China has several official legal holidays in a year, some multiple days, including
- New Year’s Day
January 1 of the gregorian calendar. Chinese celebrate the New Year like people all over the world. Called ‘Yuandan’ by the Chinese. ‘Yuan’ means ‘at the beginning’. ‘Dan’ means ‘day’, so joined together the words mean ‘first day of a year’. Due to the different longitudes upon which countries lie in the world, the time of the celebration varies. China is the twelfth country to celebrate the event and the people are rewarded with one day’s vacation. All kinds of festive programs are presented on TV, and organizations and schools hold parties to let everyone enter into the jubilant atmosphere of the festival.
- Lunar (Chinese) New Year (Spring Festival)
1st day in 1st lunar month based on the lunar calendar, the festival has no exact date and it changes each year, but it mostly falls on a day from January 21st to February 20th in Gregorian calendar. The lunar calendar defines the 12-year repeating cycle of Chinese zodiac, and each year is named after an animal. Before the Spring Festival, every family will have a thorough house cleanup and go shopping for festival items. The red spring couplets, red Fu Character, and red animal paper cuts are pasted for decoration. Also, new clothes must be bought, especially for children. At the reunion dinner on Lunar New Year’s Eve, people from north will eat dumplings, which southern people are used to have Niangao (glutinous rice cake). Hongbao Red Envelopes are given to share the blessing.Falling on the 15th day of the first lunar month, Lantern Festival is a giant feast on the last days of the Chinese New Year holiday. Tradition including eating yuanxiao (a rice ball stuffed with different fillings) on that day. At the start of a Lunar New Year, bad words like “death”, “broken”, “killing”, “ghost” and “illness” or “sickness” are forbidden during conversations. Crying, washing, lending and taking medicine are also considered unlucky.
The Spring Festival Rush, also known as ‘Chunyun‘ in Chinese is the largest annual migration on earth. The number of passenger-journeys during the Chunyun period exceeds over 2.98 billion. It usually begins 15 days ahead of the Chinese New Year and 25 days after, lasting for 40 days. During the Spring Festival Rush, China its airline, ferry, bus and railway systems, face an extremely high traffic load, which results in great difficulties to obtain tickets, crowded terminals and stations as well as packed to the brim trains, planes and automobiles.
- Qingming Festival
Qingming Festival (or Tomb-sweeping Day) on either April 4th or 5th of the gregorian calendar, as well as a seasonal symbol for agriculture, it is a day of paying respect to the dead, a spring outing, and other family activities. Tomb sweeping is regarded as the most important custom in the Qingming Festival. Cleaning the tomb and paying respect to the dead person with offerings are the two important parts. Weeds around the tomb are cleared away and fresh soil is added to show care of the dead. The dead person’s favorite food and wine are taken to sacrifice to them, along with paper resembling money. This is all burned in the hope that the deceased are not lacking food and money. Today, with cremation taking over from burying, the custom has been extremely simplified in cities. Only flowers are presented to the dead relatives and good prayers for the deceased are expressed.
- May Day (Labor Day)
As a day for the working people worldwide, it was established on May 1st in 1886. In China, all kinds of activities are held in parks, theatres, and plazas.
- Dragon Boat Festival
5th day of 5th lunar month. The Dragon Boat Festival, also called Duanwu, is a traditional holiday which originated from southern China and is huge in Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Guangdong and Fujian Provinces. Eating Zongzi (sticky rice dumplings) and dragon boat racing are the traditions.
- Mid-Autumn Day (Mooncake Festival)
Falling on the 15th day of the 8th month (usually in September) according to the Chinese lunar calendar, the Mid-Autumn Festival is the second grandest festival in China after the Chinese New Year. The day is also known as the Moon Festival, as at that time of the year the moon is at its roundest and brightest. Mainland China enjoys one day off which is usually connected with the weekend. Eating moon cakes is the tradition. The moon cake comes in various flavors according to the region. The moon cakes are round, symbolizing the reunion of a family. People present moon cakes to friends to demonstrate that they wish them a long and happy life.
- National Day
Oct. 1st of the gregorian calendar is China’s National Day. In the early morning, people arrive at Tiananmen Square in Beijing to see the ceremonial raising of the national flag. This is followed by a ceremonial review of military troop strength at the Tiananmen Square. In 1999, the Chinese government decided that the three days designated for the National Day celebration be combined with the two weekends on either side, thus making a 7-day vacation. It is regarded as ‘Golden Week’ making shopping malls, theatres, KTV’s, restaurants and other entertainment places packed to the brim.
Almost every festival has its own unique origins and customs which reflect the traditional practices of greater China.
Be warned, international holidays, including Christmas, are officially scorned within the Mainland, and if you are working for an old-fashioned Chinese company, you may specifically not be allowed to have Christmas Day off. Interesting to note, Christmas, and particularly Santa, is often used as a commercial promotional tool in July with Santa Claus appearing in shopping malls.
Any Travel, Entertainment, Food or Beverage businesses actually flourish during holidays. Some shopping malls, shops, supermarkets and restaurants have promotions and discounts on festivals, and some even extend their opening time. Government offices, embassies, schools and corporate businesses are closed on the legal holidays. Note that banks and post offices only have their major branches opened on China public holidays, so it is better to go to those branches in advance. Most of the hospitals run during holidays, but maybe only the basic departments are available, without some specialists.