The Lunar New Year or Chinese New Year, or Spring Festival is an event that captivates the world. It is celebrated worldwide and often leads to the planet’s most significant yearly human migration. Although it is often referred to as “Chinese New Year” in the West, it is celebrated far and wide.
The Lunar New Year, the Year of The Rabbit, falls on January 22 and is known for its exciting celebrations, sumptuous feasts, and family reunions.
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How did the Lunar New Year begin?
China uses the Gregorian calendar, the same as the rest of the world. However, the country’s festivals are determined by the conventional lunisolar calendar, which has been used since the 1st century BC. In 1912, the year the Republic of China officially adopted the Gregorian calendar, the Lunar New Year was renamed the Spring Festival and is now observed in mainland China.
The date of the Lunar New Year fluctuates each year and is decided by the moon’s cycle, as implied by its name. Every year, one of the 12 animals from China’s ancient mythology that are referenced in the Chinese zodiac is selected for the lunar calendar. The rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig are the Chinese zodiac animals, and each year they are switched out. As noted, 2023 is the Year of The Rabbit.
Celebrating the Lunar New Year
The Spring Festival in China (spanning 40 days) is divided into several smaller celebrations and ceremonies. Chinese families typically gather for a big reunion dinner on the eve of the New Year, a seven-day state holiday. It is customary to host it in the home of the oldest family member because it is seen as the most important meal of the year.
Although the festival is becoming more modernized, China and other countries still value their centuries-old customs. For example, firecrackers are traditionally lit in China to scare away the dreaded monster Nian (though this practice has decreased recently due to limits on air pollution that have significantly impacted the fireworks industry).
To bring about fortune, people wear red and use red decorations. They also exchange hongbao, red envelopes containing money. During Seolla, or the Korean New Year, people in that country prepare rice cake soup and pay tribute to their ancestors. The Vietnamese Lunar New Year, Tet, also highlights the importance of flowers in its ceremonies.
The most significant human migration on Earth
The Lunar New Year celebration also ushers in the mass migration of China’s population. During the chunyun, or spring migration, hundreds of millions of Chinese people return to their hometowns for family gatherings and the Lunar New Year festivities.
During the 40 days, billions of people have traveled in the past years. As a result, chunyun, the world’s most significant human movement, often clogs already congested highways, railroads, and airports.
The Chinese government estimates that 415 million people celebrated the Year of the Pig in 2019.
The two most extensive population migrations in North America and China’s largest yearly migration can be used to gauge its size. In 2019, an estimated 115.6 million Americans traveled between Christmas and the New Year, compared to 55.3 million who did so over the Thanksgiving holiday.
Despite China’s vast population making a considerable impact, the country’s Lunar New Year is still more than seven times larger than Thanksgiving. China’s annual Lunar New Year migration also easily surpasses the world’s greatest pilgrimages in size, with Arba’een and the Hajj not even coming close.
Will the unprecedented travel boost the economy?
Investors had hoped the upcoming festival and re-opening could revive the nation’s almost US$18 trillion economy.
However, a surge of widespread illnesses caused by the virus’s sudden exposure to China’s 1.4 billion people has resulted in a shortage of medicines in pharmacies, overcrowding in hospitals, and long lines at crematoriums.
The Ministry of Transport reported that more than 2 billion people are expected to travel in the 40 days surrounding the celebrations, significantly boosting the economy in the aftermath of the “chunyun” season.