- September 9 of the lunar calendar is the traditional Chongyang Festival, which is also called "Double Nine Festival" or "Senior Citizens Day". The Chongyang Festival is a traditional festival mingling various folk customs, and unlike other festivals that are shared by multi ethnic groups such as the Spring Festival, the Dragon Boat Festival, the Mid-Autumn Day etc, the Chongyang Festival is exclusively celebrated by the Han Chinese. According to the conception of folk custom, the number "nine" is a homophone of "久" (jiu, for a long time), thus the Double Ninth refers to "久久", which carries the meaning of "long-lasting life" or "longevity". After it was specified as the "Senior Citizens Day", the festival has been focused more on the traditional virtues of honoring, respecting, loving, and helping the old.
Random Talks on Chongyang
- September 9 of the lunar calendar is the traditional Chongyang Festival. As the Book of Changes specifies "six" as a number of yin and "nine" a number of yang, so September 9 has the yang number in both month and day, two "nines" meeting on this day, thus the name "Chongyang" (dual yang) or "Chongjiu" (dual nine). However, the title "Chongyang Festival" did not appear in records until the Three Kingdoms Period, when Cao Pi mentioned it in Writing to Zhong Yao on the Double Ninth Day.
- The origin of the Chongyang Festival can be traced back to the Pre-Qin Dynasty. According to Master Lv's Spring and Autumn Annals, the activities of offering sacrifice to gods and ancestors in September when the crops were harvested to express the gratitude had been practiced at that time. It is said that from the Han Dynasty on, the custom of praying for longevity on the Chongyang Festival came into being. It was resulted from the influence of ancient wizard's (Taoist's) pursuit of eternal life and taking collected herbal medicine. In the mean time, the activity of large-scale banquet is evolved from the feast of celebrating a bumper harvest in the Pre-Qin Dynasty.
By the time of the Three Kingdoms Period, the customs practiced on the Chongyang Festival had basically been fixed. The theme of the festival mainly included praying for longevity, wearing dogwood spray, brewing chrysanthemum wine, appreciating chrysanthemums, sacrificing to the wine god, and so on. When the tradition has been carried down until today, more connotations like respecting the old have been added, which has endowed the festival with greater significance.
As A Sequel to Records of Qixie by Wu Jun of the Liang State in the Southern Dynasty goes:
It is said that in the Eastern Han Dynasty, a great plague occurred in Runan County. There was a man named Huan Jing whose parents died from the plague, so he went to Zhongnan Mountain to learn skills to subjugate the plague. An immortal named Fei Zhangfang sent him a blue dragon sword capable of subjugating evil spirits. Huan Jing woke up early and slept late, devoted wholeheartedly to learning the skills. One day, Fei Zhangfang said to him, "The plague demon is coming on September 9. Go back to get rid of the demon now." He then handed to Huan Jing a bag of dogwood leaves and a bottle of chrysanthemum wine, asking the latter to call for his town fellows to ascend the heights to avoid the disaster. Thereafter Huan Jing left the immortal and returned to his hometown.Right on September 9, Huan Jing led his wife, children as well as his hometown fellows to climb up a mountain nearby. Huan Jing handed out the dogwood leaves to the others so that the plague demon dared not get close. He then poured the chrysanthemum wine out and had each one take a sip to avoid the plague. Finally, Huan Jing fought against the plague demon and killed the demon at last. As a result, the people living along the Ruhe River have been handing down until now the stories of ascending heights to avoid the disaster and Huan Jing's killing of the plague demon on September 9. From then on, the Chongyang Festival started to be celebrated and the custom of ascending the heights on the Double Nine Festival was formed.
- Universality: Festivals for the Elders in Other Countries
"Grandmother's Day" in France: the first Monday of each March."Smile Day" in Canada: June 21 every year, a day to respect the elders.
"Respect for the Aged Day" in Japan: a traditional day on September 15.
"Grandparents Day" in America: In 1978, the then US President Jimmy Carter signed a proposal which suggested that the first Monday after the American Labor Day in each September should be the "Grandparents Day" of the US.
"Senior Citizens Day" in Greece: every year in autumn, a special day will be selected as the "Senior Citizens Day" to be celebrated in Crete of Greece.
"Senior Citizens Day" in Central Africa: each year on May 20; it is a day specially set for mothers, hence also called "Mother's Day".
Internationalization: the International Senior Citizens Day
In 1991, the 45th session of the United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted No. 106 Resolution, which stipulates that October 1 should be the International Senior Citizens Day. As an officially acknowledged day for the elders, the International Senior Citizens Day aims at promoting the general public's awareness on aging of population, namely, the coming of "aging era". Each man gets old one day, therefore, to some degree, to care for the health of the elders means to care for one's own future, and care for the future of human society as well.