In a calendar I saw this in reference to the Children's Day:
Happy Children's Day!
I guess 六一 is a shorter form of 6月1日.
Is that form of writing dates only used for special dates? How widespread is that usage?
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This form of abbreviation is only reserved for special dates. Some popular Chinese holidays take this abbreviated form:
Any date can potentially become "special" following a major event or incident that occurred on that date or for a short period of time surrounding the said date. The abbreviated form is, therefore, used to identify the event:
This is predicated on the fact that the listener is fully aware of both the date and the event in question. The abbreviated form would be meaningless otherwise.
A dot, "·", may be added between the month and the day in writing, especially when there is a possible ambiguity:
The reading stays the same, however.