China, obviously is a country whose government is not associated with any religion. In the past, buddhism and taoism were taking turns in influencing (at times, when the emperor himself was affiliated with a particular religion, single-handedly deciding) the national policy, but that was all over and done with when the era of communism started in 1949. Nowadays, buddhism especially has been seeing a little bit of a revival, although the celebrations are usually done in the privacy of one’s home or with a personal prayer in the nearby temple. Catholicism as well has been getting increasingly popular with quite a few churches being built in Shanghai alone.
But, going back to the topic of public holidays and national holidays (which we shall treat as a subtopic of the former), they are either associated with the ancient farming ritual (as determined by the lunar calendar 农历 NóngLì), or have to do with the communist leadership (memorial days or communist holidays as inherited from Soviet Union 苏联 SūLián).
In the category of national holidays we thus have seven:
1. New Year’s day (新年 XīnNián), the sole exception among the national holidays and falls into the category of conventional holidays; 1 day off (放假一天 FàngJià Yī Tiān). And yes, before you ask, Christmas (圣诞节 ShèngDànJié) is being celebrated too, well, to an extent. Especially in the bigger cities young couples will use this day to go out for an expensive (romantic) dinner and shopping. So yes, the gist of family and gifts is still quite there.
2. Spring Festival (春节 ChūnJié) happening on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd day of the first month of the lunar calendar – 3 days off. Although employees are entitled to just three days of paid leave, for schoolchildren and students Spring Festival can turn into weeks of holidays. The reason for that is to allow children from distant and non commutable places to return to their homes, some spending days on the road.
3. Tomb Sweeping Festival (清明节 QīngMíngJié) or the Qingming Day of the lunar calendar – 1 day off. This day is for commemorating ancestors, cleaning the graves, visiting one’s hometown.
4. International Labor Day (劳动节 LáoDòngJié) on May 1st – 1 day off. Not much going on here.
5. Dragon Boat Festival (端午节 DuānWǔJié) occurring on the Dragon Boat Day of the lunar calendar – 1 day off. This is where you get to see dragon boat competitions and eat 粽子 (ZòngZi) the pyramid-shaped bundles of sticky rice wrapped in reed leaves.
6. Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋节 ZhōngQiūJié) that falls on the Mid-Autumn Day of the lunar calendar – 1 day off. Ah, the famous moon cake (月饼 YuèBǐng), now coming in a variety of crusty dough filled with meat (away with red-bean stuffing, I say!)
7. National Day (国庆节 GuóQìngJié) on October 1st, 2nd, 3rd, celebrating the foundation of the PRC in on October 1st, 1949 – 3 days off. Time to turn on your TV and watch that military parade. Impressed yet?