Chinese Customs & Festivals - Spring

Spring Festival

Spring Festival

Spring Festival is also known as Chinese New Year, the first day of first month in the lunar calendar, marking the beginning of Spring Festival. Lichun, however, marks the beginning of spring (first solar term) in the Chinese lunar calendar.

Under the lunar system, Chinese ancient astronomers marked off every fifteen days as one solar term, calculating the terms according to the positions of the Earth and the Sun. These terms are still used today, especially by the Chinese farmers in planning planting cycles. Lichun is the first day of one of the fifteen-day terms and usually falls about ten days after Chinese New Year. Just as Christmas is the most festive holiday in the Christian world, Spring Festival is the most important holiday in China. It lasts 15 days from the New Year to the Yuanxiao Festival, or “Lantern” Festival. Celebrations last for two weeks, and the State Council officially recognizes Spring Festival with a three-day national holiday.

On New Year's Eve, families get together to send off the old year and usher in a new one, which they hope will be rich in harvest, happiness and success. Everybody goes to bed later than usual. Some spend the night to watch the year go out, chatting or playing card games, watching TV and nibbling sweets and nuts and all sorts of delicacies. For the children, it is a treat to set off firecrackers and fireworks and you can hear them pop and bang throughout the night.

The first two days of the new year are spent visiting friends or relatives. Most people go back to work on the fourth day. In the countryside, however, festivities go on until the fifteenth day, the beginning of the Lantern Festival.

During Lantern Festival, people decorate their homes with colorful lanterns and treat themselves with Yuanxiao, a kind of glutinous rice flour ball stuffed with sweet filling or meat or dried cassia flower. Throughout China, lanterns of all kinds are put on display.

Revised June 13, 2011