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China’s Labor Day Celebration

China’s Labor Day Celebration

Today in the United States we celebrate Labor Day.  National holidays dedicated to honoring the work force are standard in all most every country.  China, too, celebrates the contributions of its workers with a national holiday.

China’s Labor Day is celebrated on May 1.

Most countries celebrate their work force on or around May 1.  

The first day of May was chosen to be International Workers' Day as part of the international socialist agenda in the late 1800s and early 1900s.  The 1904 International Socialist Congress meeting in Amsterdam called on "all Social Democratic Party organizations and trade unions of all countries to demonstrate energetically on the First of May for the legal establishment of the 8-hour day, for the class demands of the proletariat, and for universal peace."  The congress made it "mandatory upon the proletarian organizations of all countries to stop work on 1 May, wherever it is possible without injury to the workers."

Since that time socialist, communist and anarchist groups have adopted May Day as a time to celebrate the working class. It is one of the most important national holidays in People's Republic of China, North Korea, Cuba and the former Soviet Union. 

Labor Day in China

Labor Day on May 1 is a statutory holiday in the People's Republic of China.  Currently it is a one day holiday.  However it was a three day holiday during the 1990s. During that time the Chinese government made it a seven-day holiday by moving the prior and upcoming weekends together with these three days. This holiday allowed millions of Chinese people to travel during this period. 

The Chinese government reduced this holiday period to one day in 2008.  But the Chinese people did not lose two days of holiday. As a balance to the annual holiday calendar, three traditional Chinese holidays were revived: the Dragon Boat Festival (June 20-22), Tomb-Sweeping Day (early April) and the Mid-Autumn Festival (late September to early October).

That law not withstanding, May Day usually is celebrated as a three-day holiday. However Chinese workers usually have to “make up” the extra two days by working either the preceding or following weekend.  For example, in 2013 May 1 fell on Wednesday. Most workplaces, including all government offices, took Monday, April 29; Tuesday, April 30; and Wednesday, May 1 off.  To make up for not working on April 29 and April 30, employees went to work the preceding weekend (April 27-28).

Labor Day in the U.S.

The United States stands alone among other nations in celebrating its workers on the first Monday in September.  By the early 1890s thirty states had pass their own laws to establish Labor day celebrations. Congress responded in 1894 by naming the first Monday in September a federal Labor Day holiday.  Labor Day provides the nation with a long end of the summer holiday weekend. 

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U.S. Department of Labor