The traditional Torch Festival, also know as the Fire Festival, is one of the most important holidays of the Yi people in southwest China, and is also celebrated by other ethnic groups of the region, such as the Yi, Bai, Hani, Lisu, Naxi, Pumi and Lahu. It's celebrated on the 24th or 25th day of the 6th month of the lunar calendar, which usually corresponds to July or August in the Gregorian calendar. In 2016, it falls on July 27th.
The Torch Festival features - of course - lighting up torches, hence its name. The origin of the festival is the worship of fire by the people's ancestors, who believed fire had the power to not only chase away evil and to protect crop growth but also - very practical - to repel insects. For some ethnic groups, the festival's tradition includes that elders share farming experiences with young people to educate them how to take care of crops.
During the festival, big torches made out of dried pine wood and lightwood are erected in all villages. At the same time, small torches are placed in front of the doors of each household. When night falls, the torches are being lit and the villages become as bright as during daytime. Beyond this, people walk around their fields and houses, holding torches in their hands and placing them all over. In the villages, men and women are singing and dancing around big fires that keep burning throughout the night.
Other activities like song and dance parties, horse races, bullfights, arrow shooting, wrestling, and swinging are also part of this celebration. Additionaly, trade fairs are being held and in some areas, various religious rituals are performed to pray for a harvest. Also called the Carnival of the Orient, the Torch Festival is a traditional and age-old grand fire party among various ethnic minorities in China.