Congratulations! Today, Chinese New Year officially takes its place — the massive celebration starts all over the world. But what is the Chinese New Year? What does it have to do with astronomy? And is Chinese New Year the only festival that begins today? We’ll explain this in simple words in the following article.
What is the Chinese New Year?
As you can guess from the name, Chinese New Year is the start of a new year celebrated in China, some neighboring countries, and Chinese communities throughout the world. This event is also known as the Spring Festival and marks the end of the winter’s coldest period and the beginning of the spring season. The celebration often continues for the first 15 days of the new month with a culmination in the Lantern Festival on the Full Moon.
What is the reason for the Chinese New Year?
So you may be wondering, why is there a different New Year date in some countries? The thing is, the Gregorian calendar familiar to Western people is used in China only for day-to-day life. For traditional holidays, like the New Year and the Moon Festival, a special Chinese calendar is used.
The Chinese lunisolar calendar was formed due to the development of astronomy in the country — sometime around the 14th century B.C. Chinese people paid significant attention to different processes in nature and their connection with astronomical events.
How does a lunisolar calendar work?
The lunisolar calendar is a combination of solar and lunar calendars. In this calendar, each year has 12 regular lunar months of 29 or 30 days — as the length of an average lunar cycle. The first day of the month begins during the new Moon when no sunlight falls on the lunar hemisphere that faces the Earth.
Usually, there are 12 lunar months in a Chinese calendar year. To catch up with the solar calendar, which averages 365.25 days in a year, an extra leap month is added to the Chinese calendar every two or three years. As a result, according to the Gregorian calendar, Chinese New Year falls on different dates each year — between January 21 and February 21. Also, the winter solstice — the moment when the Sun reaches its most southern point in the sky — must always occur in the 11th month.
When is the Chinese New Year this year?
The Chinese New Year date coincides with the new Moon in China, which this year falls on February 12. The exact time of the New Moon is February 11, 2021, at 2:08 p.m. EST (19:08 GMT).
Typically, the Chinese New Year begins on the second new Moon following the winter solstice; if there is a leap month, the new year starts on the third new Moon after the winter solstice.
Are the Chinese New Year and the Lunar New Year the same thing?
The Chinese New Year is sometimes wrongly called the Lunar New Year since they have a lot in common, but these aren’t the same events. The Chinese New Year marks the first day of the first month in the Chinese calendar. Lunar New Year marks the first day of the first month in any moon cycle based calendar.
The Chinese New Year and the Lunar New Year can have different dates: lunar new years are celebrated on different dates by other cultures. And vice versa, they can have the same date but different names, like in Vietnam, where the Lunar New Year is called Tet.
As you can see, astronomy influence can be found anywhere, even in the most unexpected places. We hope this article was useful to you!
Wishing you clear skies and happy stargazing!