Beneath the bright lights of the metropolis, Shanghai residents continue to observe the customs of their ancestors. Indeed, the biggest events in the city celebrate its modernity as well as its ancient roots.

Shanghai’s festivals are often characterised by massive preparations and spectacle, but also represent a continuation of tradition and a passing on of value-based teachings to the city’s next generation.

Here are some of the most popular yearly festivals and celebration in the city.

Annual events in Shanghai

Spring Festival (January/February)

What better place to see in the Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, than Shanghai? The New Year is welcomed in by the chimes of the Longhua bell. The bell is sounded 108 times, which is believed to dispel trouble and bring people good luck. The atmosphere is festive but peaceful. Seeing in the Chinese New Year in Shanghai is a unique experience for any expat.

Longhua Temple Fair (March)

This festival is held in the historic town of Longhua. According to one legend, the fair celebrates the laughing Buddha, who was born under the Longhua tree and saved the people from suffering. Today, the fair has become one of the largest folk gatherings in eastern China. It’s a colourful event with stalls, folk art, jugglers and stilt walkers. It is made even more special by the blossoming of peach flowers – a special sight not to be missed by any visitor to Shanghai.  

Shanghai Peach Blossom Festival (March/April)

This event is held each year in Pudong, which has miles of peach trees. Luchao Port Peach Garden and Seaside Peach Garden are good places to admire these beautiful blossoms. There are also folk music performances taking place and tasty country eats to savour.

Shanghai International Tea Culture Festival (April/May)

Some expats may initially find a week-long festival focusing on tea rather strange, but will soon learn that tea has an indispensable place in the lives of many residents and showcases China’s distinguished tea culture. The stunning opening ceremony is always held in central Shanghai as tea specialists, delegations and tourists from all over the world descend upon the city for the festival.

Shanghai Dragon Boat Festival (May)

This festival is held to celebrate the national hero Qu Yuan, who, according to legend, drowned himself in protest against a corrupt emperor. Locals attempted to prevent fish from feeding on his body by throwing rice dumplings into the sea and frightening them away by beating drums. Today, crews in narrow dragon boats race all over the city to the beat of heavy drums. It is a spectacular sight and something not to be missed.

Mid-Autumn Festival (September)

Held every autumn, this popular Chinese festival marks the end of the harvest season with the making and eating of mooncakes. Houses are brightly decorated with animal-shaped lanterns and the evening is spent moon-gazing with close family and friends.

China Shanghai International Arts Festival (October to November)

Art aficionados in Shanghai should make sure to catch the annual month-long China Shanghai International Arts Festival, where everything from symphony orchestras and drama to acrobatics, dance and even magic are showcased in countless performances.

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