Celebrating the New Year but not always on the same Day or Month

December 30, 2015

The earliest recorded festivities in honor of a new year’s arrival 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—heralded the start of a new year.

If the first recorded New Year’s celebration was in March, how did it move 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.

Therefore, if you celebrate the New Year on January 1st, you are celebrating a pagan holiday. But all is not lost. Later, after the fall of the Roman Empire, Christian leaders in medieval Europe during the Dark Ages replaced January 1st as the first day of the year with days carrying more religious significance such as December 25, the anniversary of Jesus’s birth—until Pope Gregory XIII (Born 1502 – Died 1585) reestablished January 1st as New Year’s Day in 1582.

Countries that do NOT celebrate the New Year on the first of January

For China, the first day of the New Year falls between January 21 and February 20.  The Chinese New Year is celebrated at the turn of the Chinese calendar, also known as the Spring Festival.

The Chinese New Year gained significance because of several myths and traditions. History.com says, “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.”

Traditionally, the festival was a time to honor deities (gods) as well as ancestors. The Chinese New Year is celebrated in countries and territories that have significant Chinese populations, including Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mauritius, and the Philippines.

In 2015, China witnessed 261 million people on the move to celebrate the Lunar New Year holiday, and they traveled by road, rail and air—all over a short period of time. The Chinese Lunar New Year for 2016 takes place on Monday, February 8, and it is a national holiday that runs from February 7 – 13.

When we visited China in 2008 during this holiday, the Lunar New Year on February 7, the Year of the Rat, and 2016 will be the Year of the Monkey. Each year is related to an animal sign according to a 12-year-cycle. Years of the Monkey include 1920, 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016, and 2028.

Back during the Year of the Rat in 2008, my sister and her youngest daughter traveled with us as we toured China—and both are evangelical Christians who did not agree with China’s one-child policy. I heard this more than once but after they arrived in China and experienced that migration, they both stopped preaching about why the one-child policy was wrong.

At times, it was so crowded that it felt as if we were swimming upriver through an ocean of people minus the water—just people packed tight like sardines in a can.

That’s when I decided that my next trip to China will not be during any of China’s national holidays—especially the Lunar New Year.

For readers who haven’t been to China, this may be your only chance to experience a taste of what it is like to live in a country with more than 1.3 billion people. By the way, 261 million people are more than 82% of the population of the United States. Imagine the gridlock if that many Americans took to the roads and air all at once.

In China, it is so crowded on trains and busses during this holiday, that it’s possible for a passenger to end up standing for a trip that might take 16 to 48 hours.

For the United States in 2014, the Automobile Club reported that 98.6 million Americans traveled during the Christmas to New Year holiday season, a four percent increase over 2013.

2014 Lunar New Year in Beijing, China

Sounds like a War!

In 9th century China during the Tang Dynasty, Chinese alchemists, searching for the elixir of immortality, because the emperor wanted to live forever, accidently created gunpowder instead and then the invention of fireworks followed in the 10th century.


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the lusty love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

#1 - Joanna Daneman review posted June 19 2014

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China’s Holistic Historical Timeline

Yuan-Xiao Festival

February 17, 2011

The Yuan-Xiao Festival, which is also known as the Lantern Festival or the Sweet Dumpling Festival, arrives this time of year.

China Online.com says, “Chinese started to celebrate the Lantern Festival during the Han Dynasty (206 BC to 221 AD) then it regained popularity during the Tang and Song Dynasties.”

Yuan Xiao (
元宵 or 元宵節) is an ancient Chinese tradition that celebrates a new beginning and a fresh start on life.

This is a festival for people to have fun. On the night, people go to streets with a variety of lanterns under the full moon, watching Lion or Dragon Dances, playing Chinese riddles and games, enjoying the typical food called Yuan Xiao (sweet dumplings) and setting off firecrackers.

The sweet dumplings are made of glutinous rice flour and may be stuffed with either a sweet or a salty filling.  Sweet fillings may have walnuts, sesame seeds, osmanthus flowers, rose petals, tangerine peel, bean paste or jujube paste.

The salty Yuan Xiao is filled with a minced meat and/or vegetable mixture.

Traditionally, this day marks the end of celebrations of the Lunar New Year.

Lighting paper lanterns is a tradition during this festival, which is why it is also known as the Lantern Festival. The Lantern Festival was once a version of another Chinese Valentine’s Day but has been gradually losing its romantic allure while the Western Valentine’s Day is gaining in popularity among younger Chinese.

If you pay attention to Chinese holidays, eating is important.  China is an eating culture where family and friends gather to stuff themselves and have an enjoyable time.

Learn more of China’s Eating Culture


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too.

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China’s Fast Track Growth

February 13, 2010

Here’s more evidence that Robert Hart and Jack London were right when they predicted that China would be a super power again. These two Western men spent time in China, got to know the culture and realized the potential of the Chinese people.

Bullet trains, something the United States doesn’t have due to the national debt and partisanship between political parties more interested in who packs the pork barrel than running the country efficiently, have raced into China providing jobs for hundreds of thousands of Chinese and a faster, fuel efficient way to get around.

With the Lunar New Year and more Chinese traveling home than the population of Russia, another, fast, energy efficient means of public transportation was needed.  When the economy collapsed under President George W. Bush due to real estate, banks and Wall Street greed, the Democrats and Republican’s started pointing fingers at each other and throwing more debt around.

In China, where debt does not rule and the savings rate is 40%, instead of arguing and tossing blame about, the Chinese started working. Is this evidence that one political party is more efficient than two?

My thanks to Ian Carter for bringing the Chinese bullet trains to my attention–visit his Blog to “see” more of China, or discover why China is Studying Singapore


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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