Happy Chinese New Year!

Across China, millions of people prepare to celebrate the Spring Festival and welcome the new Year of the Dog. (Reuters)

The Chinese calendar is based on the position of the sun and the phases of the moon to define the months and years

In Chinese culture, the New Year coincides with the Spring Festival, a festival that has been celebrated for centuries to honor the gods and ancestors. This year, China will celebrate the year 4716 according to its traditional calendar.

The Chinese calendar is a lunisolar calendar: the days and months are set according to the position of the sun and the phases of the moon. That is why every three years a month is added to the calendar, so that year has thirteen months instead of twelve.

It’s like a leap year, but instead of adding a day, a whole month is added. In this way, according to the lunisolar calendar, a normal year has 353-355 days, while the thirteen-month year has 383-385 days.

Many cultures have used this system of astronomical measurement: the Hebrew calendar, the Buddhist calendar, the Hindu calendar … However, nowadays most countries use the Gregorian calendar- 12 months and 365 days.

China adopted the Gregorian calendar many years ago, but still keeps the tradition of the Chinese New Year, where several elements of heaven and earth take center stage. This 2018 is the Year of the Dog and the Year of the Earth.

A calendar for each culture

Unlike the Chinese calendar, the Gregorian calendar is used in most Western countries. It is a solar calendar that only looks at the position of the sun to determine how long days and months will be.

The Gregorian calendar was prompted by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582 to replace the Julian calendar, which presented some astronomical inaccuracies. This calendar owed its name to the Roman emperor Julius Caesar.

To this day, the Gregorian calendar is the official calendar in practically all the countries of the world. It is the calendar that we use: years have 12 months and 365 days, except the leap years that have 366.

However, not all calendars are based on the Sun. The Muslim calendar, for instance, is a lunar calendar that follows the phases of the moon.

This calendar, which coexists alongside the Gregorian one in Muslim countries, consists of a year of 354 or 355 days divided into 12 months according to the moon cycles.

Translated by Chaplin’s Languages | Find out more in Junior Report.

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