Chinese New Year is one of the most important holidays celebrated in China and across various Asian communities.
The unique new year comprises an annual 15-day festival which starts with the new moon between January 21 and February 20 in western calendar.
In 2024, the Chinese New Year falls on February 10 and ends on February 24 with the Lantern Festival.
Welcoming the Year of the Dragon, this special event follows the Chinese zodiac (Sheng Xiao) tradition, attributing each year to one of the twelve animals: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig.
The animals are rotated in sequence based on a fable about them racing and the order in which they finished.
It is thought that any year that falls under the sign a person was born can hold bad luck for them.
Why it is Called the Lunar New Year
While commonly known as ‘Chinese New Year’ in the West, this celebrated date extends its joyous reach to Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, and beyond.
More accurately labeled as the ‘Lunar New Year’, the festivities align with the traditional Chinese calendar, measured by the Moon’s position rather than the Earth’s orbit around the Sun, as in the Gregorian calendar.
In China, these jubilant celebrations are often referred to as the ‘Spring Festival’.
How Does the Chinese Calendar Work?
Chinese New Year differs from the ‘standard’ western New Year’s Day because it is based on the traditional Chinese calendar rather than the Gregorian one
While the Gregorian calendar, now a global norm that governs daily life, a few nations like Ethiopia, Nepal, and Iran still maintain their unique calendars.
Furthermore, the traditional Chinese calendar is based on a mixture of lunar and solar phenomenon, days still begin and end at midnight, but months begin on the day of the full moon and years begin on the second new moon after the winter solstice.
This is what then places the New Year as beginning on the day of the first new moon that falls between 21 January and 20 February.
Of note is that, the year of the rabbit which began on January 22, 2023, comes to an end on February 9. Therefore, paving way for the new year (year of the dragon) starting February 10.
Also, the year of the dragon was last seen in 2012.
UN Nairobi Hosts the Unique New Year Celebrations
The Chinese Embassy in Kenya marked the Chinese Lunar New Year 2024 at the United Nations Headquarters in Nairobi.
The event, held on Wednesday, January 31, saw more than 200 attendees, including UN staff members and diplomats representing countries like China, Russia, Malaysia, Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Iran.
Chinese New Year Listed as UN Floating Holiday
In a historic move, the UN General Assembly officially designated the Lunar New Year as a floating holiday for Kenya on December 22, 2023.
During the celebratory event at the UN, Chinese Ambassador to Kenya Zhou Pingjian emphasized the Lunar New Year’s role in fostering diversity and inclusiveness globally.
“The festival has become a global cultural event bringing joy to people around the world. We are delighted to celebrate the Lunar New Year with the UN and the world. We hope all civilizations will coexist harmoniously and prosper together,” Ambassador Zhou said.
“The festival symbolizes joy, harmony, peace, unity, and prosperity in Chinese culture. It offers a valuable opportunity to understand China and its people,” added the diplomat.
Zainab Bangura, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Nairobi (UNON), expressed that these celebrations play a pivotal role in cultivating international unity among nations.
She, however, pointed out that celebrations in Nairobi come ahead of the official UN-designated day on February 10.