As one of the well-known traditional festival, Chongyang Festival (or Double Ninth Festival) is celebrated on the 9th day of the 9th lunar month. It usually falls in October in the Gregorian calendar, while in 2014 it falls on October 2. Why the day is special? How do Chinese people celebrate?
In an ancient and mysterious book Yi Jing, or The Book of Changes, number "6" was thought to be of Yin character, meaning feminine or negative, while number "9" was thought to be Yang, meaning masculine or positive. So the number nine in both month and day create the Double Ninth Festival, or Chongyang Festival. Chong in Chinese means "double." Also, as double ninth was pronounced the same as the word to signify "forever", both are "Jiu Jiu," the Chinese ancestors considered it an auspicious day worth celebration. That's why ancient Chinese began to celebrate this festival long time ago. In 1966, the Republic of China (Taiwan) rededicated the holiday as "Senior Citizens' Day", so it is also known as the Senior Citizens’ Festival.
Just as other Chinese festivals have their own unique story, so does the Chongyang Festival. It is said that, there was once a devil inhabited the Nu River which caused disease in the neighbouring people during the Eastern Han Dynasty. The parent of a young man, named Hengjing, died because of the devil's magic. In order to rid the people of the devil, Hengjing went through extraordinary lengths to find an immortal to teach him swordsmanship in order to expel the devil. On the eighth day of the ninth lunar month, the immortal told Hengjing that the next day the devil would appear and he was to go back to get rid of the devil and the disease.
Taking a bag of dogwood and some chrysanthemum wine, Hengjing returned to his hometown. In the morning of the ninth day of the ninth lunar month, Hengjing led all the villagers who were each holding a piece of dogwood leaf and a cup of Chrysanthemum to the nearest mountain. At noon, when the devil came out from the Nu River, the devil suddenly stopped because of the fragrance emitted from the dogwood and the chrysanthemum wine.
At that moment Hengjing used the sword to battle the devil for a few rounds and won. Since then people start climbing mountains, drinking chrysanthemum wine and holding onto dogwood during the day.
Even today, it is still a day for people to eat Chongyang cake, drink chrysanthemum wine, climb mountains, and pay homage to chrysanthemums. During the festival, Chongyang cake and chrysanthemum wine is the traditional cuisine. The custom of ascending a height to avoid epidemics was passed down from long time ago.
Therefore, the Double Ninth Festival is also called "Height Ascending Festival". The height people will reach is usually a mountain or a tower. Ancient literary figures have left many poems depicting the activity. Even today, people still swarm to famous or little known mountains on this day. Climbing mountains and admiring beautiful chrysanthemums are interesting events that add to the festival creating a joyous atmosphere. On this day, people will eat Double Ninth Gao (or Cake).
In Chinese, gao (cake) has the same pronunciation with gao (height). People do so just to hope progress in everything they are engaged in. What’s more, as chrysanthemums blossom during the festival, it is a pleasure to admire the various chrysanthemums in parks. Enjoying the flourishing chrysanthemum also becomes a key activity on this festival. Also, people will drink chrysanthemum wine. Women used to stick such a flower into their hair or hang its branches on windows or doors to avoid evilness.
Sacred mountains like Mount Tai are all good destinations to spend your Chongyang Festival. By the way, mount Tai is open for free to elder people, try to enjoy it on mount Tain!