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A Guide to Holidays in China 2020-2021

A Guide to Holidays in China 2020-2021

TripBlog
Sep 8, 20204791

Visitors to China occasionally find themselves unaware of important national holidays and, as a result, end up missing out on memorable cultural experiences. In this short explainer we provide some information on major Chinese holidays to look forward to in 2020-2021. Two events dominate the holiday calendar in Mainland China: Chinese New Year (winter) and National Day (autumn). These are when a majority of people receive significant time off work and tend to return home to be with family or travel. Throughout the rest of the year, several additional national holidays round out the annual holiday calendar.

Table of Contents

2020-2021 Schedule of Official Public Holidays in Mainland China
The Chinese Holiday Calendar
New Year (January 1)
Spring Festival / Chinese New Year (Variable)
Tomb-Sweeping Day (Variable)
Labor Day (May 1)
Dragon Boat Festival / Duanwu Festival (Variable)
Mid-Autumn Festival (Variable)
China National Day / China Golden Week (October 1)
Lesser Holidays in China
Double Seven Festival (Variable)
Hungry Ghost Festival (Variable)
Double Nine Festival (Variable)
Singles' Day (November 11)
Observance of Western and Other Holidays


2020-2021 Schedule of Official Public Holidays in Mainland China

Mid-Autumn Festival 2020: Thursday, October 1

Time off work: October 1 – October 8, 2020

Make-up work days: September 27, October 10

Note: Mid-August Festival occurs at the same time as China National Day in 2020 so the vacation period follows that for China National Day.

China National Day 2020: Thursday, October 1

Time off work: October 1 – October 8, 2020

Make-up work days: September 27, October 10

New Year 2021: Friday, January 1, 2021

Time off work: TBA

Make-up work days: TBA

Spring Festival / Chinese New Year 2021: Friday, February 12, 2021

Time off work: TBA

Make-up work days: TBA

Tomb-Sweeping Day 2021: April 4, 2021

Time off work: TBA

Make-up work days: TBA

Labor Day 2021: May 1, 2021

Time off work: TBA

Make-up work days: TBA

Dragon Boat Festival 2021: June 14, 2021

Time off work: TBA

Make-up work days: TBA

Mid-Autumn Festival 2021: September 21, 2021

Time off work: TBA

Make-up work days: TBA

The Chinese Holiday Calendar

A Guide to Holidays in China 2020-2021

In the Western world, by far the most common system used to mark the passage of time is the Gregorian calendar, invented in 1582. Yet despite its near ubiquity, many cultures and religions continue to rely on lunisolar calendars, which calculate the passage of time based on astronomical phenomenon such as moon phases. The traditional Chinese calendar is a lunisolar calendar and significant cultural holidays are observed according to it. In day-to-day life, China uses the Gregorian calendar. This means holidays in China move around slightly year-to-year. At the end of November or start of December, the General Office of the State Council in China publishes the official dates for holidays during the coming year. There are currently 7 official public holidays in Mainland China.


New Year (January 1)

A Guide to Holidays in China 2020-2021

China celebrates the New Year along with the rest of the world each year on January 1. Activities vary from city-to-city and province-to-province; however, they parallel celebrations elsewhere with festivities culminating at midnight. Government workers and employees of large corporations traditionally receive 3 days off for New Year.


Spring Festival / Chinese New Year (Variable)

2020 Spring Festival Holiday: January 25 -Jan 30

2021 Spring Festival Holiday: Feb 11 - Feb 17

A Guide to Holidays in China 2020-2021

The major holiday in China is without a doubt Spring Festival (aka Chinese New Year). This marks the point when the lunisolar calendar begins a new annual cycle. Cycles are identified with a particular animal contained in the Chinse zodiac. 2020 is the year of the Rat and 2021 will be the year of the Ox. The precise date for Spring Festival varies from year to year on the Gregorian calendar.

In 2020, Spring Festival began on January 25. In 2021, Spring Festival will begin on February 12. Government workers and employees of large corporations traditionally receive 7 days off for Spring Festival; however, many opt to take longer vacations in order to visit family and mark the full 15 day festival with lavish dinners, gifts, and other practices. This is the most important holiday in China.


Tomb-Sweeping Day (Variable)

A Guide to Holidays in China 2020-2021

Chinese culture places great importance on the respect and veneration of ancestors. On Tomb-Sweeping Day, families will visit gravesites in order to clean them and give offerings to their ancestors. These might include foods favored by the deceased or other things thought to be useful in the afterlife. In some places, people prepare elaborate paper-based gifts that include representations of various mundane items such as new glasses, clothing, or even a type of paper currency thought to be useful in the afterlife. These offerings are ceremonially burned and thereby carried to the ancestors. Tomb-Sweeping Day occurs on either April 4, 5, or 6 and is observed as a 3-day holiday by the government and other large businesses.


Labor Day (May 1)

A Guide to Holidays in China 2020-2021

China celebrates International Workers’ Day each year on May 1. Interestingly, Labor Day originated in the United States in the late 1880s; however, it is no longer observed there due to its association with leftist organizations. In China, government promotes the importance of International Workers’ Day in accordance with its Marxist-Leninist roots. The vacation period for state employees and others extends up to 5 days; however, this usually overlaps with a weekend meaning people generally only receive 3 days off of work. Celebrations are mostly individual with some localities holding ceremonies to bestow recognition on laborers while extolling their contributions to society.

2020 Labor Day Holiday was May 1 - May 5, 2020.

2021 Labor Day Holiday is not decided yet.

Dragon Boat Festival / Duanwu Festival (Variable)

2020 Dragon Boat Festival was Jun 25, 2020.

Typically, the Dragon Boat Festival occurs in June and should take place this coming June 14, 2021.

The length of time off work varies, but it normally stretches across 5 days in keeping with the festival’s association with the Chinese word for five.

A Guide to Holidays in China 2020-2021

There are several potential origins to the Dragon Boat Festival. The story told by most people in China dates back to the 4th century BCE. Legend speaks of a cabinet official and poet named Qu Yuan. When warriors from a neighboring state captured the capital of Qu’s own state, Qu was so overcome with despair he flung himself into the nearby river. Local people saw this and raced their boats to the drowning man in a desperate, but ultimately unsuccessful, attempt to rescue him. Despite trying, they were also unable to recover Qu’s body. In order to prevent river fish from devouring it, locals tossed balls of sticky rice into the waters so the fish would eat them instead. Thus, the traditions of the Dragon Boat Festival were born. Contemporary celebrations in China include dragon boat races where teams compete against each other in sometimes elaborately decorated wooden paddle boats. A sticky rice snack known as zongzi is traditionally consumed in this period as well.

Mid-Autumn Festival (Variable)

In 2020, Mid-Autumn Festival happens to occur concomitantly with National Day on October 1, though it can fall throughout September or the first week in October.

Mid-Autumn Festival Holiday is combined with China National Day Oct 1, 2020 to Oct 8, 2020.

A Guide to Holidays in China 2020-2021

The Mid-Autumn Festival is roughly analogous with Thanksgiving in the United States or the various harvest festivals held throughout autumn in Europe. It is meant to celebrate a successful harvest and is also a time for family reunions or matchmaking. Associated with Mid-Autumn Festival is the legend of Chang’e, a woman who drank an immortal elixir and was transported to the moon to live forever. Later, legend tells of a jade rabbit, who, when asked for food by three immortals wandering in the forest, sacrificed himself so they could eat. So moved were they by this gesture that they bestowed immortality on the rabbit who was likewise transported to the moon to live with Chang’e.

Today, people in China celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival by eating so-called mooncakes, which are often made with either auspicious words or representations of Chang’e at the rabbit as decorations.

China National Day / China Golden Week (October 1)

This year, Chinese National Day Holiday is from Oct 1, 2020 to Oct 8, 2020, together with the Mid-Autumn Festival.

2021 Chinese National Day Holiday will be Oct 1 - Oct 7, 2021.

A Guide to Holidays in China 2020-2021

The final officially recognized holiday is China National Day. This commemorates in the day in 1949 when Mao Zedong stood atop the Gate of Heavenly Peace in Beijing to proclaim the founding of the People’s Republic of China. Next to Spring Festival, China National Day is the second most significant holiday in Mainland China. People will normally use the time to take a second vacation focused more on travel. The tradition during Spring Festival is to return home to be amongst family. By contrast, China National Day sees more travel to what one might consider typical vacation destinations. State employees and major companies will close down for a week (hence China Golden Week). When you factor in the weekends leading up to and following China National Day, the length of time between working can stretch to 11 days.

Lesser Holidays in China

China, like other Western countries, observes several lesser holidays in addition to the major public events. These holidays often have important historic or cultural significance. The following list includes only a few examples and is by no means exhaustive.

Double Seven Festival (Variable)

This year, Chinese Valentine’s Day is Tuesday, August 25, 2020.

Next year, it will be on Saturday, August 14, 2021.

A Guide to Holidays in China 2020-2021

The Double Seven Festival is so-named because it occurs on the 7th day of the 7th month in the lunisolar calendar. It is more colloquially known as Chinese Valentine’s Day and celebrates the legend of Zhinü and Niulang as told in the Chinese folk take known as The Cowherd and the Weaver Girl. The story goes that the two lovers were forbidden from being together and banished to opposite sides of a river. Once a year on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month, a flock of magpies would create a crossing over the waters and allow the lovers one day together.

Hungry Ghost Festival (Variable)

This year, the Hungry Ghost Festival is Tuesday, September 1, 2020.

Next year it falls on Saturday, August 21, 2021.

A Guide to Holidays in China 2020-2021

Each year during the 7th lunar month, the three realms of heaven, hell, and the earth are said to open to each other. Taoists and Buddhists in particular believe this is a time when spirits can return to the land of the living. Unlike on Tomb Sweeping Day where the tradition is simply to pay respects to departed ancestors, during the Hungry Ghost Festival ancestors are thought actually return. This is a time when people will again make offerings of food or paper versions of common items their ancestors can take back with them to the afterworld. It is not uncommon to see people in the streets or outside their homes burning papers as an offering to the spirits.

Double Nine Festival (Variable)

Double Nine Festival 2020 is Sunday, October 25.

Next year it will be Thursday, October 14, 2021.

A Guide to Holidays in China 2020-2021

Chinese culture contains strong elements of numerology and various numbers are considered significant. Occasions when such numbers occur together are marked. The Double Nine Festival, coming on the 9th day of the 9th lunar month, is one such day. In Chinese philosophy, nine is associated with the concept of Yang, the light portion on the famous yin and yang symbol. On the day of the Double Nine, it is said there is too much Yang present, a potentially dangerous situation. People in China are apt to be especially cautious on this day and may again pay a visit to the graves of ancestors. Other traditions include climbing to a high location or drinking chrysanthemum liquor, both of which are thought to protect against danger.

Singles' Day (November 11)

A Guide to Holidays in China 2020-2021

As China’s economy has grown, Chinese society has rapidly developed strong consumerist tendencies. In precisely the same way there is Black Friday in the United States, China has Singles’ Day. Created in the 1990s by university students, it has since morphed into the largest one-day sales event anywhere in the world. After the Chinese e-commerce platform Alibaba launched a bid to capitalize on Singles’ Day in 2009, Chinese people from all walks of life eagerly look forward to the steep discounts and other inducements offered by retailers across the economy. Some people will go so far as to buy a year’s worth of certain supplies in order to get the biggest savings possible. Alibaba alone reported US$30.7 billion in sales associated with Singles’ Day, 2018. By comparison, Black Friday 2019 netted only US$7.9 billion across all US retailers. To be fair, Singles’ Day events can run several days either side of 11/11. Nevertheless, Singles’ Day is Black Friday on steroids. It’s something else altogether. This November 11, you too can get in on the action.


Observance of Western and Other Holidays

A Guide to Holidays in China 2020-2021

Holidays such as Christmas, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Passover, Ramadan, etc. are informally observed by people in China. Businesses will often cater to foreigners around these times with special promotions, discounts, and decorations. It’s not uncommon to see unofficial celebrations in major cities on these days. Don’t be surprised if you happen upon a group of kids trick-or-treating in Beijing or Shanghai on October 31.

Holidays in China are great times to explore and learn about China’s rich traditions and intangible cultural heritage. You will bring a smile to many faces if you greet people with the customary phrases on the right days. This short explainer will help you get a leg up on others and have you well on your way to seeming like a local.

Disclaimer: This article has been used directly from the Qingqi Qiu Platform, the copyright belongs to the original author. If there is any discrepancy with the copyright please contact us directly and we will immediately delete the content.Index for Network Information Infringement Protection
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