Chinese New Year

Introduction

The Jewish history of China dates back to the Tang Dynasty (618 CE – 907 CE), when the first Jews arrived in Kaifeng via the Silk Road, an ancient trade route that connected East Asia and Europe by land and by sea for thousands of years. Today, relatively few Jews of Chinese descent still live in China; most live around the world, particularly in the United States and Israel.

Chinese New Year is the most important holiday in the Chinese year. It is not considered a religious holiday, although many Chinese people do incorporate elements of their own personal spiritual beliefs into their traditions. It is celebrated around the world, especially in areas with large Chinese populations. Many American cities celebrate large Chinese New Year parades, including San Francisco, New York, Chicago, and Washington, DC. Many Chinese Jews celebrate Chinese New Year as well as Jewish holidays.

The traditional Chinese calendar is a lunisolar calendar, which combines both the cycles of the moon and the sun. The Chinese New Year, also called the Lunar New Year, begins on day one of month one of this calendar. This date falls on the second new moon after the winter solstice, which corresponds to approximately late January or early February on the Gregorian calendar.

Because the Chinese lunisolar calendar is or has been historically used throughout Asia, many other countries and cultures celebrate their own Lunar New Years, including Vietnam, Japan, Korea, Tibet, and Mongolia. Some New Years’ customs are unique to each country’s observance. However, just as in other New Year celebrations around the world, including Rosh Hashanah, the emphasis is on gathering with family, feasting on traditional foods, and wishing for good luck in the year to come.