January 23, 2012 - Chinese New Year

 It's the Year of the Dragon!

In China's time zone, it is New Year's Day on January 23, 2012. With the Chinese lunar calendar, the New Year comes on a different day each year, and it often comes in early February. This year it arrives a little earlier!

Many people know that each year is assigned an animal name, cycling between twelve animals as varied as rats, tigers, monkeys, and pigs. This year is surely the coolest animal—so cool it doesn't actually exist!—the dragon. But did you know that there are also element names associated with each year? The elements are metal, water, wood, fire and earth. This year the element is water, so this is the year of the Water Dragon.

Here are some questions I had after reading about Chinese New Year:
  1. What does it mean to say “China's time zone”? China's a large country, about as large as the U.S. Wouldn't it have more than one time zone, like the U.S. (which has four time zones)?
  2. Does China still use its lunar calendar for everything? Including business?

I googled these questions, and this is what I found out:
  1. China used to have five time zones. Since the end of World War II, and the beginning of Communist China, all the various time zones use the same time, so it is as if the whole country shares one time zone. That means that some residents have times that roughly correspond to the sun in the sky, with the sun almost overhead around noon, but other residents do not—some might have the sun overhead much earlier or later than noon.
  2. China has used the Gregorian calendar that the rest of the world uses since 1929, although in the Chinese system the months are numbered rather than being translations of the familiar names (January, February, and so forth). The traditional lunar calendar is still used for festivals and holidays, and in astrology.

Celebrate Chinese New Year!

Here and here are links to Chinese New Year coloring pages, activities, and recipes. 

For more on Chinese New Year...check out this earlier post

Also on this date:

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