Updated: Feb 1
Today marks the first day of the new year according to the Chinese Calendar. Modern China, like most countries in the world, uses the Gregorian calendar for civil and business purposes. China resisted the Gregorian calendar for a long time but it was finally introduced in 1912 but was not widely used until the Communist victory in 1949.
However, Chinese communities around the world still use the traditional Chinese calendar to determine auspicious dates (for weddings, moving, or other important life events) and festivals like the Lunar New Year.
The Gregorian Calendar, the most widely used around the world, is based on the revolution of the Earth around the Sun. It is a Solar Calendar. A lot of cultures in history had based their calendar on the observation of the Sun. In some traditions, though, time was tracked using the moon as a reference. That is the case with the Islamic Calendar which is a Lunar Calendar.
The Chinese Calendar is a Lunisolar Calendar that combines both the Sun and the Moon to track and measure time.
The Chinese calendar uses the Sun to divide the Year into 4 seasons. Each season is then divided into 6 sections which give rise to the 24 solar terms. The Earth rotates around the Sun in a 360º circle. When we divide 360º into 24, we obtain 15º. Therefore, the 24 Solar terms represent the length of the period in which the Earth moves around the orbit by 15º which is also 15 days.
The 24 Solar terms were coined by the close observations of Nature and in such are agriculture related. It makes me think of the use of the Almanach here in the West. The 24 Solar terms are as follows:
Start of Spring
Start of Summer
Start of Autumn
Start of Winter
Limit of Heat
Grain in Ear
Clear and Bright
The Lunar part of the Chinese calendar uses the position of the moon in relation to the sun seen from the Earth, what we know as the moon phases. In this type of calendar, each month starts with the new moon. When the full moon appears, it is the middle of the month. The time of a full moon circle is exactly 29.53 days. In order to make it easier to use, months alternate between 29 and 30 days. Inconveniently, this adds up to 354 days per year roughly 11 days short of the actual time it takes the Earth to complete one full orbit around the sun: 365 days.
Just like we do with the use of the leap day every four years in February in the Gregorian calendar, to remedy this discrepancy a 13th month is added to the traditional Chinese calendar approximately once every three years.
The Lunar New Year
The month with its first day nearest the Start of Spring (the first solar term) is the first lunar month, and it is on that day that the Lunar New Year, also known as the Spring Festival or Chinese New Year, is held. It usually varies between January 20th and February 20th.
Influence on our health
Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on the principle that to experience a balanced life and be healthy we must conform and act accordingly to Nature. The Lunisolar Chinese Calendar offers us useful information to harmonize our diet, activities and times of rest in order to achieve this goal.
The Solar terms not only give us guidance about agricultural activities but also helps us to choose more wisely what we should eat and do in each specific period.
The moon also has a very important influence on our health. Each phase of the moon represents the changing character of the yin and yang forces in nature. The Full Moon phase is the more Yang and it is when our Qi and Blood are also full. During this period, it is better to have calming activities and when practicing Qigong, do not choose Tonifying exercises. On the other end, during the more Yin phase, the New Moon phase, our Qi and Blood are at their lowest point, and consequently, our immune system is more fragile. It is then better, during this period of the month, to avoid purging exercises and act carefully in our day-to-day life to protect ourselves from potential pathogenic factors.
As stated in the Yellow Emperor's Classic of Medicine, " One must follow the changes of nature to properly regulate Qi and Blood."
Time to celebrate!
There are many ways to celebrate the Lunar New Year. Traditionally, Chinese people would clean their entire homes just a few days before the beginning of the New Year. A clean house helps to support health and, according to Feng Shui principles, can also increase our productivity and bring positivity to all aspects of our life.
After cleaning, houses will be decorated with the color red, and dumplings and long noodles will be on the menu for the celebrations.
Happy New Year!