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Monday, February 8, 2016

When is Chinese New Year and Why is the Date Different Every Year?

I remember seeing these and never
understanding why the numbers
never matched the calendar I used.
When I was younger, I always wondered why Chinese New Year was on a different day every year. It just didn't make any sense to me. The same applies not only for other Chinese holidays but also for my parent's birthday. It made it so difficult to keep track of any dates relating to anything Chinese.

The culprit is actually the existence of different calendars. In the US, we use the Gregorian (solar) Calendar with its 12 months and 365 days a year (366 every leap year). In China, a "lunisolar" (yes, lunisolar, not lunar) calendar is used for marking traditional holidays. The lunisolar calendar is based on the cycles of the moon and usually the middle of the month is the full moon. A lunisolar calendar incorporates aspects of both the solar and lunar (used in Islamic countries) calendars.

Since this is a blog about all things Chinese, I am not going to go into the details of the different calendars. Basically all you need to know is that is is commonly referred to as 夏曆 ("xia li" in Mandarin and "ha lik" in Cantonese) and all you need to do is use a Chinese Lunar Calendar when figuring out the days for Chinese holidays. Most Chinese Calendars also comes with astrological information about whether the day is auspicious, lucky, etc. 
Finally, no more missed Birthday gifts and wishes for my parents.

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