During the holidays, Chinese people primarily focus on celebrations and 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, like Christmas. Moreover, China uses a lunar calendar for some holidays, so several 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 22
Days off: 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.
On this day, flats and houses are decorated with traditional lanterns. People also put a sticker on their doors with a Chinese character symbolizing “blessing” – 福 (Fú). Another tradition is giving red envelopes with money inside to children. There is no specific amount that should be gifted. Thus, some envelopes contain only a symbolic sum, while others may even be 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 Year of the Tiger. In 2023, the leading animal will be a rabbit. Chinese New Year is a perfect opportunity for entrepreneurs that want to start cooperating with China. Chinese people highly enjoy using zodiac animals in marketing campaigns. Therefore, even before the holiday begins, you can see 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 suppliers, 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 5.
Qingming Festival (Qingming Jie) 2023
Date: April 3
Days off: 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 items 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 1 (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 outdoor activities.
Dragon Boat Festival 2023
Date: June 22
Days off: 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 from 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 29
Days off: September 29 – October 1
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. 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. One may notice many commercials with a white rabbit sitting under the moon during this holiday, as they’re its two most significant symbols.
During the Mid-Autumn Festival, the Chinese eat mooncakes, 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 in the case of the Chinese New Year, all factories and enterprises are closed during the Mid-Autumn Festival. 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 1
Days off: October 1 – October 7
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 high number of tourists and people traveling during 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 open at irregular hours. Keep in mind that Chinese New Year is the most significant and busiest holiday in terms of the number of travelers. During this time, plane ticket prices will be the highest, and contacting your Chinese business partner will be nearly impossible.