During the holidays, Chinese people are primarily focused on celebrations and spending leisure time with family. Holidays we know in the West are not so popular in China and are treated the same as any other day. It’s the case, among others, for our Christmas. Moreover, China uses a lunar calendar, meaning that most of the holidays fall on different dates each year. In this article, we’ll cover traditions associated with Chinese holidays and how businesses operate during these periods.
Chinese holidays in 2023
Chinese New Year (Spring Festival or Lunar New Year) 2023
Date: January 21st
Free days: January 21st – 27th
Chinese New Year is commonly referred to as Spring Festival (春节, Chūnjié in Chinese) or Lunar New Year, and is the most important Chinese holiday. Although it lasts about a week, its celebrations are often extended to two weeks in practice. Initially, the primary purpose of this day was welcoming the new year and honoring both deities and ancestors. However, now it focuses on meeting your close family, eating meals together, and celebrating the start of the new year.
One can notice that flats and houses are decorated with traditional lanterns on this day. On their doors, people also put a sticker with a Chinese character symbolizing “blessing” – 福 (Fú). Another tradition is giving red envelopes with money inside to children and the elderly. There is no specific amount that should be gifted. Thus, some envelopes contain only a symbolic sum, while others may reach even hundreds of Chinese yuan.
It’s also worth remembering that in China, every year is associated with a particular zodiac sign. 2021 was the Year of the Ox, and 2022 was the Tiger’s year. In 2023, the leading animal will be a rabbit. Chinese New Year is a perfect opportunity for entrepreneurs that want to start cooperating with the Middle Kingdom. Chinese people highly enjoy mingling zodiac animals with marketing campaigns. Therefore, even before the holiday begins, you can come across many commercials or special collections dedicated to a specific animal.
During the Lunar New Year, all factories and businesses remain closed. When ordering goods from Chinese sellers, they can notify you that your shipment can be delayed even up to a month due to the holiday. Therefore, if you’d like to contact your Chinese business partner, make sure to do it a few weeks before or after the holiday. In this way, you won’t interfere with their traditions and festivities.
The Spring Festival’s celebrations end with the Lantern Festival’s beginning, which in 2023 falls on February 5th.
Qingming Festival (Qingming Jie) 2023
Date: April 3rd
Free days: April 2nd – 5th
Qingming Jie (清明节) is an equivalent to a Christian holiday – All Saints’ Day, celebrated in November. The most crucial part of the day is paying respect to the ancestors by visiting and cleaning graves and burning artificial items (most often money). The Chinese believe that the burned things will reach their deceased relatives. Moreover, the ancestors will also be gifted with their favorite food and wine, which Chinese people leave on their graves.
Qingming Festival means a few free days, so all enterprises and factories will be closed. However, it’s not a long-lasting holiday. Thus, after this short period, you’ll be able to contact your Chinese business partners again.
Labour Day 2023
Date: May 1st (a day off)
Unlike other Chinese holidays, Labour Day is not celebrated according to the lunar calendar. Therefore, it falls on the same date each year. There are no special festivities on this day, but a popular form of spending free time is meeting outside and gathering with family. Because the holiday occurs in the warm season, one can participate in many festivals or activities held outdoor.
Dragon Boat Festival 2023
Date: June 22nd
Free days: June 22nd – 24th
Dragon Boat Festival’s (端午节 Duānwǔ jié) history is dedicated to an old Chinese poet and scholar – Qu Yuan. According to the legend, Qu Yuan was a loyal official of the Kingdom of Chu. He showed above-average wisdom and intelligence, which came under criticism of other officials after some time. Accused of giving false testimony and conspiracy against the king, he was banished from the country. Qu Yuan tied a stone to his chest and jumped into the Miluo River, committing suicide in agony. Townspeople had searched for him days and nights, sailing the river in dragon boats. That’s why the annual festival is associated with “again searching for” the poet’s body. As the legend says, it still lies at the bottom of the river.
Rice dumplings called “zongzi” are the most popular dish during the Dragon Boat Festival. They’re nothing but rice (mixed with sweet or salty toppings) wrapped in bamboo leaves.
Mid-Autumn Festival 2023
Date: September 29th
Free days: September 29th – October 1st
It’s the second most important Chinese holiday, right after the Spring Festival. Celebrated according to the lunar calendar, it’s a day on which the whole family gathers to eat a meal together (ideally when eaten outside) and pays tribute to the moon. The Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋节 Zhōngqiū jié) is connected with the legend about the Chinese goddess of the Moon – Chang’e, and a white rabbit. One may notice many commercials with a white rabbit sitting under the moon during this holiday, as they’re its two most significant symbols.
At Mid-Autumn Festival, the Chinese eat mooncakes, which are the traditional delicacy of this day. Traditionally, they contain red bean paste, but recently watermelon, lotus, or even ice cream served in a cold version of the delicacy have become popular fillings. Nearly all food-related companies offer original mooncakes filled with various stuffing at this period.
As it is in the case of the Chinese New Year, during the Mid-Autumn Festival, all factories and enterprises are closed. However, it doesn’t mean that business doesn’t thrive because there is massive competition on the market between companies selling mooncakes in this period. Therefore, unless you own a food-related company that can join the competition, you shouldn’t contact your Chinese business partners, as they’ll be busy with the celebrations.
National Day 2023
Date: October 1st
Free days: October 1st – October 7th
National Day is the anniversary of the People’s Republic of China’s establishment. Also referred to as Golden Week, it’s when the Chinese travel across the country, meeting with their relatives or going on vacation. It’s time when plane tickets’ and some famous attractions’ prices increase drastically due to the enormous amount of tourists and people traveling in this period.
Holidays in China 2023 – Summary
When traveling to China for business or tourist purposes, you should pay close attention to holidays during which shops, restaurants, and companies are closed or opened in irregular hours. Keep in mind that Chinese New Year is the most significant and the busiest holiday in terms of the number of travels. During this time, plane tickets’ prices will be the highest and contacting your Chinese business partner will be nearly impossible.