Why Lunar New Year Change Every Year?

Happy Lunar New Year! ????????‍♀️

This year, Lunar New Year falls on February 1st. Last year, it was on February 12th and next year it will fall on January 22nd. Why does the date of Lunar New Year change every year?????

Calendar of January 2022 showing both lunar and solar calendars.
(The dates with red squares are based on a lunar calendar.)

It’s because Lunar New Year follows “lunar calendar” that tracks the phase of moon. Lunar New Year and Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving) are the two national holidays that follow the dates of a lunar calendar.

As you can see above, a Korean calendar have two systems: lunar and solar. Usually the solar calendar is used for ordinary days. The lunar calendar is used to calculate special holidays like Lunar New Year and Chuseok.

New Moon to Full Moon : 1 Lunar Month

Then, how does a lunar calendar work?

– A new moon becomes a full moon in 29.5 days = 1 lunar month

– 1 lunar month (29.5 days) x 12 months = 1 lunar year (354 days)

– Earth revolves around the sun in 365 days = 1 solar year

– 365 days – 354 days = 11 days

– There’s an 11 day difference between 1 solar year and 1 lunar year. That’s why the dates of a lunar and solar calendar are different.

– Because there’s an 11 day difference, an extra 13th month is added to a lunar calendar every three years.

A Brief History of a Lunar Calendar & Lunar New Year in Korea

488 ~ 1895 Lunar New Year
There’s a record saying that people from Shilla Dynasty used a lunar calendar.

1895 ~ 1945 New Year
Koreans in Joseon Dynasty continuously used a lunar calendar until *Eulmi Reform had launched when the solar calendar was adopted.

1945 ~ 1895 New Year
Korea celebrated its liberation from Japan. However, the government didn’t return to using a lunar calendar. They also didn’t get back celebrating Lunar New Year in order to avoid having two New Years in a year.

1895 ~ 1989 Lunar New Year (1 day holiday)
Respecting the tradition, the government reset January 1st (based on a lunar calendar) as a national holiday, Lunar New Year.

1989 ~ present Lunar New Year (3 day holidays)
The government added two more off-days before and after the Lunar New Year. That’s how we got our 3 day holidays today in Korea!

*What is Eulmi Reform?

It is the institutional reforms of Joseon Dynasty led by a cabinet of pro-Japanese enlightenment forces. Using the solar calendar, reforming the military system, cutting out hair as modern style (Korean men had long hair tied up as a topknot) are few of the reforms they carried out.


A screen you might see when you are booking a ticket for Lunar New Year

Last year, 7.21 million people traveled to see their families. You can probably imagine all the cars on highways. ????

That’s why many people prefer taking a train. However, booking a ticket is not as easy as you might think. Korea Railroad Corporation (aka KORAIL), a national railroad operator that basically operates all of the trains of Korea, sells Lunar New Year tickets on a specific day & time because the demands are so high. (This year, it was on Jaunary 11-13th, 7:00am to 1:00pm.) People wait in from of their computers to click the reservation button as fast as they could to get a ticket. If they fail, they will be stuck on a highway for so long that you don’t even want to think about it.

A screen you might also see when you are booking a ticket for Lunar New Year

What Do Koreans Do?

Yut-nori (left) and Hwatu (right)
Traditional games that Korean families play in Lunar New Year

Playing games like Yut-nori and Hwatu as a family match, deep bowing, eating delicious, high-calorie foods, holding an ancestral rite (called Je-sa) are some examples of what Koreans do on Seollal. High school seniors getting ready for applications and those who are studying for some kind of an exam or preparing for a job interview might not fully enjoy Seollal ????

BTS deep bowing to the audience

2 zodiac sign animals

Your birth year determine your zodiac sign animal. Each zodiac animal’s year comes around every 12 years

????Today’s Question for UoH friends????

  • What is your Zodiac animal?
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