2016 is leaving us soon and forever, and people are preparing for the arrival of 2017 with hope and expectation. Today we call the first day of a year on Gregorian calendar “yuan dan” (New Year). But do you really know “yuan dan”? Which day did it fall in history? Which country first celebrates the day?...
Yuan dan in China
It is said that the New Year’s Day (“yuan dan” in Chinese) originated from the period of the Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors over 3,000 years ago in China. The word “yuan dan” first appeared in the Book of Jin. In early days Chinese referred to the 1st day of the 1st lunar month as “yuan dan”. “Yuan” means “the beginning”, while “dan” means “day”, and thus “yuan dan” means “the beginning day”, namely the 1st day of a year.
However, the New Year’s Day fell in different months of the year in Chinese history. It fell in the 1st lunar month in the Xia Dynasty (c.2029-1559 BC), the 12th lunar month in the Shang Dynasty (c.1559-1046 BC), and the 11th lunar month in the Zhou Dynasty (c. 1046-256 BC). After the First Emperor of the Qin Dynasty (221-207 BC) unified China, the 10th lunar month was observed as the first month of the year and thus the New Year’s Day fell on the 1st day of the 10th lunar month. During the reign of Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty (202 BC-220 AD), the 1st day of the 1st lunar month became the New Year’s Day again and the tradition lasted until the end of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).
After the Republic of China (1912-1949) was founded, it adopted Gregorian calendar while still keeping the lunar calendar to facilitate farming. But at that time, January 1st according to the solar calendar was called “New Year’s Day” rather than “yuan dan”. In 1914, traditional Chinese New Year was officially named “Spring Festival”, and “yuan dan” and “New Year’s Day” were used to refer to the first day of the year on the Gregorian calendar.
First and last countries that celebrate New Year
Due to time differences caused by earth rotation, all the countries and regions around the world don’t celebrate the New Year at the same time. Tonga is the first country that celebrates the New Year, and Samoa is the last country that enters the New Year, while China is the 12th country that observes the New Year.
Unique New Year traditions
People around the world celebrate the New Year with different customs.
The Indian New Year is observed for five days from October 31 every year, and the 4th day is called “New Year’s Day”. Though New Year’s Day is often regarded as a joyful festival, in some areas of India, people welcome the day with tears for in their opinion time flies and life is short so they cry on that day. In other parts of India, people would fast from the small hours to midnight on New Year’s Day.
In Paraguay, people eat only cold food for five days before the New Year and it is not until the New Year’s Day that people begin to cook with fire. It is said that during a war Paraguayans fought against invaders which lasted for a year, the soldiers were short of food and at the vital moment the reinforcements came in time and food supply arrived on New Year’s Day. To remember the history, the tradition of eating cold food before New Year in Paraguay has been passed down.
On New Year's Eve, the Danish people collect broken dishes and cups, and send them to their friends’ house doors secretly. On New Year's morning, the more fragments one finds in front of his or her house, the luckier he or she will be in the New Year.
In the countryside of Belgium, people often first visit their animals like cows, horses, pigs, sheep, dogs and cats, wish them a happy new year and feed them on New Year’s Morning.