Why is the date of Chinese New Year not fixed?

( ) Updated: 2016-01-11 11:27:15

Why is the date of Chinese New Year not fixed?

Writing character "Fu" to celebrate the Chinese New Year. "Fu" means luck, happiness, and prosperity in Chinese. [Photo/Xinhua]

2016 is the Year of the Monkey, but it doesn’t begin on Jan 1. The first day falls on Feb 8, which is known as Chinese New Year’s Day, or Spring Festival.

Chinese New Year is the most important festival for Chinese people. Although there are many interesting legends and stories explaining the festival’s beginnings, such as the legend of the Nian Monster, the main two reasons for the festival are to celebrate a year of hard work and relax with family, and to wish for a lucky and prosperous coming year.

The festival is celebrated on a different date each year but is always somewhere in the period from Jan 21 to Feb 20. Why don’t Chinese have a fixed day for their most important festival?

The date of Chinese New Year is based on the Chinese lunar calendar, not the internationally-used Gregorian calendar. Although China has used the Gregorian calendar for most official and business purposes since 1912, the traditional lunar calendar is still used to determine the days of important festivals, by some for celebrating birthdays, for agriculture, and even for Chinese astrology and choosing auspicious days for weddings.

In the lunar calendar, one year is divided into 12 months and the months have either 29 or 30 days, always beginning on days of astronomical new moons. So each year has 354 or 355 days. To make the average length of the years equal to a tropical year, an intercalary month is added every two or three years. As a result, an ordinary year has 12 months while a leap year has 13 months. And an ordinary year has 354, or 355 days, and a leap year has 384 or 385 days. So the first day of the first month in the lunar calendar, Chinese New Year’s Day, varies every year.

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