Holiday Differences between Mainland China and Hong Kong (SAR)

Updated: 6 days ago



Tis’ the season to be jolly,

fa la la!


With all the festivities going on around us here in Hong Kong, it’s hard to imagine that not all places in the world are experiencing the same level of cheer and excitement for the New Year!


It’s true most Chinese people do not celebrate Christmas at all. This is especially true in rural and minority areas where Western and Christian influence is minimal. And while Christmas is also not a public holiday in Mainland China, the commercial element of Christmas has become a major annual event in major cities there. On the streets and in department stores there are Christmas trees, lights and decorations. You'll hear Christmas music playing from the end of November over the noise of the crowds shopping for Christmas season promotions. A Chinese "Father Christmas" (圣诞老人 Shèngdàn Lǎorén /shnng-dan laoww-rnn/) helps to make the scene complete.


The Western New Year is based on the solar calendar, while the Chinese New Year is based on the lunar calendar. Because it depends on the moon, the date of Chinese New Year actually changes each year, but it will always fall sometime between 21 January and 20 February, when many people around the world are already well into their New Year. The upcoming Chinese New Year will be celebrated on the 12th – 14th February 2021.


Senior English tutor at ME Education, Steve, lets us in on some of the differences around the holidays in a Mainland Chinese school vs. Hong Kong SAR schools.


Christmas is intended to be a religious holiday commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, although many western people have absorbed the tradition without the religious aspects. The joy, giving and goodwill permeates across all cultures and beliefs and it is a happy and generous time of year for most.


The Chinese New Year celebration, also known as the Spring Festival, is the most important celebration in the Chinese calendar. It has links to agrarian society when the Chinese used to pray for success during the coming farming year. Later religious practices, like Buddhism and ancestor worship, also attached themselves to the holiday.


Students in Hong Kong will get to enjoy the full Christmas and New Year break. Holidays usually begin mid-way through December and only end in early January. It’s a time for people to celebrate the end of the old year and the beginning of the New Year. Gifts, trees, carols, and tinsel are everywhere and once the presents are unwrapped, it’s time to light the fireworks to welcome in the coming year.


These holidays fall in line with the rest of the western world and are generally celebrated with much joy and cheer.


It’s true most Chinese people do not celebrate Christmas at all. This is especially true in rural and minority areas where Western and Christian influence are minimal. And while Christmas is also not a public holiday in Mainland China, the commercial element of Christmas has become a major annual event in major cities there. On the streets and in department stores there are Christmas trees, lights and decorations. You'll hear Christmas music playing from the end of November over the noise of the crowds shopping for Christmas season promotions. A Chinese "Father Christmas" (圣诞老人 Shèngdàn Lǎorén /shnng-dan laoww-rnn/) helps to make the scene complete.


Most Chinese people who celebrate Christmas do so as a happy occasion for get-togethers of friends, relatives and couples. Christmas parties might be held at a friend's house, McDonald's, a karaoke café, restaurant or bar. There is a festive atmosphere and people enjoy the decorations and music. Many younger Chinese see it as a romantic holiday for couples to exchange gifts and date.


So across the way, in Mainland China, schools remain open for the Christmas period but come February, the country comes to a standstill for almost a full month.


Chinese New Year comes with all its own traditions and exciting celebrations. Everyone puts up beautiful decorations and families get together over reunion dinners on New Year's Eve. The holiday has become famous for the exquisite firework displays that can be seen from all around the country. People hand out Lai see or red envelopes as well as other traditional gifts.


Chinese New Year comes with all its own traditions and exciting celebrations. Everyone puts up beautiful decorations and families get together over reunion dinners on New Year's Eve. The holiday has become famous for its exquisite firework displays that can be seen from all around the country. People hand out Lai see or red envelopes as well as other traditional gifts.


The festivities continue, culminating in a special lantern festival, which signals the end of the New Year celebration period.


While it may be strange for students coming from the Mainland to have to adjust their holiday schedules to a different calendar, its best to know what you can expect beforehand so it doesn’t come as a shock to the system.


The good news is, Chinese New Year is also celebrated in Hong Kong, although not to the extent it is celebrated in Mainland China.


No matter how you celebrate, may your year be filled with an abundance of smiles, joy, love and laughter.


We look forward to welcoming all our students, new and old in the New Year.

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