CH101 reader Amy wrote me to ask about Golden Weeks and the upcoming Labor Day holiday:
@chineseamericanfamily — “I’m planning travel in China during the upcoming Labor Day holiday. What are Golden Weeks and is Labor Day one of them?”
Amy, “Golden Week” is the name given to the two annual weeklong national holidays established by the Chinese government in 1999 to stimulate domestic spending. Today the Golden Week holidays are known as much for the logistical nightmare created when nearly half a billion people all travel at the same time.
There are two Golden Week holidays each year in China. The first occurs in January or February at Chinese New Year during the Spring Festival and the second occurs in early October around National Day. Check our public holiday schedule for this year’s exact dates.
A third Golden Week in May around Labor Day was eliminated in 2008 and replaced by single day holidays for three traditional festivals, the Qingming Festival, the Dragon Boat Festival and the Mid-Autumn Festival. Today, Labor Day is simply a three day weekend.
During Golden Week, workers receive three days of paid leave and the surrounding weekends are re-arranged to create a full seven day holiday.
Press reports estimated that some 475 million Chinese traveled during each Golden Week in 2014. Most people travel domestically to return home during Golden Week, though an increasing number are choosing to travel abroad.
This surge in travel produces iconic photographs of crowds in Chinese rail stations and of free-spending Golden Week tourists buying luxury goods and visiting landmark entertainment and dining venues in cities like Hong Kong, London and New York.
Unless you work in the hospitality industry or do business with Chinese companies, you’re most likely to be impacted by Golden Week if you choose to visit China during these periods. If you must visit China during a Golden Week, expect crowds at tourist sites and try to avoid travel during the first and last two days of the holiday, which are traditionally the busiest.
The future of China’s Golden Weeks remains in question. Benefits to the Chinese economy remain uncertain and logistical headaches are real. Nonetheless, Golden Weeks remain the primary holiday periods for Chinese citizens to return home and visit with family. Eliminating or restructuring the Golden Week holidays would not come without causing serious unrest.
If you have any other questions, please send me an email at email@example.com.
HT: Photo by South China Morning Post.