Why does the Chinese Spring Festival go global

This article is transferred from Zhejiang Propaganda;

Is Spring Festival just a Chinese holiday? Of course not.

In order to welcome China's "Jade Rabbit" and spend the Chinese Spring Festival together, all parts of the world have made early preparations.

  As far back as roughly 25,000 years ago, Ice Age hunter-gatherers may have jotted down markings to communicate information about the behavior of their prey, a new study finds.

  These markings include dots, lines and the symbol “Y,” and often accompany images of animals. Over the last 150 years, the mysterious depictions, some dating back nearly 40,000 years, have been found in hundreds of caves across Europe.

  Some archaeologists have speculated that the markings might relate to keeping track of time, but the specific purpose has remained elusive (SN: 7/9/19). Now, a statistical analysis, published January 5 in Cambridge Archeological Journal, presents evidence that past people may have been recording the mating and birthing schedule of local fauna.

  By comparing the marks to the animals’ life cycles, researchers showed that the number of dots or lines in a given image strongly correlates to the month of mating across all the analyzed examples, which included aurochs (an extinct species of wild cattle), bison, horses, mammoth and fish. What’s more, the position of the symbol “Y” in a sequence was predictive of birth month, suggesting that “Y” signifies “to give birth.”

  The finding is one of the earliest records of a coherent notational system, the researchers say. It indicates that people at the time were able to interpret the meaning of an item’s position in a sequence and plan ahead for the distant future using a calendar of sorts — reinforcing the suggestion that they were capable of complex cognition.

  “This is a really big deal cognitively,” says Ben Bacon, an independent researcher based in London. “We’re dealing with a system that has intense organization, intense logic to it.”

  A furniture conservator by day, Bacon spent years poring through scientific articles to compile over 800 instances of these cave markings. From his research and reading the literature, he reasoned that the dots corresponded to the 13 lunar cycles in a year. But he thought that the hunter-gatherers would’ve been more concerned with seasonal changes than the moon.

  In the new paper, he and colleagues argue that rather than pinning a calendar to astronomical events like the equinox, the hunter-gatherers started their calendar year with the snowmelt in the spring. Not only would the snowmelt be a clear point of origin, but the meteorological calendar would also account for differences in timing across locations.

  For example, though snowmelt would start on different dates in different latitudes, bison would always mate approximately four lunar cycles — or months — after that region’s snowmelt, as indicated by four dots or lines.

  “This is why it’s such a clever system, because it’s based on the universal,” Bacon says. “Which means if you migrate from the Pyrenees to Belgium, you can just use the same calendar.”

  He needed data to prove his idea. After compiling the markings, he worked with academic researchers to identify the timing of migration, mating and birth for common Ice Age animals targeted by hunter-gatherers by using archaeological data or comparing with similar modern animals. Next, the researchers determined if the marks aligned significantly with important life events based on this calendar. When the team ran the statistical analysis, the results strongly supported Bacon’s theory.

  When explaining the markings, “we’ve argued for notational systems before, but it’s always been fairly speculative as to what the people were counting and why they were counting,” says Brian Hayden, an archaeologist at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia, who peer-reviewed the paper. “This adds a lot more depth and specificity to why people were keeping calendars and how they were using them.”

  Linguistic experts argue that, given the lack of conventional syntax and grammar, the marks wouldn’t be considered writing. But that doesn’t make the finding inherently less exciting, says paleoanthropologist Genevieve von Petzinger of the Polytechnic Institute of Tomar in Portugal, who wasn’t involved in the study. Writing systems are often mistakenly considered a pinnacle of achievement, when in fact writing would be developed only in cultural contexts where it’s useful, she says. Instead, it’s significant that the marks provide a way to keep records outside of the mind.

  “In a way, that was the huge cognitive leap,” she says. “Suddenly, we have the ability to preserve [information] beyond the moment. We have the ability to transmit it across space and time. Everything starts to change.”

  The debate over these marks’ meanings continues. Archaeologist April Nowell doesn’t buy many of the team’s assumptions. “It boggles my mind why one would need a calendar … to predict that animals were going to have offspring in the spring,” says Nowell, of the University of Victoria in British Columbia. “The amount of information that this calendar is providing, if it really is a calendar, is quite minimal.”

  Hayden adds that, while the basic pattern would still hold, some of the cave marks had “wiggle room for interpretation.” The next step, he says, will be to review and verify the interpretations of the marks.


For example, in New York, the Empire State Building, the World Trade Center and other landmark buildings light up the Chinese Red; In the British capital, the London Eye is decorated with the symbolic colors of Spring Festival - red and gold; In Rome, Italy, streetcars with the theme of the Spring Festival of the Rabbit run in the streets; In Switzerland, Maiden Peak, known as the "Roof of Europe", created a surprise gift - ice rabbit; At Yaohuali Road, Bangkok, Thailand, the Chinese Lantern Exhibition, which conveys the blessing of "Good luck in the Year of the Rabbit", attracted a large number of local people and tourists... At the same time, many countries and international organizations also issued special stamps for the Year of the Rabbit this year.

According to incomplete statistics, the Spring Festival folk activities have entered nearly 200 countries and regions around the world. In addition, some countries and regions have listed it as a legal holiday, and the Chinese Spring Festival has become a worldwide holiday symbol.


So why is the Spring Festival culture loved by people all over the world? How can we better make the Spring Festival culture international?


It is said that culture is the reflection of economy and politics. As one of the oldest festivals in the world, the influence of the Spring Festival culture has gradually expanded with the pace of the Chinese nation's civilized exchanges with other countries, especially the continuous enhancement of China's comprehensive national strength after the reform and opening up.

Nowadays, in some Southeast Asian countries, lion dance in the Spring Festival is an indispensable item. Visiting temple fairs and fishing for fish is very lively. Most Americans and Britons who celebrate the Spring Festival like to decorate their homes with New Year decorations such as Chinese knots and Spring Festival couplets, participate in celebrations held by Chinese communities, watch parades, set off fireworks, taste traditional Chinese food, and so on.

In France, during the Spring Festival, not only the Chinese community, but also the municipal square in Paris will hang red lanterns, and some well-known supermarket chains will open counters to sell Chinese food. The New Year Concert of "Chinese and Western Highlights" in Toronto, Canada, has been held for 16 times so far. It has been integrated into local people's lives to welcome the New Year with the concert.

In addition, in Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, Argentina and other countries and regions, there are celebrations with different characteristics, and the forms are increasingly diversified.

For example, this year, the Australia-China Spring Festival Gala, one of Australia's largest activities in China, returned after three years. Nearly 500 Australia-China artists gathered together to perform classical Chinese folk music, multi-ethnic singing and dancing, and the phantom of opera.

Also in Australia, the national orchestra "Poetry and Painting Zhejiang" and the dance collection "Liangzhu" of the Zhejiang Song and Dance Theater, played by the Zhejiang National Orchestra with the theme of welcoming the Spring Festival, were launched online and simultaneously promoted on social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Youtu, etc., to show the Australian public and overseas audiences the rich, delicate, gentle Jiangnan style of Zhejiang and the unique charm of Guangliangzhu culture of Chinese civilization.

From the Northern Hemisphere to the Southern Hemisphere, from the Asian cultural circle to the Middle East cultural circle, the scope of the Spring Festival is becoming wider and wider. Since the development of the Spring Festival culture, its connotation has become richer, and has been endowed with more modern and international elements.

As a traditional folk culture, the festivity, inclusiveness and interactivity conveyed by the Spring Festival culture have brought China closer to the people of the world. Therefore, it is no wonder that netizens said: "When Chinese people celebrate the New Year, they feel that the whole world is celebrating the New Year."


The Spring Festival satisfies people's universal desire for family affection and the universal pursuit of a sense of ceremony. In addition, due to the continuous improvement of China's international influence, the worldwide expression of the Spring Festival culture and the sense of identity of people from all countries have been continuously enhanced.

CNN has calculated the mileage of the Chinese Spring Festival Festival in 2017. The total mileage of the Spring Festival Festival in that year reached 1.2 billion kilometers, which is about 8 times the distance from the earth to the sun, almost equivalent to flying to Saturn for a holiday.

The reason why overseas media pay special attention to the Chinese Spring Festival Movement is not only because of the novelty of this "the largest collective activity of mankind on the earth", but also because family affection and sharing are the common feelings of all mankind.

In the West, there are also some festivals of great significance. People have to go home, have dinner together, play and sing around the stove, and give gifts to each other. The scenes of laughter, farewell, tears, and hugs have also become the most moving scenes in countless festival theme films.

It can be seen that whether it is the western countries that believe in individualism, or China, which is influenced by the confluence of Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism and has a more collectivistic concept, whether it is the "big family" rooted in local civilization, or the "small family" under the transformation of industrialization and urbanization, the idea of reuniting with parents, lovers and children on important festivals is the common heart of the world.

The Spring Festival reflects the ultimate pursuit of home. Looking at our "global village" family, it is composed of small families. The Chinese Spring Festival culture contains the incomparable value of family and the high recognition of the values of happiness, peace and peace, which is also the common belief and pursuit of all mankind. This is the cultural value that the Chinese Spring Festival can unite people's hearts, and also the emotional foundation that the Chinese Spring Festival can be accepted by the world.

On the other hand, with the improvement of the material living standard of human society, the pursuit of different rituals has become an important way for people to constantly seek new emotional expressions. Therefore, even if we have a partial understanding of the historical background and cultural significance behind the Chinese Spring Festival, it is also desirable for many foreigners to have more ways to gain a sense of ceremony and more ways to express their feelings.

Of course, the most noteworthy thing is that with the development of China's economy and society, the fusion of Chinese culture, including the Spring Festival culture, has become more and more attractive, and has become an important window for the world to understand China in the new era and for dialogue between China and the world.

At the beginning of the New Year, leaders of many countries, consuls general in China and many world celebrities have sent greetings to the Chinese people all over the world by sending congratulatory messages, recording short films, and paying New Year's greetings in Chinese. Major international brands have launched Spring Festival exclusive products or Chinese zodiac commemorative products to attract Chinese consumers with Spring Festival elements.

Therefore, the popularity of the Spring Festival in the world not only confirms the unique charm of the Spring Festival culture, but also means that the world wants to know China more and more deeply.


It is said that the plan of the year is spring, and hope should be established at the beginning of spring. At this time, the Chinese people always send the message "to make progress", so let the world better embrace the Chinese Spring Festival culture is one of the specific directions of "further".

In order to realize this hope, the author believes that we should continue to practice the "three internal skills".

First, "Brand Merit", based on the cultural brand activity "Happy Spring Festival", which is widely loved by people all over the world, will further enhance the brand awareness of the Chinese Spring Festival and strive to make the world and the Chinese Spring Festival enjoy the same time.

The "Happy Spring Festival" has been held for 22 consecutive years since 2001, covering more than 100 countries around the world. More and more cultural elements of the Spring Festival have been integrated into the activities, and become an important platform for China and people around the world to share the beauty of Chinese culture, traditional art and Chinese life.

Second, "technical skills", taking the cloud performance and virtual exhibition with many forms, new creativity, strong interaction and wide radiation as reference, further tell the Chinese story, spread the Chinese voice, display the Chinese elements, and strive to make the world interact with the Chinese Spring Festival.

In recent years, with the innovative development of information technology, the Spring Festival culture with symphony, folk music, dance, magic acrobatics, traditional operas, museum exhibitions and other content carriers has expanded from offline to online, and comprehensively reflects the traditional and international nature of the Spring Festival by integrating offline and online, relying on online 3D images, new media and other means.

Third, the "concept merit" is to learn from the popularity of China's China-Chic and Guofeng brands in overseas markets during the Spring Festival, and strive to make the world know and love China during the Spring Festival.

The data shows that on the eve of the Spring Festival this year, users from more than 200 countries and regions searched for Spring Festival related products with keywords such as "Chinese New Year", "Rabbit Year", "Spring Festival", etc. The search volume of "Spring Festival" related keywords is still growing in double digits on the basis of the outbreak of the Year of the Tiger last year. Among them, the overseas sales of the trendy brand Bubble Mart increased by 80% year on year, and the Chinese style evening dress was also popular.

It can be seen from this that overseas consumers' demand for commodities with Spring Festival elements is still increasing. Fashion concept products with Chinese traditional culture as the core and in line with modern aesthetics not only have great potential in the international market, but also are expected to become an important carrier for more and more people to love Spring Festival culture.

At the beginning of the Year of the Rabbit, which has "two heads of spring" and symbolizes double auspiciousness, we have reason to believe that this traditional and modern Chinese festival, which belongs to both the nation and the world, will carry joy and hope, bless the world a better place, and bring the world a credible, lovely and respectable image of China with a vibrant attitude.