Holidays in China used to be a tricky business as (as a western foreigner) you would suddenly find yourself with an empty fridge at home but with all the stores closed for a whole week on three occasions a year: Spring Festival, May Holiday, National Day. This scenario was quite common about ten years ago. Things have changed, however, as due to the increase in bilateral trade Chinese holidays had to get more in tune with the rest of the world. Today holidays stretch over a couple of days at the most (with more holidays having entered the fray) with all the supermarkets and most other places of commerce being closed for perhaps one day at the most. Exception: family run businesses which are still in the habit of taking a week or so off.
It feels like 1.4bn people in the Forbidden City
Holidays for foreigners
As a foreigner you may be tempted to take a trip during the holidays. If it was ten years ago I would advise against it as seemingly the whole country was on the move then. Today things have improved with most people moving about during the Spring Holiday and things being relatively calm at other times. You must be aware though that all things related become more dear during holidays (simple demand and supply logic) with hotels doubling their prices and cheap airline tickets being sold out the day they go on sale. Train tickets do not follow a yield pricing strategy but will be sold out early and trade on the black market at super premiums only.
Zhangjiajie in Hunan Province features dreamlike scenery
Holidays for migrant workers
The much needed but hardly appreciated migrant workers in the cities employ a completely different strategy: they aim to work in the big cities for ten to eleven months, then quit and go home to have a one or two months rest. This works for so long as the Chinese economy is booming and you can quit a job in the morning and have a new one by late afternoon. Since the migrant worker-employer relationship is generally a strained one neither one or the other party seems to care too much about employee loyalty or long term work development.
Migrant workers on their way home