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History of Chinese New Year

China’s most significant holiday is Chinese New Year, sometimes referred to as Lunar New Year or Spring Festival. In addition, it is the biggest family celebration, with a full week of official public holidays.

The Chinese New Year celebration has a long history that dates back to roughly 3,500 years ago. The traditions surrounding Chinese New Year have developed over a considerable amount of time.

When is Chinese New Year?

The lunar calendar determines the Chinese New Year’s date. The holiday is observed on December 21, the second new moon following the winter solstice. Chinese New Year’s Day is always observed on a different date than the Gregorian calendar. Typically, the dates fall between January 21 and February 20.

Why is it called the Spring Festival?

In China, the Chinese New Year is widely referred to as the Spring Festival, even though it is winter. It signifies the end of winter and the start of spring because it begins with the Beginning of Spring, the first of the twenty-four terms in accordance with the changes of Nature.

On the lunar calendar, the Spring Festival signifies the start of a new year and the wish for a fresh start.

Legend of the Origin of Chinese New Year

There are many myths and stories surrounding Chinese New Year. The legend of the mythical beast Nian (Year) is among the most well-known. On the eve of the new year, he consumed crops, livestock, and even humans.

People place food at their doors for Nian in an effort to stop him from attacking them and wreaking havoc.

It is said that a wise old man realised that Nian was afraid of red and loud noises, such as firecrackers. To prevent Nian from entering, people hung red scrolls and lanterns over their doors and windows. To frighten Nian away, crackling bamboo was lit (later replaced by firecrackers).

Chinese New Year’s Origin in the Shang Dynasty

There have been Chinese New Years for roughly 3,500 years. Its precise start date is unknown. Some people think that the origins of Chinese New Year can be traced back to the Shang Dynasty (1600–1046 BC), when people celebrated the start or end of each year with sacrifices made in honour of gods and ancestors.

Chinese Calendar “Year” Established in the Zhou Dynasty

The Zhou Dynasty is when the term “Nian” first emerged (1046–256 BC). It had become customary to worship nature and make sacrifices to ancestors or gods in order to bless harvests at the beginning of the year.

Chinese New Year Date Was Fixed in the Han Dynasty

During the Han Dynasty (202 BC–220 AD), the festival’s date—the first day of the first month in the Chinese lunar calendar—was set. Some celebration rituals gained popularity, like cracking loudly while burning bamboo.

 In the Wei and Jin Dynasties

In the Wei and Jin dynasties (220–420 AD), people started to amuse themselves in addition to worshipping gods and ancestors. Common people are the ones who first established the traditions of families getting together to clean their home, eating dinner, and staying up late on New Year’s Eve.

More Chinese New Year Activities from the Tang to Qing Dynasties

The Spring Festival developed more quickly during the Tang, Song, and Qing dynasties due to the economic and cultural prosperity of those periods. The festival’s customs started to resemble contemporary ones.

Using firecrackers, spending time with family and friends, and consuming dumplings all became significant aspects of the festivities.

More enjoyable events emerged, like taking in lantern shows and watching lion and dragon dances during the Temple Fair.

The Spring Festival’s purpose shifted from being religious to being more like a social and entertainment event, more like the ones of today.

In Modern Times

The lunar calendar and Chinese New Year were outlawed by the government in 1912. Instead, it switched to the Gregorian calendar, with January 1st serving as the official start of the new year.

Chinese New Year was renamed the Spring Festival after 1949. It was declared a public holiday across the country.

Many of the customs of the past are vanishing nowadays, but new ones have emerged. Chinese New Year is made more colourful and interesting by the CCTV (China Central Television) Spring Festival Gala, internet shopping, WeChat red envelopes, and international travel.

The Unique Essence of Chinese New Year: A Celebration Beyond Time

Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival or Lunar New Year, is a vibrant and culturally rich celebration that differs significantly from the conventional January 1 New Year observed by many around the world. This ancient festival is deeply rooted in history, tradition, and symbolism, making it a unique and fascinating event. Let’s delve into the history of Chinese New Year, uncover the meaning behind the lunar calendar, explore the essence of this festive occasion, and understand when and how it all begins.

Lunar New Year Meaning:

Unlike the Gregorian calendar, which is solar-based, Chinese New Year follows the lunar calendar. The lunar calendar is based on the moon’s phases, with each month corresponding to a complete lunar cycle. This makes Chinese New Year a movable feast, falling between January 21 and February 20 each year. The significance of the lunar calendar lies in its connection to agricultural cycles, a crucial aspect in traditional Chinese society. The lunar calendar’s reliance on nature adds a deeper layer of meaning to the festival, emphasizing the cyclical nature of life, renewal, and the importance of harmony with the environment.

What Is Chinese New Year About:

Chinese New Year is about much more than just fireworks, lanterns, and feasting. At its core, the festival is a time for family reunion, paying respects to ancestors, and embracing cultural heritage. The celebrations typically last for 15 days, starting from the first day of the lunar new year and ending with the Lantern Festival. During this time, families come together for sumptuous feasts, exchange red envelopes (hongbao) for good luck and prosperity, and participate in traditional activities like dragon and lion dances. Symbolic rituals, such as cleaning the house to sweep away bad luck and welcoming the Kitchen God back to the home, further enhance the festival’s depth and meaning.

When Does Chinese New Year Start:

The starting date of Chinese New Year varies each year, but it generally falls between January 21 and February 20. The festival commences on the first day of the lunar new year and culminates with the Lantern Festival on the 15th day. Preparations typically begin weeks in advance, with families cleaning their homes, buying new clothes, and stocking up on festive foods. The eve of Chinese New Year is marked by a festive reunion dinner, symbolizing the coming together of family members to welcome the new year.

Conclusion:

Chinese New Year is a celebration that transcends time, weaving together history, tradition, and the cyclical nature of life. Its unique position as a lunar new year, combined with rich symbolism and cultural practices, sets it apart from other global new year festivities. As the world continues to marvel at the spectacle of Chinese New Year, it is essential to appreciate the festival’s deep roots and the meaningful traditions that have been passed down through generations, fostering a sense of unity and cultural pride.

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