If you are planning a trip to China anytime soon then you will need to know all of the Chinese Holidays. Not only is it critical to know these holiday dates if you are planning to visit China, but also if you are planning to visit other popular travel destinations nearby…because a holiday in China will impact your visit to other countries too! For example, if you are planning a trip to Thailand or Vietnam, you may find that the prices are higher during Chinese holidays. You may also experience more crowds too. To help you with your planning and timing of your trip to China or Asia, we have put together a list of all the Chinese Holidays that you should know about.
New Year’s Day
January 1 (National Holiday Off Work 1 Day)
New Years Day in China is a bit different than how many of us celebrate in Western countries (because they have their own Chinese New Year that falls on a different date). However, New Years Day is a National Holiday in China, but it is mainly spent shopping in the malls and relaxing at the parks. Some people are lucky to get a couple more days off work around this date, but not many.
Overall, you shouldn’t have many troubles traveling over New Years in China or surrounding countries. Just the typical party crowds in the big city centers on NYE, and of course the traffic you would encounter anywhere else on this holiday.
Chinese New Year (Spring Festival)
The date can change, based on the lunar calendar (National Days Off Work – 3 Days)
Chinese New Year is also known as Spring Festival (in English) and has been celebrated for more than 4,000 years. It is THE MOST IMPORTANT holiday of the year in China. While 3 days are considered the National Holiday when people will be off work, most people actually get 1 or even 2 weeks off work!
Students also have 2 weeks or more off from school. The reason why they get so much time off is because most people travel back to their “home towns” to visit family and pay respects to their ancestors (an important part of Chinese culture and religion).
Therefore, there are millions of people traveling in mass during the same time. Also known as “the Great Migration,” this is a time when you likely do NOT want to be traveling within China.
Every year, China goes all out in celebrating this holiday. Based on the Chinese Zodiac Calendar, each year is celebrated with a different animal that you will find in China. Similar to the Western Zodiac, if you are born during this year then there are certain traits you are said to have. And different years that you will be lucky…and unlucky.
There are many traditions associated with Chinese New Year, including lots of firecrackers! Ear-shattering firecrackers will be shot off all week to keep the scary monster, Nian away. Also all of the doors in China will be decorated with red, with beautiful writings wishing happy new year and good luck for the coming year.
It is a beautiful experience, but a nightmare to travel in China. If you want to come to China during the Spring Festival, make your reservations far in advance, consider flying. Hotels will be full. Tourist attractions will be jam packed, and forget driving or taking the train.
Local friends have told us that a 5 hour drive can take more than 18 hours during the Spring Festival “Migration” and trains will be packed like sardines — standing room only! And people will literally stand, lay, and lean on each other for more than 24 hours on long rides. Not something most travelers want to experience.
Lastly, some of the younger and wealthier Chinese choose to escape this craziness of traveling within China during Spring Festival. So they opt to travel internationally — which means than many popular tourist destinations near to China, such as Thailand, are also slammed with Chinese tourists. Something to consider.
Read more about Chinese Tradition – Chinese New Year
** Chinese New Year is one of the “Golden Weeks” in China — where many people often get 7 consecutive days off work. It is one of the few times they are able to travel to visit family or take a vacation, making tourist destinations & transportation super crowded!
Qingming Festival or Tomb Sweeping Day
April 4 or 5 (National Holiday 1 Day)
Qingming Festival, is also known as Tomb Sweeping Day in English. Many traditional Chinese families migrate back to their hometowns during this time, in the countryside and to small villages outside the big cities, to pay respects and celebrate relatives who has passed. It is a time where families will go and clean the tombs of their families, and have a picnic around and even on the tombs.
China is still a deeply traditional country. And respect for ones ancestors is of the utmost importance to most people. So this holiday is a way to show respect and to acknowledge to the spirits that their legacy and stories continue to be passed on through the generations.
For tourists visiting China, this festival shouldn’t impact your trip too much. There may be some crowds, and you may need to book transportation early but overall — nothing too bad. You may encounter lots of smoke from “burning paper” — which is their tradition to respect their ancestors and to talk with them by burning paper with messages (the smoke rises into the heavens).
But other than that, you may actually enjoy driving in the countryside and seeing the smoke plumes, festive decorations.
May 1 (National Holiday Off Work 1 Day)
This is China’s Labor Day. Offices will be closed, but you can still shop. Many businesses will be closed on this day, but you will find lots of people in the shopping malls. This is a big shopping day in China. If the weather is nice, you will also see lots of people out and about in the local parks, riding bikes, walking, and having BBQ’s with family and friends.
Overall, this holiday is not a problem for most travelers.
Dragon Boat Festival
5th Day of the 5th Lunar Month (National Holiday Off Work 1 Day)
On the 5th Day of the 5th month according to the Chinese Lunar Calendar, the Dragon Boat Festival is another traditional and important holiday to many Chinese locals. Of course, it’s another festival steeped in story and history, with many traditions. One tradition is that villages will face off with each other in Dragon Boat Races in local waterways.
Experiencing a real Dragon Boat Race is a wonderful & exciting experience. Depending on when this day falls, it can add a couple of days to the holiday – but normally everyone will stay in the city to watch and participate in the festivities.
If you do want to join in the festivities, check in advance about where you can see the races and get there early for a good spot. It may be a long, hot, and tiring wait…but once the races start, you will be filled with excitement from the cheers, the pounding drums, and these long boats with upwards of 60 people on them flying past you!
Mid-Autumn Day (Lantern Festival)
15th day of the 8th month of Lunar Calendar (National Holiday Off Work 1 Day)
The Mid-Autumn Festival is the second biggest festival in China. It fall on the 15th day of the 8th month according to the Chinese Lunar Calendar. It’s is also known as the Moon Festival, and while there is one day off work as a National Holiday, some people will get a few more days.
There are so many beautiful traditions and stories related to the Mid-Autumn festival. One of which is eating moon cakes, which will you will likely have more than your share. This is also a harvest holiday, and celebrates the moon – which at this time of the year the moon is at its rounded and brightest.
As travelers, there can be a lot of crowds around this holiday and transportation may be full. Plan in advance, get your tickets and be aware that popular tourist destinations will be crowded! We found it is best to stay away from major tourist scenic spots during this holiday, just because the crowds would make it not so fun!
Read more about the beautiful traditions and stories related to the Mid-Autumn Festival traditions and why we loved experiencing it!
October 1 (National Holiday Off Work 3 Days)
Basically, this is the China’s independence day — or the day that they celebrate the creation of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Officially, the PRC was founded on October 1, 1949 with a ceremony in Tiananmen Square. This holiday is celebrated with decorations in major squares, along with fireworks and concerts in major cities.
National Day is also a part of what they call “Golden Week” — where many people will get 1 week off work, and it is one of their only times to travel. It is an extremely busy time to visit tourist attractions in China, and difficult to travel around China due to crowded transportation.
Beware of Traveling During the “Golden Weeks” in China
Chinese New Year and the National Day holiday (in October) is a part of what they call “Golden Week” — when there are 3 national paid holidays and many companies will rearrange work schedules with weekends so that workers can have a full 7 consecutive days off work. For many Chinese people (who work like crazy and rarely get time off work), this is one of the only times they can visit family or go on vacation!
These weeks help boost the economies all over Asia, but make it nearly impossible to book flights, trains, and hotels. Traveling anywhere within China during “golden week” is a real nightmare due to the crowds at popular tourist attractions. It also means that transportation will be very crowded, with masses of people leaving the cities to go back to their families and hometowns in the countryside.
It is advisable that visitors to China avoid the Golden Week. But you should also be aware of these holidays if you want to travel elsewhere in Asia during this time, due to increased crowds and prices too.
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