Updated on 5/29/2020
International Children’s Day is celebrated on June 1st in China. This year’s celebrations are most likely going to look different than previous years to some extent, though many businesses have re-opened in China.
One of my online ESL classes recently had a unit all about holidays. We started with traditional holidays like Spring Festival and Mid-Autumn Festival, then moved onto modern Chinese festivals like National Day and International Children’s Day. Finally, we discussed Western holidays like Halloween and Christmas. To wrap up the unit, I asked each student to pick their favorite holiday and describe what they do, eat, or where they go to celebrate. The trick was that they couldn’t say the holiday name, so the other students had to guess.
I thought that most students might pick Chinese New Year or the Mooncake Festival because they have a long holiday break and get to eat delicious food. But nope. They all described Children’s Day when they go to the movies for free, eat hamburgers, and play outside. As a kid, I think this would have been an easy pick for me, too. With the pandemic, all of these activities hold even more significance since it has only been in the past month that cinemas have re-opened in China, and children have been allowed to go outside to play in parks.1
Children’s Day history began in the 1930s in China, and it used to be celebrated on April 4th. However, the date was changed in 1949 with the foundation of International Children’s Day. That year, the Democratic Federation of Women declared June 1st as the official date and the purpose of the holiday was to bring attention to children’s welfare and protection. Unlike traditional Chinese festivals, it’s easy to remember when is Children’s Day since it always falls on this date.
Although almost 50 countries celebrate on June 1st for International Children’s Day, countries celebrate the holiday throughout the year. Here in Mexico, where I am currently located, celebrations were on April 30th, and I saw many promotions for free ice cream and other treats around my city. The UN adopted November 20th as Universal Children’s Day, so many countries also observe the holiday on this day, too.
In China, Children’s Day is for primary and middle school students until they are 14 years old. Celebrations vary. In previous years, many schools would have student performances and class parties while other schools would opt to celebrate with field trips to the museum or the park. Now, with schools only now re-opening in China due to the pandemic, celebrations will most likely take place at home with family members rather than at school. Businesses may still offer promotions or discounts during the holiday such as free movies or admission to certain amusement parks that have re-opened.2 The students only attend school for half a day, which is usually spent doing fun activities. Their parents may also take the day off to spend extra time with them. Nowadays, it’s also common for parents to give their children toys on June 1st.
Children’s Day has also become popular among young adults, too. Although they are no longer children, this age group remembers the fun and relatively carefree times from their youth. While you will see many children with parents standing in socially distanced lines for movies or for a hamburger, you may also see nostalgic twenty-somethings treating themselves to snacks and looking back on their childhood.
This week, I plan to ask my students how they celebrated Children’s Day this year. How are your students celebrating this holiday this time around?
Don’t forget to wish them Happy Children’s Day in Chinese by saying: “儿童节快乐！” (értóng jié kuàilè )
Citations for “How is International Children’s Day Celebrated in China?”
1 Kleiman, J. (2020, April 08). Attraction closures and re-openings. Retrieved May 29, 2020, from http://www.inparkmagazine.com/attraction-closures-and-reopenings/
Delanie Honda has a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature and a Master’s degree in International Education Policy from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. While in Cambodia in 2014, she discovered she had a passion for helping students around the world achieve their academic, professional, and personal goals through language learning. During her Master’s studies, she researched interventions using technology to provide quality education to students around the world. She has been a tutor with ALO7 since April 2017 and lived in Southeast Asia, Ecuador and Colombia.
The digital nomad lifestyle has allowed her to pursue the two things she loves: travel and education. As a Chinese-Japanese American, Delanie is asked, “Where are you from?” a lot, but welcomes the opportunity to share her culture with the people she meets from around the world. Her favorite things to do while traveling are trying new foods, playing Ultimate Frisbee, and exploring on foot.