What is a Chinese lunar calendar?

IN 2018, Chinese New Year begins on February 16 and also marks the beginning of the Year of the Dog. Tied to the Chinese lunar calendar, the festival is traditionally a time to honor household and heavenly deities as well as ancestors. It is also a time to bring
family members far and near together for feasting. The Chinese New Year also known as the Spring Festival or Lunar New Year is based around a lunar year, which instead looks at 12 lunar months.

A lunar month is a full cycle of the moon, taking it from one full moon to the next. This normally lasts around 29 to 30 days, which means a pure lunar year is about 354 days long – 11 days shorter than a solar year. For this reason, the Chinese New Year has been adapted slightly to catch up – so it’s actually a lunisolar year and takes both into account. Each month starts on a new (full) moon, but every three years, an extra month is added to make up for the time lost against a solar year and to help the seasons stay in the correct place. The Chinese Calendar also looks at 24 solar terms, which are specific points in
the year that are worked out by assessing the position of the sun. These help work out when the leap month will be so as not to disrupt the seasons.

In the past it was of crucial importance to ensure that seasons were still kept, as agriculture relied on these timings to understand when crops should be planted and harvested.

The Chinese Calendar was first thought up over 4,000 years ago, and while much of modern China still goes by the Gregorian Calendar we use in day-to-day life, this New Year is an important symbol.