The word 元旦 yuándàn, which refers to the first day of the New Year in China, has a long history.

But which New Year does it refer to – the Lunar or the Gregorian?

And what’s the difference difference between 元旦 yuándàn and 春节 chūnjié?


Origins of New Year in China

The first and earliest mention of 元旦 ♦ yuándàn appeared in the History of the Jin Dynasty (1115–1234).

The History of New Year in China

The imperator called the first month of the lunar year (农历 ♦ nónglì) as , and the first day of the first month as 元旦:

👉 – “first”, “the beginning” | “初”、“始”的意思

👉 – “day” | “日子”的意思


Transition of New Year in China

After that, as the dynasties and size of the country changed, the first day of the year by the lunar calendar was on different days. During the Xia Dynasty, it was in January, during the Shang Dynasty – in December, and during the Zhou Dynasty – in November.

The History of New Year in China

After Qin Shihuang united China, 元旦 ♦ yuándàn celebrations shifted to October!


Evolution of New Year in China

The next period in the history of 元旦 ♦ yuándàn began with the establishment of the Republic of China (1912-1949).

At that time, Sun Yat-sen ordered to use Gregorian calendar, changed New Year’s Day to the 1st of January, and it’s name to 新年 ♦ xīnnián (New Year).

The History of New Year in China

Starting from that time, there has been two calendars in China: 农历 ♦ nónglì, the Lunar Calendar, and 公历 ♦ gōnglì, the Gregorian calendar.

Although the government used power to popularize the Western calendar, at the same time they took into consideration people’s needs, and found compromise. On 27 of September in 1949, they ordered to call the 1st day of the year by the lunar calendar as 春节 ♦ chūnjié, and the first day of the year by Gregorian calendar as 元旦 ♦ yuándàn or 新年 ♦ xīnnián.


New Year in Modern China

The History of New Year in China

What festival is more important in China now? 春节 ♦ chūnjié, of course!

Surely, the power of traditions is strong in China, and the lunar calendar holidays are celebrated as public holidays. And yet, families and friends also gather together during the ‘solar’ New Year!


When do people celebrate New Year in your country and is it the most important festival or not? Share it with us on twitter!

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