Intrigued by Chinese New Year falling on a different date each year?
Well, you are not the first one, nor will you be the last one. This fact puzzles many. However, the explanation is fairly simple—and completely logical.
Spring begins every year around 4th Feb, according to the Western Calendar. The first day of the Chinese New Year is the New Moon closest to spring. Precisely for this reason, the Chinese New Year is also known as the Spring Festival.
The festival comes to an end 15 days later on Full Moon Day. This day is celebrated as Lantern Festival. Chinese New Year always starts between 21st Jan and 21st Feb.
But what’s the reason behind ‘constantly-changing’ Chinese New Year dates?
Well, to understand this, you must understand Chinese lunar calendar, on which Chinese New Year is based.
As you might have learned in your Mandarin classes in Singapore, every lunar month begins on the ‘new moon’ day, that is, the day when the distance between the sun and the moon is the least. On average, every lunar month contains 29.5 days. Some months have 29 days and some other 30 days.
Multiplying 12 by 29.5 is 354 days, 11 days fewer than 365 ¼ days. In other words, one can say is that the Chinese calendar is 11 days faster than the Gregorian calendar.
So how does the Chinese calendar keep in line with the Gregorian calendar, followed by most of the world?
Well, it does by inserting a 13th month, though not every year. Seven years in every nineteen years are 13-month year in the Chinese calendar. This way the Chinese calendar stays in line with the Gregorian calendar.
There are 12 animals in Chinese Zodiac, and every year in the Chinese calendar is named after one of these 12 animals. The 12 animals of Chinese Zodiac are as follows: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig.
The year 2017 is the year of Rooster.
Common Traditions Linked to the Chinese New Year
Families celebrate the New Year together and people wish each other prosperity and peace for the new year. Family reunion dinner is the highlight of the Chinese New Year celebrations.
Red lanterns and decorations are seen in homes, offices, and streets during this time. In the Chinese tradition, the color red is a symbol of prosperity and good luck. Another tradition associated with the Chinese New Year celebrations is that of the older generation giving red pockets containing lucky money.
One less pleasurable side of Chinese New Year tradition is cleaning. The Chinese people believe when you sweep the house, you also remove evil spirits from it. However, families keep aside brooms on this auspicious day so that they don’t accidentally cast away good luck!
Saying Happy New Year in Mandarin Chinese
Those who are learning Chinese in Singapore or are living in Mainland China or Singapore would probably know this already. If you want to wish someone ‘Happy New Year’ in Chinese, say ‘Xin Nian Kuai Le’.