This coming Wednesday is Tomb Sweeping Day, a public holiday in China, and because of this, I thought it appropriate to write a blog post on why this results in me having uni on today, a Saturday.
In a perfect world, public holidays would be evenly spread out over the year, arriving just as you wanted a long weekend, and always falling on a Monday, so you could guarantee a three-day break without having to take time off of work. Of course, in practise, this doesn't happen so often, and most people find themselves either having to work the Monday or Friday between the weekend and the mid-week public holiday, or have to burn a day of leave so they can get more consecutive days off. Employers, for their part, find that these days get increased rates of people calling in sick.
Not so in China.
Understanding that people want to get their three-day break, dammit, and not wanting to contribute to hither rates of unwarranted sick leave, the Chinese government does the eminently logical thing, and moves the entire weekend so that it lines up with the holiday. So, in preparation for the coming Wednesday public holiday, my Monday timetable has been moved to Saturday, Tuesday's timetable is now Sunday's timetable (lucky for me, I have no classes Tuesday anyway), and then I get Monday to Wednesday off. This applies not only to my school, but to the entire country.
For the most part, this arrangement works pretty well. Sure, people occasionally have to work an extra long week, but they are rewarded with a guaranteed three day break, which is far more useful than having a one day break in the middle of the week. This is especially evident during National Day and Chinese New Year. Both of these holidays have three days allotted to them, which means that around these days, both weekends on either side get moved to line up with the holiday, giving the whole country an entire week off. This it what makes it possible for those with only limited (or no) annual leave to go home during New Year, or to go travelling around the country.
There are some drawbacks, though. For one thing, it turns Chinese New Year and National Day in to hell periods, where nobody in their right mind should even think about travelling in China, should they have a choice. Granted, Chinese New Year would be a hell period anyway, with people needing to return home for strong cultural reasons, but the difficulty in travelling anywhere around National Day is all due to the public holiday. Then, of course, the seven-day work weeks that people occasionally have to suffer through can be pretty tough.
Companies that do a lot of foreign business also find the moved holidays frustrating. These companies find that their work efficiency is greatly reduced on the working days over the weekend, because they are unable to do any business with foreign associates or contractors on these days, and to compound that, they then lose three business days of work over the weekend and public holiday.
Overall, I like the way it's done in China, even if it does show a rather benevolent disregard for the world's normal routine on the part of the government. In spite of the complications for international businesses, the difficulty of travelling during holidays (which, to be fair, would probably occur anyway) and the frustrations of finding out exactly which day of class is moved to which day of the weekend, I am, in the end, won over by the promise of a three day weekend. After all, I do quite like holidays.