A Look Back at China's Lunar New Year


| LAST UPDATE 02/02/2022

By Sharon Renee
lunar new year 2022
VCG / Contributor via Getty Images

For many people, January 1 is a date of great significance, a time to look back and reflect while a new chapter begins. But for roughly 2 billion people around the globe, their annual New Year looks very different. Not only does their ringing in of another year come weeks later, but it also calls for many rich traditions. Here's a closer look at the Lunar New Year...

Dating back as far as 14th century B.C., the Chinese New Year or the Spring Festival is a day marked by nationwide celebration. Typically falling between January 20 - February 20, the holiday lasts a full week, featuring traditions that serve as a reminder of the continual and colorful Chinese culture. Anything from family feasts - calling for dumplings, spring rolls, and other traditional dishes - to gift-giving and lantern festivals light up the households of those celebrating. Some celebrants also hand out red envelopes containing money, a symbol of prosperity and fortune. But where did it all begin?

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

It is believed that the historic festival dates back to the Shang Dynasty (14th century B.C.), where Emperor Wu of Han (140–87 B.C.) introduced several traditions at the start of the Chinese calendar each year. Centered around the first moon of the lunar calendar, the historic event called for dragon dancing, loud noises, and bright lights. "This holiday has ancient roots in China as an agricultural society. It was the occasion to celebrate the harvest and worship the gods and ask for good harvests," scholar Yong Chen explained. According to ancient legends, such worshiping included a myth about a figure named Nian, a monster who preyed on villagers at the start of each year. As a result, the firecrackers and red colors we see today were instated to scare off the ancient predator.

lunar new year history
Feng Li / Staff via Getty Images

But while Nian's presence is no longer as feared as it may have once been, the colorful traditions the beast brought about are still flourishing to this day. In fact, fast forward to February 1, 2022, and the Chinese New Year's ancient celebrations have officially commenced. Referred to as the Year of the Tiger, this year's Chinese zodiac symbol is said to represent power, majesty, and bravery. We hope those prophecies ring true for those celebrating. From our home to yours, happy holidays.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below