Declaration of National Day, October 1, 1949
"The People's Central Government of PRC is the only legal government to stand for all people of PRC. Our government is willing to establish diplomatic relationship with any foreign government that agrees to abide by the principles of equality, mutual benefit, mutual respect for territorial integrity..."
-Chairman Mao Zedong from the Announcement of the People's Central Government of PRC
The PRC's National Day was declared at three o'clock on October 1, 1949, in front of 300,000 people during a ceremony in Tian'anmen Square. Chairman Mao Zedong declared the founding of the People's Republic and waved the first five-star PRC flag.
Celebrating National Day
Called guoqqingjie or 国庆节 in Mandarin, the holiday celebrates the founding of the People's Republic of China by the Communist Party. In past times, the day was marked by large political gatherings and speeches, military parades, state banquets and the like. The last large military display took place for the sixtieth anniversary of the PRC founding in 2009 but parades take place in Beijing, Shanghai and the like every year.
Since 2000, as China's economy developed, the government has granted workers and students a seven-day holiday on and around October 1st. Typically a period of seven days are "holidays" with a weekend day or two being substituted for work days to give a seven-day holiday.
Traditions Around Chinese National Day
There are no real Chinese traditions around National Day since it is a relatively new holiday in the 5,000-year history of Chinese culture. People take the holiday to relax and travel. Increasingly, as the Chinese population grows wealthier, opulent overseas holidays are becoming more common. Furthermore, as more and more Chinese people buy their own vehicles, the government voids all tolls during the holiday and millions of families take to China's new and open freeways for road trips across the country.
Visiting China and Traveling during National Holidays
As mentioned above, with a week off, many Chinese travel domestically and internationally. What this means for visitors to China is that travel fares double and triple and advance bookings must be made weeks, even months ahead for all travel.
All of China's most popular tourist destinations will be packed with tourist groups. One year the authorities had to close the entrance to one of Sichuan Province's most famous destinations, Jiuzhaigou, because the national park could not handle the number of people visiting.
If you can avoid it, it is advisable not to travel domestically during the week around October 1st. The latest statistics released publicly are from 2000 but according to these, 59.82 million people traveled during National Day holidays that year. Over two-thirds of all hotel beds were booked in major tourist destinations such as Beijing and Shanghai.
That said, the time around the national holiday is really a lovely time to visit China. The weather is some of the mildest and it is perfect for outdoor activities all over the country. If you find you can't avoid travel in China at that time, just be very clear with your agency (or be aware when you are booking travel) that certain places will be extremely crowded. It's best to go to less popular areas or stay put somewhere during that travel week and relax with localized day trips. (Try Xizhou-Dali for one sample itinerary that would be suitable for this kind of holiday.)