Every winter, close to 17% of the world’s population, including more than 1 billion Chinese citizens, celebrate Chinese New Year. The 15-day festival, also known as the spring festival, kicks off on the second new moon after the winter solstice. That lands somewhere between Jan. 21 and Feb. 19 according to the Gregorian calendar, which started somewhere in the 16th century. The Chinese calendar, in comparison, goes back to the 14th century BC.
Although China officially adopted the Western calendar in 1912, Chinese New Year remains the country’s most important social and economic holiday. Over the centuries, festivities have stretched far beyond the mainland and all over the world. Ever since the Gold Rush in the 1840s and 50s brought a large wave of Chinese immigrant workers to northern California, one of the biggest celebrations takes place right there in the United States in San Francisco.
According to Chinese tradition, each year is named for one of the 12 animals associated with the Chinese zodiac. New Year’s parades traditionally carry a lot of dragons because the Chinese are said to be descendants from these mythical creatures. On the 15th day of the new year, known as the festival of lanterns, many people display paper lanterns in the shape of rabbits. These symbolize the Chinese goddess of the moon Chang’e who carried a rabbit with her when she jumped on the moon to prepare for Chinese New Year.
This year will be the Year of the Tiger, 虎年快乐!