I’m sure you’ve noticed that Chinese New Year falls on a
different day each year.
Why is this so?
I asked myself the same question and finally I figured it
Spring begins (立春, lìchūn) each year around Feb 4th (in
the Western calendar).
The first day of Chinese New Year starts on the New Moon
closest to spring.
(That’s why Chinese New Year is called the Spring
And ends on the Full Moon 15 days later with the Lantern
The first day of Chinese New Year is always between Jan 21st
and Feb 21st.
But why are Chinese New Year dates so “unpredictable”?
To answer this question, one has to look at how a month in
the Chinese calendar or lunar calendar is calculated.
A Chinese month yue4 月 which means “moon” is a REAL moon.
Each lunar month starts on the day of the new moon.
This is the day the moon is closest to the sun and not
visible at all.
Does it mean that one has to look at the sky each time to
tell the new moon?
Fortunately, the answer is “no”.
Otherwise there’ll be a lot of stiff necks!
Because the new moon occurs with enough regularity to devise
a calendar based on its phases.
(Full moon in the middle of the month. Moon wanes at the end
of the month).
On average, each lunar month is 29.5 days.
(Sometimes the months are 29 days and other times they are
But multiplying 29.5 days by 12 months gives 354 days.
Which is 11 days short of 365 1/4 days, the cycle of the
Or 11 days “faster” if you like.
So, how does the Chinese calendar “wait” for the natural
world to catch up?
By adding an extra month to make a “thirteen-month year”.
Well, not every year but every few years.
How often? It turns out seven times every nineteen years.
In this way, the Chinese calendar year keeps in step with
the real world.
Each year in the Chinese Calendar is also named after one of
12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac.
Last year, 2005 was the year of the rooster and 2006 the
year of the dog.
Go to http://www.living-chinese-symbols.com/chinese-new-year-dates.html for a chart of
Chinese New Year dates from the year 1900 to 2019 you can
use to tell which is your animal sign.
It’s a “cool” system because you won’t have to remember
how old you are.
You’ll just have to know which animal year you were born
Here’s a list of Chinese New Year dates from the
year 2000 to 2014 at [http://www.living-chinese-]