In China, it’s possible to celebrate a new year twice each year in different months – once during the western New Year based on the Gregorian calendar (December 31, 2017), and a second time during the Lunar New Year (February 16, 2018).
December 31, 2016, in Beijing
The earliest recorded festivities to welcome a new year date back some 4,000 years to ancient Babylon. For the Babylonians, the first new moon following the vernal equinox, a day in late March with an equal amount of sunlight and darkness, announced the start of a new year.
If the first recorded New Year’s celebration was in March, why was it moved to January 1st? The answer may be found at History.com where we discover that Emperor Julius Cesar introduced the Julian calendar, which closely resembles the more modern Gregorian calendar that most countries use today, and Cesar made January 1st the first day of the year, partly to honor the month’s namesake, Janus, the Roman god of beginnings.
December 31, 2016, in Hong Kong
The Chinese Lunar New Year gained significance because of several myths and traditions. History.com reports, “The ancient Chinese calendar, on which the Chinese New Year is based, functioned as a religious, dynastic and social guide. Oracle bones inscribed with astronomical records indicate that it existed as early as the 14th century BC, when the Shang Dynasty was in power (1600 – 1046 B.C.).”
Traditionally, the lunar new year festival was a time to honor deities (gods) as well as ancestors, and it is celebrated in countries and territories that have large Chinese populations, including Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mauritius, and the Philippines.
Lunar New Year Celebration at Shanghai Disneyland in early 2017
For readers who haven’t been to China, this is your chance to experience what it is like to live in a country with more than 1.3 billion people. In China, during major national holidays, there are a lot of people on the move and it becomes so crowded on trains and buses during this time, it’s possible for a passenger to end up standing for a trip that might take hours because the more expensive seats were sold out.
Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.
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