Call to make traditional festivals national holidays

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  • Sunday, 12 Mar 2006

BEIJING: Weekends and national holidays already take up nearly a third of a year, but China’s lawmakers and top advisers are debating more days away from work on the calendar.  

“The new holidays will be for the 1.3 billion Chinese people to celebrate the nation’s millennia-old festivals, which are fast losing their popularity to Valentine’s Day, Christmas and even Halloween,” Peng Zhenqiu, a professor at Shanghai Political Institute, said during Wednesday’s session of the National People’s Congress.  

Peng is advocating having a day off on the Double Ninth Festival, which falls on the ninth day of the ninth month of the lunar calendar.  

“People can spend the day to visit their parents,” he said. “Our ancestors celebrated the festival to emphasise respect for elders as early as the beginning of the Han Dynasty.” 

But one holiday is not enough for people to remember their traditions, said Liang Yanjun, a professor at Tianjin Institute of Finance and Economy. There should be five days off to celebrate apart from Double Ninth Festival Pure Brightness Festival, Dragon Boat Festival, Mid-Autumn Festival and Lantern Festival, she said at yesterday’s session of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, the country’s top advisory body.  

They might be ancient celebrations but she wants to break from tradition to ensure that each of them is on a Friday so that people can enjoy five three-day weekends a year.  

“As they rush to work during these festivals, the younger generation is quickly forgetting the significance of the days and abandoning related customs, which are an essential part of the nation’s intangible cultural heritage,” Liang said.  

Spring Festival, or the Chinese New Year, is the only one among the more than 10 major traditional festivals when people have days off work.  

The holiday proposals won support on the Internet as soon as they were publicised.  

“Having more holidays is a blessing not only to working people but also to the unemployed, who will have more opportunities to find jobs,” said Xu Gang, a software engineer.  

However, Feng Jicai, a well-known novelist and artist who is leading a national campaign to revive vanishing folk art and customs with support from the Ministry of Culture, disagreed. He said it is not important to have holidays to mark traditional festivals.  

“The government should declare a holiday for a festival only when the public are keen to celebrate it,” he said at the CPPCC session. “Traditional festivals will be meaningless if it is the government that wants people to celebrate them.”  

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