By the end of January, the new year is already well underway. People have either abandoned their resolutions for the new year or are tirelessly pursuing them. However, for some around the world, the new year has yet to commence. In China, the New Year celebrations began Jan. 28.
China, and many other Asian countries, historically utilized a lunisolar calendar. The sequence of the calendar is dependent upon the moon’s phases and the sun’s longitude. On the other hand, most countries operate according to the solar-based Gregorian style calendar where a full year begins on Jan. 1 and ends on Dec. 31. In modern days, China has adjusted to accommodate the Gregorian style calendar in order to be in sync with its international counterparts, but the Chinese still observe many of the holidays and events assigned to its lunisolar calendar. As a result, the Chinese New Year begins later in the year for those that abide by the Gregorian calendar.
The Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, is an important holiday in China as celebrations last up to two or three weeks. Preparations for the holiday usually begin the week before New Year's Day, which falls on day 23 of the twelfth month of the lunar calendar. Festivities typically end two weeks into the first month of the lunar calendar or around February.
One of the biggest aspects of the Chinese New Year is the celebration of family and friends. Many people celebrate by hosting large reunion dinners with family members. Senior Larissa Qian compared the importance of family in the Chinese New Year celebrations to other holidays people celebrate.
“It's similar to Thanksgiving and Christmas in western culture, but a much bigger deal,” said Qian. “Unlike New Year's, there's definitely no partying or countdown associated with it. It's simply focused on showing gratitude for all your friends and family and being hopeful for the next zodiac year.”
The holiday also involves many customs and traditions that prepare the family for the year to come. As a result, many of the holiday’s traditions are carried out because they are believed to bring the person good luck into the new year. For example, the color red dominates clothing and decorations such as traditional Chinese lamps because it is believed to bring good fortune. Qian further explained that each year is represented by a new zodiac animal.
“There's also the idea that if it's your zodiac year, then you will be incredibly lucky that year,” said Qian.
Another important aspect of the holiday is the exchange of presents. In Chinese culture, family members give children and the elderly red envelopes filled with money. The amount of money put into envelopes, or “hong bao” as they are called in Mandarin, vary based on who is giving and receiving the envelope. Qian described a tradition her family follows in regards to the red envelopes.
“My parents like to predict how much other parents are going to give my brother and I in our red envelopes and match that number. It's a huge deal to not seem cheap in Chinese culture.”