Mid-Autumn Festival & National Day

September 30, was Mid-Autumn Festival in China. The festival is harvest-related and reaches back 3,000 years into the mists of Chinese history. Mid-Autumn Festival falls on the 15th day of the Chinese lunar calendar’s eighth month. (The full moon occurs on the 15th day of each lunar month.) On the solar calendar, the festival date varies from year to year and can fall between early September and early October.

In 2006 the Government of the People’s Republic of China listed Mid-Autumn Festival as an “intangible cultural heritage”. Since 2008 it has been a Chinese public holiday. Along with Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) and Winter Solstice, Mid-Autumn Festival is one of China’s most important festivals. (Winter Solstice Festival is connected with the yin/yang philosophy of balance and harmony in the cosmos. Families gather to acknowledge the shortest day of the year, after which positive energy flows in as daylight hours become longer.)

October 1 was National Day commemorating October 1, 1949, when the Chinese Communist Party established the People’s Republic of China (PRC). With establishment of the PRC, China ended wide-spread civil war which escalated throughout the 1800s before the official fall of the Qing Dynasty in 1911. Chaotic times before establishment of the PRC are still fresh in the country’s collective memory and October 1, 1949, marks the return to a unified country.

This year’s Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day combined to create a long holiday. All across China from Sunday, September 30, through Sunday, October 7, schools, businesses and government offices were closed. Since one of the five days would have been a workday, the central government moved the working day to the previous Saturday, when all schools, businesses, and government offices were exceptionally open. (When they don’t have to go to work or school, many people like to shop, so retail shops rarely close.) Chinese people call a nationwide long holiday such as this a “Golden Week”.

During Golden Week many people return to their hometowns to reunite with family. Many people also travel to other parts of China or to foreign countries. Shops, restaurants and all forms of tourist facilities remain open. Shanghai Tourism Administration reported that the city handled more than 7.91 million incoming tourists. All forms of transportation were jammed: 1.39 vehicles came into Shanghai through expressway toll stations, 1.63 million vehicles left; 550,000 people passed through immigration at Shanghai’s two international airports. All forms of transportation are packed.

One of the government’s objectives in establishing Mid-Autumn Festival as a public holiday was to increase consumption. Shanghai Tourism Administration estimated that this year’s incoming tourists’ spent 7 billion Yuan (US$1.1 billion). People returning to their hometowns also contribute to increased consumption. They return home bearing armloads of gifts for parents and relatives. Check out this link to picture the crush of people at popular tourist sites: http://www.shanghaidaily.com/nsp/Metro/2012/10/01/Too%2Bmany%2Bweddings%2Bgive%2Bguests%2Bthe%2Bholiday%2Bblues/

Tom and I enjoyed the stretch of fine days during Golden Week to take a break from work and explore Shanghai and the nearby ancient city of Suzhou.

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