, all the people will dance with the music of the long drum around the burning Moon Stand.

Tujia ethnic group


The Tujia people will hold a ceremonious Hand-Weaving Dance, a traditional dance popular among Tujia groups including over 70 movements such as hunting, farming, and banqueting. With no props, the dance is full of distinctive ethnic features.

Dai ethnic group


The Water-Splashing Festival is the Dai New Year, which is also the grandest festival for them during a year, corresponding to the Grain Rain, Chinese solar term in the middle of April, typically lasting about four days. Splashing each other is a symbol of good luck, happiness, and health.

Li ethnic group

The Li people who live on Hainan, a tropical island at the southern end of China, will slaughter pigs and chickens when Spring Festival comes. The whole family will enjoy the reunion dinner together on New Year's Eve, and sing songs in celebration of the New Year.

All the young men in the village will hold a Spring Festival Hunting activity with all the catch shared by the villagers. Half will be given to the first hunter with the rest shared by other people equally. However, pregnant women can get double servings.
Lisu ethnic group

The Lisu minorities call Spring Festival "He Shi", and most of them make rice cakes, glutinous cakes, and brewed liquor to celebrate. They put the first spoon of the grounded rice on the peach trees or pear trees to pray for the fruitfulness in the coming year.

The Lisu minorities who live near Nujiang River in Yunnan Province, southwest China, will feed some salt to their ox to show their gratefulness for its plowing. During Spring Festival, young men and women will hold a shooting match during which  women will dangle the bamboo with an embroidered purse tied to it. The first man who can shoot it down will enjoy wine.

She ethnic group

The She minorities will make glutinous rice pounded into paste in the New Year because it means "lucky" in Chinese, and they regard Panhu, a legendary character as their ancestor, so the whole family will kowtow to the portrait of Panhu on the first day of the first lunar month.

Hezhen Ethnic Group

Spring Festival is the happiest festival for Hezhen minorities, and on New Year's Eve, every family will make lanterns and decorate their windows with paper-cuttings. On the morning of the Lunar New Year's Day, young women and children will put on clothes embroidered with cloud shapes to pay a New Year call to relatives and friends. Fish dishes are delicacies they will prepare to treat guests including distinctive raw fish and fried fish.

Bai Ethnic Group

Bai Minorities began to send gifts with each other after an evening of rushing to carry water to show their diligence. In the morning, the whole family will drink sweet water with crunchy rice, meaning "sweet life in the new year". The children will be led to visit  relatives after the breakfast, and the dragon-lantern show and lion dance are necessary activities for them.
Daur ethnic group

Spring Festival was called Arne in the Daur language, and on the morning of the 30th day of the12th lunar month, every family will clean their courtyard, and pile a high stack with the animal manure and useless goods, which will be lit in the afternoon. The elderly will throw some food such as meat, and dumplings onto the fire, hoping it can bring health and a good harvest to all family members. In the evening, except eating hand-grilled-meat, they will worship their ancestors by kowtowing to the west with incense stuck in the snow on the west side of the house.  
Lahu Ethnic Group

Lahu minorities celebrate Spring Festival from the first day of the first lunar month to the fourth day and celebrate the Minor Spring Festival from the ninth day of the first lunar month to the eleventh day. On New Year's Eve, every family will butcher pigs and make a pair of big glutinous rice cakes symbolizing the moon and the sun. In addition, some small rice cakes will be made to act as stars because they believe it can bring them a harvest. 
Bouyei Ethnic Group

The Bouyei people will prepare some food ahead such as glutinous rice cakes and rice wine for Spring Festival. When the rooster crows, young women will rush to the riverside to carry the first bucket of water, meaning that she, the first carrier, is the happiest and the hardest-working one.

Hani Ethnic Group

Those villages where Hani minorities live are already bustling a few days before Spring Festival with women busy with making rice cakes, a food made of glutinous rice, and men go to the hill to cut down bamboos for making swings of a dozen meters high. The Hani all like to play on the swing, and they all swing wearing their favorite clothes during Spring Festival.

Gaoshan ethnic group

The Gaoshan ethnic group in Taiwan Province have different ways to celebrate Spring Festival. All family members will reunite to have a meal sitting around the round table with a hot-pot, which is called Surrounding Stove, and those women who do not usually drink will sip some wine as a signal of luck. The vegetables will be cooked whole after cleaning, meaning "longevity and health for parents".

Sani Ethnic Group

In the Sani language, rice dumplings and celebrating New Year are the same word, Kuo Qima, because they will eat rice dumplings in celebration of the New Year. It is a serious duty for them to worship their ancestors and have a meal on lunar New Year's Eve. Every family will stick a green branch with a straw hat in front of their gate, meaning "no entry" for others, and family members should not talk loudly.

(Source: Xinhua/Translated and edited by Women of China)

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