Today is the ninth day of the ninth lunar month in China –the Double Ninth Festival (Simplified Chinese¹, also in Traditional Chinese: Chung Yeung Festival in Hong Kong), sometimes named as “The Adult Day“. It is a traditional Chinese holiday, mentioned in writing since before the East Han period.
According to the I Ching, nine is a yang number, ninth day of the ninth lunar month or double nine, has too much yang (a traditional Chinese spiritual concept) and is thus a potentially dangerous date. Hence, the day is also called “Double Yang Festival” . To protect against the danger, it is customary to climb a high mountain, drink chrysanthemum wine, and wear a plant named zhuyu. (Both chrysanthemum and zhuyu are considered to have cleansing qualities and are used in other occasions to air out houses and cure illnesses.)
Climbing mountains:On the Double Ninth Festival, people customarily climb mountains, appreciate chrysanthemum flowers, drink chrysanthemum wine, and eat double-ninth cakes. The Double Ninth Festival is also the “Old Men Festival”. Old people are especially meant to improve their health by taking part in the activities on the day of the festival.
Family get-togethers: The Double Ninth Festival is also a time for family get-togethers. It is an occasion to remember one’s ancestors, the sacrifices they made and the hardships they underwent. Often, family outings are organised during which people search to renew their appreciation of nature and to reaffirm their love and concern for family members and close friends.
Double Ninth may have started out as a day to drive away danger, but, like the Chinese New Year, over time it became a day of celebration. In contemporary times it is an occasion for hiking and chrysanthemum appreciation.
Stores sell rice cakes ( a homonym for height é) inserted with mini colorful flags to represent zhuyu. Most people drink chrysanthumum tea, a few strict traditionalists drink homemade chrysanthemum wine. Children in school learn poems about chrysanthemum, and many localities host a chrysanthmum exhibit. Mountain climbing races are also popular; winners get to wear a wreath made of zhuyu.
This is an often-quoted poem about the holiday:
“Double Ninth, Missing My Shandong Brothers” – Wang Wei ( Tang Dynasty
- As a lonely stranger in the strange land,
- Every holiday the homesickness amplifies.
- Knowing that my brothers have reached the peak,
- All but one is present at the planting of zhuyu.
Also a song which is very popular in China, named “Wine of the doulbe 9th Festival”.