Happy Holidays (or how China likes to mess with your life)

"What are you going to do this holiday?" "Disco, of course"

Over the next few weeks, people living in China will enjoy a full ten days worth of public holidays. Fantastic, I hear you say. A nice chunk of time to sit back and watch the first three seasons of Mad Men (again), or perhaps book that holiday to Thailand you’ve been dreaming of all year. Technically, this is possible. However, China is not going to give you that much time to sit around and rearrange your DVD collection without a price. And that price is a complete bollocksing of your work and social schedules, to the point where you will need those ten precious days simply to recover from the annoyances that will bookend them.

Firstly, we have the Mid-Autumn Festival. To Chinese people it means coming together with family and sharing sickly sweet moon cakes (a moist red bean, nut, or if you’re particularly unlucky dried pork cake, with a bright yellow, preserved egg yoke in its centre). I love moon cakes, though stick strictly to the red bean and nut varieties, and have been known to hoard them in order to gorge post-festival. Much like a squirrel collects acorns. To Westerners, the Mid-Autumn Festival is the Chinese equivalent of Easter. You eat sweet things and are forced to get together with family members you don’t really like, all the while wondering why coming together once a year over Christmas isn’t sufficient.

In order to enjoy our moon cakes, the powers that be have granted us a three-day public holiday. Rather generous, I would have thought if it wasn’t for the fact we have to work two weekends in a row to make up for our sloth. That’s a giant f-you if I’ve ever seen one.

I am loath to return to my office. My inbox will be filled to the brim with messages that sound something like: “Where have you been? This very important document needed editing three days ago. We’ve now lost a million dollars because you didn’t return it in time.” I may have exaggerated a touch. Replace “million” with “hundred” and “very important” with “standard” and you’re closer to the truth. But you understand what I’m driving at: My ability to actually do my job has been thrown out the window along with the dried pork moon cakes.

I have one seven-day working week to make up for lost time and to plan ahead before being thrust, yet again, into another holiday debacle. This time it’s the big one, the seven-day National Holiday. Basically, it’s a lot of televised national pride presented by men in sequined tuxedos and women with glitter in their hair. ‘Tis a sad state of affairs.

Just like our good friend Mr. Mid-Autumn, the National Holiday requires the good people of China to work weekends as penance for their relaxation. This, I argue, is a pointless disruption of everybody’s life, and for what? Just accept that you’re not as generous as you’d like people to think, give us our weekends back and pare the “holidays” down to a smattering of casual Fridays. Everyone loves jeans in the office, especially if they’re acid wash.

So, if you’ve been wondering why my posts have been thin on the ground these past few weeks (read: nonexistent), it’s because I’ve been working weekends and late nights in order to prepare myself for the gift of public holidays that I am about to receive.

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