History of Lunar New Year, Chinese New Year
Lunar New Year, Chinese Chunjie, Vietnamese Tet, Korean Solnal, and Tibetan Losar, also known as the Spring Festival, a festival usually celebrated in China and other Asian countries that begins on the first new moon of the lunar calendar and ends on the first full moon ends. is the most important festival in China. It is also the most important celebration for families and includes a week of official public holidays.
The history of the Chinese New Year celebration can be traced back almost 3,500 years. Chinese New Year has developed over a long period of time and its customs have gone through a long evolutionary process.
About 10 days before the start of the Lunar New Year, homes are thoroughly cleaned to ward off any bad luck, a process known as “sweeping the grounds”. Traditionally, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are reserved for family celebrations, including religious ceremonies honoring ancestors. Also on New Year’s Day, family members receive red envelopes (see Lai) containing small amounts of money.
When is Chinese New Year?
The date of the Chinese New Year is determined by the lunar calendar. The holiday falls on the second new moon after the winter solstice on 21 December. Every year the New Year in China falls on a different date than the Gregorian calendar. The dates are usually between 21 January and 20 February.
Why is it called the Spring Festival?
Even though it is winter, Chinese New Year is popularly known as the Spring Festival in China. Because it begins with the beginning of spring (the first of the twenty-four stanzas in coordination with the changes of nature), it marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring.
The Spring Festival marks a new year on the lunar calendar and represents the wish for a new life.
The Legend of the Origin of the Chinese New Year
The Chinese New Year is full of stories and myths. One of the most popular legends is about the mythical animal Nian (Year). He ate livestock, crops, and even people on New Year’s Eve.
To prevent Nian from attacking people and causing havoc, people leave food for Nian at their doorsteps.
It is said that a wise old man discovered that Nian was afraid of loud noises (firecrackers) and the color red. Therefore, people hang red lanterns and red scrolls on their windows and doors to prevent Nian from coming in. Sizzling bamboo (later replaced by firecrackers) was lit to drive the Nian away.
The Origin of the Chinese New Year in the Shang Dynasty
Chinese New Year has a history of about 3,500 years. Its exact start date is not recorded. Some believe that the Chinese New Year originated in the Shang Dynasty (1600–1046 BCE) when people held sacrificial ceremonies in honor of gods and ancestors at the beginning or end of each year.
Chinese calendar “year” was established in the Zhou dynasty
The term Nian first appeared in the Zhou Dynasty (1046–256 BCE). At the end of the year, it became a custom to offer sacrifices to ancestors or gods and worship nature to bless the harvest.
The date of the Chinese New Year was fixed in the Han Dynasty
The date of the festival, the first day of the first month in the Chinese lunar calendar, was fixed in the Han Dynasty (202 BC – 220 AD). Some festive activities became popular, such as burning bamboo to make a loud crackling sound.
Wei and Jin Dynasties
In the Wei and Jin dynasties (220–420 AD), people began to entertain themselves in addition to worshiping gods and ancestors. The customs of a family cleaning their house, eating dinner, and staying up late on New Year’s Eve originated among the common people.
More Chinese New Year Activities from the Tang to Qing Dynasties
The prosperity of economies and cultures during the Tang, Song, and Qing dynasties spurred the development of the Spring Festival. The customs during the festival became similar to modern times.
The bursting of firecrackers, meeting relatives and friends, and eating dumplings became an essential part of the celebration.
Dancing and fireworks are prevalent during the holiday, which culminates in the Lantern Festival, which is celebrated on the last day of New Year’s celebrations. Homes are lit with colorful lanterns on this night, and traditional foods such as yuan jiao (glutinous rice balls that symbolize family unity), fagao (prosperity cake), and yu sheng (raw fish and vegetable salad) are served.
More recreational activities began, such as watching dragon and lion dances during temple fairs and enjoying lantern shows.
The celebration of the spring festival changed from religious to fun and social, as it is today.
In modern times
In 1912, the government abolished the Chinese New Year and the lunar calendar. Instead, it adopted the Gregorian calendar and officially started the new year on 1 January.
After 1949, the Chinese New Year has renamed the Spring Festival. It was listed as a nationwide public holiday.
The origin of the Lunar New Year celebration dates back thousands of years and is steeped in legends. One legend is that of the Nian, a terrifying beast who is believed to eat human flesh on New Year’s Day. Because Nian feared the color red, loud noises, and fire, red paper decorations were pasted on doors, lanterns were lit all night, and firecrackers were lit to scare the animal.
Nowadays, many traditional activities are disappearing but new trends have arisen. The CCTV (China Central Television) Spring Festival Gala, online shopping, WeChat red envelopes, and overseas travel make the Chinese New Year more interesting and colorful.