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Posts Tagged ‘New Moon’

This year (2013), Chinese New Year is tomorrow, the 10th of February.


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This is a repost of a blog from last year.

Chinese New Year

Today (23rd of January 2012) is Chinese New Year, so happy Chinese New Year to all my Chinese friends and students. Today, over 1 billion Chinese will be celebrating the start of the year of the Dragon (龍). From what I heard yesterday on the radio, many Chinese couples await to have children in the year of the Dragon, as this year is thought to be the most lucky of the cycle of 12 animals.

Chinese New Year

Candles being lit for Chinese New Year

Last year (2011), Chinese New Year was on the 3rd of February, and next year (2013) it will be on the 10th of February. The table below shows the dates of Chinese New Year from 2009 to 2014.

year date
2009 26th January
2010 14th February
2011 3rd February
2012 23rd January
2013 10th February
2014 31st January

Clearly, Chinese New Year does not fall each year on the same date in the civil calendar. So, how is it calculated?

The Chinese calendar is an example of a lunisolar calendar, which means it depends on both the Moon (Luna) and the Sun (Solar). The same is true of the traditional Jewish calendar, and the calendars of many other civilisations and religions including Hindu, Tibetan and Buddhist calendars.

The date of the Chinese New Year is determined by the following, very simple, formula.

The date of the Chinese New Year is the day of the 2nd New Moon after the Winter Solstice (the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere).

This fixes it between the 21st of January (the earliest it can be, which would occur if there were a New Moon on the day after the Winter Solstice), and the 20th of February, which would occur if there were a New Moon on the day of the Winter Solstice.

So, it is that simple. Today (23rd of January) is a New Moon, and the previous New Moon (the first after the Winter Solstice) was on the 24th of December, with the Winter Solstice itself falling on 22nd of December in 2011. Next year, 2013, the first New Moon after the Winter Solstice will be on the 11th of January, the 2nd one will be on the 10th of February, so this will be the date of the Chinese New Year in 2013.

How will you be celebrating Chinese New Year?

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Today is the day of the Hindu festival Diwali, the festival of light. About 200m from my house is a Hindu temple, and it has been lit up for the last several days in celebration of this important Hindu festival. Here is a picture I took on Sunday evening.


The Hindu temple in Cardiff, lit up for Diwali


Like most religions, with the exception of Islam, the Hindu calendar is a luni-solar calendar, and so the date of Diwali changes. Last year (2011) it was on the 26th of October, and next year (2013) it is on the 3rd of November, but this year it is today, the 13th of November. How is the date of Diwali calculated?

Being a luni-solar calendar, this means it follows something both the Moon and the Sun are doing. Today is a new Moon. So, the question is, what is special about today’s new Moon? What recent important Solar event happened? The Autumn equinox of course, which was on the 22nd of September this year (2012). The firsrt new Moon after this year’s Autumn equinox was on the 15th of October, and today is the second new Moon after the Autumn equinox. So, Diwali always falls on the 2nd new Moon after the Autum equinox! It’s that simple……

I wish a very happy Diwali to all my Hindu friends and students (and readers) around the World.

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When does Ramadan begin? Well, it all depends on when the New Moon is first sighted. We know exactly when the New Moon happened, it was at 05:25 UT (Universal Time, essentially the same at Greenwich Mean Time) on Thursday the 22nd this month.


The Moon phases this month. As can be seen, the New Moon happened this month at 05:25 UT (Universal Time) on Thursday the 19th of July.


But, that is not when Ramadan traditionally begins. Ramadan begins at the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, in fact the month of fasting is named after the month. Ramadan is the 9th month in the Islamic calendar. Unlike the calendars used in the Gregorian calendar, in the Islamic calendar, the months traditionally start at the first sighting of the New Moon. Not when the New Moon happens, but the first sighting of the New Moon (or, strictly speaking, a crescent Moon).

Of course, by definition, you cannot see the New Moon, because the Moon is between the Earth and the Sun (not directly in line with it unless there is an Eclipse), so in fact to see the “New Moon” you have to wait until the Moon has passed this point by a certain amount, whereupon you can see a Crescent Moon.


A diagram showing where one can expect to see the first sign of New Moon in the month of Ramadan. Apparently, it was first seen on July 20th from the Fiji Islands.


So, as the first sighting of the Moon after the New Moon on Thursday the 19th appears to have been on Friday the 20th, that is when Ramadan began this year. Of course, next year, we know it will move forward by between 10 and 11 days, as I explained in this blog.

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Today (23rd of January 2012) is Chinese New Year, so happy Chinese New Year to all my Chinese friends and students. Today, over 1 billion Chinese will be celebrating the start of the year of the Dragon (龍). From what I heard yesterday on the radio, many Chinese couples await to have children in the year of the Dragon, as this year is thought to be the most lucky of the cycle of 12 animals.

Chinese New Year

Candles being lit for Chinese New Year

Last year (2011), Chinese New Year was on the 3rd of February, and next year (2013) it will be on the 10th of February. The table below shows the dates of Chinese New Year from 2009 to 2014.

year date
2009 26th January
2010 14th February
2011 3rd February
2012 23rd January
2013 10th February
2014 31st January

Clearly, Chinese New Year does not fall each year on the same date in the civil calendar. So, how is it calculated?

The Chinese calendar is an example of a lunisolar calendar, which means it depends on both the Moon (Luna) and the Sun (Solar). The same is true of the traditional Jewish calendar, and the calendars of many other civilisations and religions including Hindu, Tibetan and Buddhist calendars.

The date of the Chinese New Year is determined by the following, very simple, formula.

The date of the Chinese New Year is the day of the 2nd New Moon after the Winter Solstice (the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere).

This fixes it between the 21st of January (the earliest it can be, which would occur if there were a New Moon on the day after the Winter Solstice), and the 20th of February, which would occur if there were a New Moon on the day of the Winter Solstice.

So, it is that simple. Today (23rd of January) is a New Moon, and the previous New Moon (the first after the Winter Solstice) was on the 24th of December, with the Winter Solstice itself falling on 22nd of December in 2011. Next year, 2013, the first New Moon after the Winter Solstice will be on the 11th of January, the 2nd one will be on the 10th of February, so this will be the date of the Chinese New Year in 2013.

How will you be celebrating Chinese New Year?

Read Full Post »