The Chinese New Year, commonly known as the Spring Festival, is the most important festival of China, observed for more than 3,000 years. In 1921, China
adopted the Gregorian calendar and called the first day of January New Year’s Day, while the first day of the first month of the Chinese Lunar year was renamed the Spring Festival to distinguish the New Year of the
Gregorian calendar from that of the lunar calendar13
The Lunar calendar divides the year into twelve months. Each month has 29 or 30 days and begins with the appearance of the new moon. In every 30 months
there is an extra month to make the adjustment to solar time. In 1987, for example, there were two ‘sixth moons’.
The festival is traditionally observed from 16th of the 12th month until the 15th of the first month16. The Lunar New Year itself may occur as early as
January 21st and as late as February 21st. To grasp its full significance, one must realise the great importance attached by the Chinese to rites associated with rebirth or renewal, since success or failure in any
undertaking depends on these rites.
On the one hand the Chinese New Year is a time for reunion, at the same time it represents a renewal of the spirit. If one starts off the new year well,
everything one does throughout the year will be crowned with success, happiness and health. This time of the year is considered to be particularly auspicious. Everything is done, therefore, to ensure that the year
begins well. But changes of social, economic and religious milieu have affected the manner the rituals are observed. While all Chinese celebrate the New Year, not all its rituals are necessarily observed. Some
Chinese Christians, for example, may consider the occasion as mainly cultural or social; other Chinese would go both to the church and to the pagoda to pray. Ritual observances vary a great deal, according to family
structure, religious milieu and individual perception. This is true with regard to other festivities as well. However, among the Chinese, regardless of religious and other cultural affiliations, a form of ‘cultural
behaviour’ is gradually establishing itself.