Chinese New Year commonly referred to as the Spring Festival is an annual 15-day festival to celebrate New Year’s beginning.
This year, the Chinese New Year celebration will begin on 12th February, and it will last till 26th February. It is also called the Chinese Lunar New Year or Lunar New Year because the celebration dates are based on the lunisolar Chinese calendar. Hence the date for Chinese New Year changes every year.
Read on to explore Chinese New Year history.
The history of the Chinese New Year goes back to over 3500 years. According to the legends, the festival’s origin can be traced back to the Shang Dynasty (1600-1046 BC) when people worshipped Gods and ancestors at the beginning of the end of each year.
During the Western Zhou Dynasty (1046-256 BC), people made it a custom to begin agriculture on New Year celebrations. They offered sacrifices to ancestors or Gods and worshipped nature to bless harvests.
In the Han dynasty (202 BC – 220 AD), the first day of the first month in the Chinese lunar calendar was fixed as the festival’s date. Some of the rituals became popular, including ceremonial gathering and using fireworks in the form of burning bamboo to make a loud noise.
In the Wei and Jin dynasties (220-420), people indulged in entertaining activities apart from worshipping Gods and ancestors. The tradition of families getting together to have a reunion dinner, cleaning and decorating their house originated in this period.
In the Tang dynasty, the Chinese New Year celebration took a shift from worshipping and praying to social entertainment. People started displaying riddles on lanterns. They got public holidays for staying and celebrating with family members.
During the Song dynasty, firecrackers loaded with gunpowder came into the celebration. From Song to the Qing dynasty, the Chinese New Year celebration became more of social interaction. People began to meet friends and relatives, exchange gifts, and indulge in fun activities. The entertaining activities such as lion dance, dragon dance, and Shehuo performance started getting popular in this period.
In 1912, the government decided to eliminate the lunar calendar and Lunar New Year and implemented the Gregorian calendar instead. People were not willing to change the tradition; therefore, they kept both calendar systems and used the Gregorian calendar in schools and government organizations. After 1949, Chinese New Year was listed as a nationwide public holiday, and people started getting holidays at schools and workplaces.