22 October 2016
Families clean the tombs of their ancestors during the Ching Ming Festival. Photo:
Families clean the tombs of their ancestors during the Ching Ming Festival. Photo:

Why Chinese holidays are a matter of politics and economics

This year’s Easter holiday and Ching Ming Festival are remarkable for the fact that together, they give us a rare five-day weekend.

That’s part of the quirks of the Gregorian and lunar calendars. The rest is by legislative fiat.

Ching Ming, or tomb sweeping day, comes on the 15th day after the Spring Equinox, according to the lunar calendar, which makes it April 4 or 5.

By Gregorian calculations, the Christian world celebrates Easter on the first Sunday after the full moon that occurs on or soonest after March 21.

In Hong Kong, the two holidays give us a grand total of five days off because of a law that compensates us for holidays that fall on a Sunday.

But in mainland China, Easter is not celebrated and Ching Ming did not become a public holiday until 2008.

Still, mainlanders enjoy two so-called “golden week” holidays around Lunar New Year in January or February and National Day in October, but that’s another story.

More than the chance to take time off work, these holidays are welcomed by the Chinese people as an important tradition.

A few decades ago, the Chinese Communist Party derided Ching Ming — and people who worship their ancestors — as “feudal trash”. 

That’s why communist revolutionaries tore down any symbol or reminder of that tradition.

Today the Chinese leadership recognizes the value of tradition in ensuring social cohesion and uses it not only to promote a stable society but also to spur economic activity.

That said, the modern Chinese holidays have different meanings to different people. To the Communist Party, it’s a matter of politics and economics.   

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