BEIJING – How does the Chinese worker kick off the new year? With eight consecutive days of work, starting Friday.
Blame it on the country's notorious holiday calendar, which critics say has about as much respect for weekends as it does for logic.
Every year, the Chinese proletariat is subjected to a new twist in official scheduling that must take into account seven national holidays, four of which aren't anchored by the Gregorian calendar.
The results are several public holidays during the week that are essentially canceled out by forcing workers to make up for the lost production over the following weekends.
In 2013, employees in China are scheduled to work five Saturdays and seven Sundays.
All told, they'll face one eight-day workweek, three seven-day workweeks and two six-day workweeks this year.
The Chinese government prefers holidays in blocks of at least three days so that people can travel and spend. Chinese New Year, for example, is the peak period for retail sales each year.
Chinese workers also rely on national holidays for breaks because employers rarely offer substantial paid leave.
Still, many were left scratching their heads about the recent New Year's holiday -- which required workers to clock in Monday, then take Tuesday through Thursday off before starting an eight-day stretch of work.
"I truly wish they just let us off for one day on New Year's, or else don't give us any holidays at all," wrote a microblogger with the account name Qing Fei Mi Yu.
"Isn't this torture?" asked another microblogger named Su_Neiwan.
One province, Hainan, thought the scheme so inconvenient it rejected central government orders and gave everyone Monday off.
One theory, posited by Businessweek, for the unusual national New Year's holiday was that China wanted to pad its 2012 economic numbers by having people work Dec. 31.
If there's any consolation, it's that this year's schedule isn't nearly as complicated as 2010's, which baffled the masses because Mid-Autumn Festival did not overlap with the National Day holiday in October as it usually does.
Government planners concocted a schedule so confounding that people started repeating a sentence so they'd know when they were expected at work. It went: "One off, three on, three off, six on, seven off, two on and one off."