While most Westerners celebrated the New Year on January 1 according to the Gregorian Calendar, the Chinese New Year will actually occur on Monday, February 8, 2016 following the lunar calendar.
Unlike the Western view of the New Year, which still leaves us in the depths of Winter, Chinese New Year marks the start of spring. And spring, like birth, represents new life and growth out of the darkness of winter. What better season to signal the start to a new year?
But then why not start spring on the vernal equinox, which marks the first day of spring to those in the West? The reason is fairly simple, yet elegant and is also represented within the Taiji (yin/yang symbol). Within the cyclic nature of things, there is a natural ebb and flow. The phases of our own lives, for example, being in infancy, with much development to do throughout our youth. This leads to the height of our maturity before starting the slow decline into old age. We don’t start our lives fully developed.
Similarly, if spring represents the early growth and development of youth, we don’t start at the height of that phase, but rather at the beginning and move towards its zenith. Spring then gives way to make room for the more intensity of summer before the seasons begin their inevitable decline into autumn and finally winter. The vernal equinox, therefore, represents the height, or mid-point, of spring before it’s decline into the early stages of summer.
So within the Chinese calendar, spring runs roughly from early February – early May with mid-March serving as the height of the season. In similar fashion, summer runs from May – early August with the Summer solstice serving as its seasonal mid-point.
This makes for a much more sensible transition to the seasons, and provides context for why Chinese New Year is such a major event, with family and friends celebrating to wish each other a happy and prosperous New Year.
While we Westerners may not ascribe to Chinese culture, I believe there are some ways we can learn and benefit from it in a way that enriches our own lives.
Thing Spring! We all know the feeling after New Year’s of realizing that spring is still three months away. But encouraging awareness that Chinese New Year marks the start of spring and its movement towards fulfillment can make bearing those colder months more manageable.
Find a way to celebrate. Some people find themselves almost hibernating during the colder months, minimizing contact with the outside world. Use the Chinese New Year to plan a get together with family and friends.
Renew previous resolutions. Many of us make New Year’s resolutions and start the year off with gangbusters. Whether it’s going to gym or dieting, or writing that great American novel. But then we may find ourselves struggling to maintain them a month into the New Year. Use the Chinese New Year to reaffirm those resolutions or even generate new ones.
Take advantage of the Chinese Zodiac. We may or may not believe in astrology (Western of Eastern), but that doesn’t mean we can’t reflect on the theme of the New Year and use that theme as a context for what we’d like to achieve. 2016 is the year of the fire monkey. To read more about the major themes present in such a year, check out: http://www.chinahighlights.com/travelguide/chinese-zodiac/monkey.htm