Lunar New Year (also known as Chinese New Year) will be celebrated on Tuesday, February 1, 2022. Why does the Lunar New Year start at a different time each year? How is this important holiday celebrated? What does the Year of the Tiger symbolize? Learn all about this holiday!
When Is Lunar New Year?
Lunar New Year begins on the date (in East Asia) of the second new Moon after the winter solstice, which always takes place in late December. This means that the first day of the Lunar New Year can occur anytime between January 21 and February 20.
In 2022, this new Moon occurs in China on Tuesday, February 1, marking the start of the Lunar New Year.
Lunar New Year
Chinese Zodiac Sign
Tuesday, February 1
Sunday, January 22
Saturday, February 10
Wednesday, January 9
(Note: Due to the difference in time zones, the new Moon may technically occur one calendar date earlier or later in United States. See our Moon Phase Calendar for local times.)
Why Are There Different New Years?
The traditional Chinese calendar is a lunisolar calendar, which means that it is based on astronomical observations of the Sun’s position in the sky and the Moon’s phases. This ancient calendar dates back to 14th century BCE (whereas the Gregorian calendar was introduced in 1582). The Chinese lunisolar calendar shares some similarities with the Hebrew calendar, which is also lunisolar, and it has influenced other East Asian calendars, such as those of Korea and Vietnam.
Because the Chinese calendar defines the lunar month containing the winter solstice as the 11th month, Lunar New Year usually falls on the second new moon after the winter solstice.
Just like New Year according to the Gregorian calendar (January 1), Lunar New Year celebrations start on the night before the first day of the new year.
(Note: China follows the Gregorian calendar for daily business, but still follows the Chinese calendar for important festivals, auspicious dates such as wedding dates, and the Moon phases.)
Who Celebrates Lunar New Year?
Although this holiday has commonly been called “Chinese New Year” in the West, China is not the only country to observe it. Lunar New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, is the most celebrated and longest of all Asian festivals, and is observed by millions of people around the world.
A number of other countries in East Asia, including Vietnam, Korea, Japan, and the Philippines, hold their own new year celebrations at this time. (Occasionally, the date celebrated may differ by one day or even one moon cycle due to time zones and other factors.)
How Is Lunar New Year Celebrated?
As with many winter solstice celebrations, the symbolic darkness of night is banished by the light of fireworks, lanterns, and candles. Man-made paper lanterns are hung by the hundreds in public areas, bringing good luck to the new year.
There are dragon dances, performances, and festival parades with music and acrobatics. The festivities continue for two weeks, finishing with a special lantern festival, which signals the end of the New Year celebration period.
Of course, much delicious food is made and served! For the New Year, it’s traditional to serve long noodles, symbolizing a long life. See our recipe for Longevity Noodles.
Another popular recipe for New Year is Chinese Dumplings, symbolizing good luck and wealth. Families wrap them up and eat them as the clock strikes midnight.
“Good Luck” is also a common theme of the New Year. Many children receive “lucky money” in red envelopes. Sometimes offerings are made to temples.
People clean their homes and open their door to let good luck enter. According to tradition, no one should pick up a broom, in case you sweep the good luck for the New Year out of the door!
What Is the Animal for Chinese New Year This Year?
In 2022, we ring in the Year of the Tiger, one of 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac. The animal designations of the zodiac follow a 12-year cycle and are always used in the same sequence.
What Qualities Does the Tiger Represent?
Those born in the Year of the Tiger are said to be courageous leaders brimming with self-confidence and enthusiasm. These strong traits pair particularly well with their notable generosity, natural ability to sympathize, and endless commitment to helping others.
How the Chinese Zodiac Works
The traditional Chinese lunisolar year has 12 months and 353 to 355 days (or during a leap year, 13 months and 383 to 385 days).
Therefore, the Chinese year usually begins several weeks into the western 365-day year (usually between January 21 and February 20), not on January 1 of the Gregorian calendar.
As is ancient tradition, the Chinese zodiac attaches animal signs to each lunar year in a cycle of 12 years. The animal designation changes at the start of the New Year.
A Deeper Look
On a broader scale, the Chinese lunisolar calendar counts its years according to the stem-branch system, which is a 60-year rotating name system also known as the Chinese sexagenary cycle. By this, a year’s name actually contains two parts: the celestial stem and the terrestrial branch.
The celestial, or heavenly stem, is taken from a rotating list of 10 terms concerning the yin/yang forms of five elements.
The Stem (wood, fire, earth, metal, and water): jia, yi, bing, ding, wu, ji, geng, xin, ren, and gui.
jia = yang wood yi = yin wood bing = yang fire ding = yin fire wu = yang earth ji = yin earth geng = yang metal xin = yin metal ren = yang water gui = yin water
The terrestrial, or earthly, branch is taken from a rotating list of the 12 animal names of the Chinese zodiac.
zi = rat chou = ox yin = tiger mao = rabbit chen = dragon si = snake wu = horse wei = sheep/goat shen = monkey you = rooster xu = dog hai - boar/pig
So, putting the stem and branch terms together, the first year in a 60-year cycle is called jia-zi (Year of the Rat) as jia is the celestial stem and zi (rat) is the terrestrial branch. The next year is yi-chou (Year of the Ox), and so on. The 11th year is jia-xu, etc., until a new cycle starts over with jia-zi.
Which Chinese Zodiac Sign Are You?
Below are the 12 animal designations of the Chinese zodiac. (Please note: If you were born before the Chinese New Year began for the year listed, then you were born under the previous Chinese zodiac sign. For example, the Chinese New Year began on January 28 in 2017; from that date onward, the sign is the Rooster. For those born between January 1 and January 27, 2017, the sign is the Monkey.):
Ambitious and sincere, you can be generous with your money. Compatible with the dragon and the monkey. Your opposite is the horse.