Spring FestivalSpring Festival (春节), also known as Chinese New Year, is the most important tradition in China. More often than not, Chinese people prefer to call it Xin Nian (新年) or Guo Nian (过年) which literally means to celebrate the Spring Festival. In the narrow sense, Spring Festival refers to the Chinese New Year’s Eve and Chinese New Year’s Day. However, broadly speaking, it stretches from Lunar December 23rd or 24th of the year to Lunar January 15th of the next year according to Chinese lunar calendar. As is known to all, Spring Festival is the most important festival in China. It is celebrated by the Han nationality and most of Chinese minority nationalities except the Tibetan, Bai, and Dai nationalities. The Spring Festival in the minority region often carries distinctive ethnic color, which is quite different from that of the Han people. Spring Festival has many symbolic meanings. It symbolizes not only a farewell to the old year and a welcome to the brand-new year but also the reunion of family members. Year by year, when the Spring Festival approaches, numerous Chinese far away from home hurry back home in succession for the family reunion. To go back home when the Spring Festival draws near is deeply rooted in Chinese personality. It is something of Chinese characteristic branded indelibly on every Chinese.

Origination of the Spring Festival

According to historical records, the origination of the Spring Festival traces back more than 4,000 years ago to the reign of Shun, a legendary monarch said to have ruled ancient China around 2200 B.C. It is said that on the day when Shun succeeded Yao as the new leader of the country, he led his people to offer sacrifice and worshipping rituals to the heaven and the earth. And from then on, people treated the day as the beginning of a new year, namely Zheng Yue Chu Yi (正月初一), and started to hold celebrations on the day annually. However, Zheng Yue Chu Yi didn’t fall on the same day in different dynasties. For example, in the Xia Dynasty, it was the first day of Lunar January but in the Shang Dynasty it was Lunar December 1st. And in the Qin Dynasty it is Lunar October 1st that was officially acknowledged by the first feudal emperor of China – Qinshihuang as Zheng Yue Chu Yi. Later in the Han Dynasty, Han Wu Di, the seventh emperor of the dynasty, re-specified Lunar January 1st as Zhen Yue Chu Yi. From then on, Zheng Yue Chu Yi was fixed on Lunar January 1st.

Spring Festival had different names in different periods. Before the Qin Dynasty, it was called Shang Ri, Yuan Ri, Gai Sui, or Xian Sui, etc. In the period of the Han Dynasty, it was named San Chao, Sui Dan, Zheng Dan, or Zheng Ri, etc. In the Qin Dynasty, it was called Yuan Dan or Yuan Ri. In 1912, Dr. Sun Yat-sen became the temporary president of the Republic of China. He abolished the traditional lunar calendar and replaced it by solar calendar. January 1st was acknowledged as the New Year. However, the folks were still allowed to use the lunar calendar and the traditional festival went on as usual. In July, 1913, Yuan Shikai acknowledged Zheng Yue Chu Yi (Lunar January 1st) as Spring Festival. Since then, the Chinese New Year has been generally called Spring Festival.

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