Chinese New Year, called Spring Festival in Chinese (春节 Chūnjié), is the largest and most important holiday of the year in China. The coming year is the Year of the Rat and marks the first year in a new cycle of 12 years. It’s a family holiday, and most celebrating on New Year’s Eve is done at home. In the 4-5 days afterwards, temple fairs – markets selling small gifts and food with traditional performances – are also a popular way to celebrate.
Read on to find out key information if you plan to spend Spring Festival 2020 in Beijing!
Official holiday dates 2020
New Year’s Eve: Friday January 24th
New Year’s Day: Saturday January 25th
Official holiday: Friday 24th-Thursday 30th January (inclusive)
Compensatory work days: Sunday January 19th and Saturday February 1st*
Beijing state school holidays: Saturday January 18th – Sunday February 16th
Lantern Festival (marking the end of Spring Festival): Saturday February 8th
*Days that the government says you have to work to ‘make-up’ for the time off you get. Not all companies enforce these days, but many do
Note: the official holiday is set by the government. Traditionally however, Spring Festival was a 2-week-long holiday which ended with the Lantern Festival. The Lantern Festival is not an official holiday on the mainland.
Almost all shops, businesses and banks close early on New Year’s Eve. Offices and most bank branches close for the entire golden week. Large supermarkets may be open on New Year’s Day but with limited hours, and larger bank branches re-open after 3 days. Restaurants are often open during the holiday, but it’s best to check before going!
We highly recommend that you stay in Beijing (or go abroad) for the holiday. Trying to travel anywhere within China during the holidays is guaranteed to be a nightmare as millions of people return to their hometowns from the cities. Called ‘Chunyun’, it’s the world’s largest migration of people!
In 2019, 410 million people travelled during the 40-day Spring Festival period, and this number grows every year. It starts about 2 weeks before Spring Festival and lasts for about a month afterwards. However, large cities like Beijing empty during the holiday, so it’s a great time to relax and perhaps visit some parts of the city you might not usually venture to!
How to celebrate
We’ll have a more detailed article on this in early January. But having a big dinner with family, making dumplings, setting off firecrackers at midnight, visiting temple fairs, and viewing lantern displays at the end of the holiday, are all traditional ways to celebrate the holiday. If you’re not Chinese, cross your fingers and hope to get invited to a family dinner on New Year’s Eve! Or join Cultural Keys for our Spring Festival Eve celebration!
Setting off firecrackers tends to happen in rural areas only and is banned in most big cities, including Beijing, over safety concerns. Temple fairs are now mostly not held in temples, and have become quite commercial, but are worth visiting to see traditional crafts and try unusual snack foods that you don’t often see at other times of year. Dates are mostly yet to be confirmed, so stay tuned and we’ll update you on those in early January!
Are you interested in learning more about the traditional culture of China, and perhaps experiencing it for yourself? Since 2013, Cultural Keys Chinese Culture Centre has been helping people doing exactly that.
Through our provision of content, classes, information and services, Cultural Keys helps people access, understand and experience the traditional culture of China, from kung fu to calligraphy, feng shui to painting. Click here to read more about Cultural Keys and what we can do for you, your school, company or organisation to help you get more out of your time in China.
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