The Origins of the Spring Festival

The Spring Festival, marking the beginning of the Chinese lunar year, is the most grandiose traditional celebration for the Chinese people. It symbolizes unity, prosperity, and the harboring of new hopes for the future. The Chinese have been celebrating the Spring Festival for over 4,000 years, a practice that originated with Emperor Shun. Over two millennia ago, on this day, Emperor Shun ascended to the throne and led his officials in the worship of heaven and earth. Since then, this day has been regarded as the start of the year, falling on the first day of the first lunar month. It is said that this is how the Lunar New Year came to be, later becoming known as the Spring Festival.


How Chinese People Celebrate the Spring Festival

China, a nation of diverse ethnicities, celebrates the New Year in various forms. The customs of the Han, Manchu, and Korean ethnic groups are quite similar during the Spring Festival: families reunite, people enjoy rice cakes, dumplings, and a variety of sumptuous Chinese New Year cuisine, decorate with lights and Chinese New Year lanterns, set off fireworks, and exchange blessings by red envelopes. The Chinese New Year celebration activities during the Spring Festival are rich and varied, including lion dances, dragon dances, stilt walking, and boat racing on land. In some regions, people continue the tradition of ancestor worship and praying to deities, hoping for favorable weather, peace, and a bountiful harvest in the new year.



Health Cultivation in February

In modern times, March is considered the start of spring. However, in Chinese tradition, New Year begins on the day of ‘Lichun’, theoretically before the actual spring, signifying the burgeoning of ‘spring energy’, with warmer weather, melting ice and snow, and sprouting vegetation. Spring is the leader of the seasons, marking the beginning of renewal for all things. As nature awakens, so does the yang energy within, although the weather can be unpredictable, leading to various discomforts. Therefore, From February to May, all things grow, but ailments can flare up as well. According to the “Huangdi Neijing” (The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine), the yang energy in the human body should also rise and expand outward in harmony with nature. To cultivate health in this time, one must grasp the ascending and soothing nature of qi, and protect the body’s yang energy to keep it abundant and increasingly vibrant.


Prioritizing Liver Health

In Chinese medicine, the ‘liver’ encompasses broader functions than the liver in Western medicine. It is one of the vital organs responsible for regulating qi and blood, aiding the spleen and stomach in digestion and nutrient absorption, and managing emotions and qi flow. Properly nurturing the liver in this season can lead to a year of health and tranquility. The liver’s energy is dominant now, and its functions are active, sometimes excessively so. The characteristics of this season are the rise of yang energy and the dominance of wind, fluctuating between warm and cold. This translates in humans to rising yang and a strong liver but weak spleen, with internal heat being trapped. Therefore, the corresponding health principle is to nourish the yang, assist its rise, avoid wind and cold, and clear internal heat, preventing the liver from overwhelming the lung and causing the recurrence of chronic respiratory diseases like bronchitis and asthma. With the blooming of flowers, those allergic to pollen, such as rhinitis and asthma sufferers, should reduce outdoor activities, wear masks when going out, and take good care of their airways.


Enhancing Your Diet: The Sweet Over Sour Approach for a Healthier Spleen and Reduced Dampness

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) teaches us that the spleen and stomach are the foundations of our post-birth existence, playing a crucial role in transforming our food and drink into vital energy and blood. A strong spleen and stomach system means a longer, healthier life. However, this season brings a surge in liver energy, and consuming too many sour foods can overstimulate the liver, leading to damage to the spleen and stomach. To counter this, diets should lean towards sweet treats that bolster the spleen and stomach’s energy. Foods like dates, which are balanced in flavor, nourish the blood, and strengthen the spleen and stomach, are perfect. They can be enjoyed raw, or used in dishes like date porridge, date cakes, and date rice. Chinese yam is another excellent choice for February, supporting the spleen, benefiting qi, nourishing the lungs, and supporting kidney health. It can be prepared in various ways, such as caramelized yam, yam and red bean paste buns, or candied yam. Additionally, it’s beneficial to eat foods that are mild in flavor and rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals like lean meats, eggs, milk, honey, soy products, fresh vegetables, and fruits. These foods can help dispel cold and support yang energy. For those with lung conditions, now is the time to eat foods that are spicy and warm, like leeks, garlic, and onions, which can open up the pores and help release trapped heat.


Dealing with Dampness as the Rainy Season Arrives

With the arrival of the rainy season, the increase in moisture can lead to “excessive dampness” in the body, manifesting as poor appetite, indigestion, and diarrhea, especially when the body’s functions are weakened. The key to health during this time is to strengthen the spleen and dispel dampness through herbal remedies and diet, such as a porridge made from coix seed, foxnut, and lotus seeds. Coix seed is nutritious and can help reduce the strain on the stomach and intestines, promote metabolism, and has effects like draining dampness, strengthening the spleen, relieving joint pain, and clearing heat.



Living in Harmony with February: Early to Bed, Early to Rise

This season encourages us to align with the natural world by going to bed early and rising early, adopting a routine that resonates with the season of growth. For older adults, who may struggle with sleep quality at night, a short nap during the day can be beneficial.


Activities: “Move” more and Nourish Yang Energy

During the months before Spring, outdoor activities are a wonderful way to enjoy nature’s energy. Activities like walking, jogging, fishing, flower viewing, calisthenics, playing sports, practicing Qigong, Tai Chi, or going on a February outing can help eliminate fatigue after a busy day. It’s important to exercise according to one’s personal health condition and to dress appropriately for the weather to prevent colds. It’s also advised not to exercise immediately after eating or on an empty stomach for older individuals.



The Principle of “Bundling”

With the unpredictable weather, it’s essential to dress warmly to protect against the cold and support yang energy. The practice of ” dress more in February and spring and less in autumn ” is a health principle that aligns with seasonal climate changes. As the weather fluctuates between cold and hot in this season, it’s important to dress appropriately to avoid illness. Especially for those with high blood pressure or heart conditions, staying warm is vital to prevent serious health issues.


Emotional Well-being in this season

According to the Five Elements theory, the liver corresponds to the wood element and spring, with anger as its emotional expression. Thus, managing emotions and maintaining a positive outlook is crucial for wellness before spring. The warm sunlight of spring can kill bacteria and viruses, prevent osteoporosis, and green spaces can adjust temperature, humidity, and air quality, providing significant health benefits for both body and mind.



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