Understanding China’s Work Holiday Schedule

September 16, 2015

One thing that often trips up business travelers to China is the unique Chinesecalendar-20clip-20art-calendar holiday schedule. It has not been unheard of for Westerners arriving to plan rapid-fire meetings only to learn they accidentally overlapped their trip with a 4-day holiday that “came out of nowhere.”

Never fear! Here are some useful tips for you to understand and plan around the Chinese work holiday schedule like a pro.

  1. The Official 2015 Chinese Public Holiday Calendar

Thanks to Baidu.com, here is the official 2015 public holiday calendar in China. (The original post is in Chinese, I translated to English. Click this link for the Chinese version.)


Holiday Public Holiday Time Compensation Days (explained below) total off days
New Year’s 1/1 – 1/3 Sunday, January 4 is a work day 3
Spring Festival 2/18 – 2/24 Sunday, February 15 and Saturday, February 28 are work days 7
Tomb Sweeping Festival 4/4 – 4/6 Monday, April 6th is an off-day to make the holiday a 3-day weekend 3
Labor Day 5/1 – 5/3 Monday, May 3 is an off-day to make the holiday a 3-day weekend 3
Dragonboat Festival 6/20 – 6/22 Monday, June 22 is an off-day to make the holiday a 3-day weekend 3
WWII Victory Day Festival 9/3 – 9/5 Friday, September 4 is an off-day, and Sunday September 6 becomes a workday 3
Mid-Autumn Festival 9/26 – 9/27 The weekend days are the holiday 2
PRC National Day 10/1 – 10/7 Saturday, October 10 becomes a work day 7

2. Explaining the Tiaoxiu “Compensation” Days

China has what seems very strange to Westerners: tiaoxiu, or “compensation” days. Depending on when the holidays fall, the government will essentially move the work week backwards or forwards a day to allocate consecutive days for the rest period. For example, you’ll note above for the New Year’s holiday that though the holiday itself was from Thursday, January 1 to Saturday, January 3rd, the following day, January 4th, was denoted as a work day. Thus, the holiday is designed for people to get their “three-day weekend” starting on Thursday, and return to work on Sunday.

This year was particularly strange as the Mid-Autumn Festival days, which depends on the lunar calendar, fell entirely on a weekend and also very near to the succeeding National Day holiday. Employees in China were not robbed of their precious days off, however, as the government scheduled the much publicized “WWII Victory Day” Celebration at the beginning of September. The compensation day voodoo was again utilized here as Thursday the 3rd to Saturday the 5th were off-days, but people returned to work on Sunday. Plus, this made up for the “lost” days of the Mid-Autumn Festival

3. Understanding China’s Spring Festival Holiday

The big one that trips people up is the Spring Festival. Since the holiday is based on the lunar calendar, the timing of this week-long holiday varies year to year. Generally, the official public holiday will fall sometime between mid-January and the end of February, but you should always pay attention to when exactly the holiday will be months before making any business travel.

While the official public holiday is only a week, the Chinese Spring Festival holiday is akin to what we experience in America around Christmas/New Year’s time, but on steroids. China is really slow for business throughout most of January and February, and starts building up momentum again only after the holiday concludes. As I’ve written about before, China is home to the world’s largest human migration every year around the Spring Festival. Many employees will take all their available vacation days around that time to extend the holiday. Most business owners are traveling home or perhaps abroad.

My best advice is to get what you need to get done before January 1st, and then wait until after Spring Festival to make your trip to the Orient. Looking ahead to 2016, next year’s Spring Festival is slated for February 7 to February 13.

4. Plan ahead

The good news is that now this doesn’t have to be a total mystery to you if you merely plan ahead. The Chinese government typically issues the official public holiday schedule sometime between December 9th and December 14th. You can check back on this blog around then to get the scoop!

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