What’s the Deal With The Golden Week

The Chinese characteristic week-long public holiday, so called the “golden week,” is probably the trickiest holiday a country can offer. It inconveniently merges one weekend and two week days into the real three-day holiday, to create the massive seven-day-long flagship holiday, in spite of the compensative two work days added to the weekend before or after.

For example, this National Holiday, October 1, 2 and 3, fits perfectly on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, followed by Saturday and Sunday, which forms a nice trouble-free five-day holiday. But no way, apparently the golden week is the thumb rule that nothing can go around it. The following Monday and Tuesday (October 6 and 7) can not be left behind, and the last Sunday (September 28) and the next Saturday (October 11) have to be two miserable work days, at least this is how many locals feel about it.

Before 1999, holidays were simple. People enjoyed whatever dates the holiday fell on and sometimes lucky long weekends would occur. However, triggered by the 1997 Asian financial crisis, the country decided that people were not having enough recreation time to consume and travel. Thus, the first revision of the Regulation on Public Holidays for National Annual Festivals and Memorial Days took effect on September 18, 1999. It created three golden weeks—the Spring Festival and the Labor Day and National Day holidays.

The measure achieved unprecedented success. All tourist attractions around the country, big or small, famed or unknown, were serving swarms of visitors that surpassed three or four times their capacities. The prosperity continued for seven successive years until the government called for a halt finally in 2008, when the second revision of the regulation came into effect. It shrank the Labor Day golden week into three days and added three one-day traditional holidays, the Qingming Festival, the Dragon Boat Festival and the Mid-Autumn Festival, all of which form a three-day holidays.

The last amendment of the regulation, which only issued one small change: The golden week holiday for the Spring Festival in 2014 would be started on the first day of the first month in Chinese calendar, instead of on New Year’s Eve. Online jokes teased that the reason behind this small, but significant, change was because Chuxi, Mandarin for eve, also indicated another meaning, eliminate Xi, who is the last name of the newly assigned Chairman Xi Jinping who had made the change.