A Little Bit of Chinese Lunar Calendar Facts + A Shrimp Recipe + Kitchen Hint

Two different calendar systems are used among many Chinese people. The Western Calendar is used for everyday matters, but the Chinese Lunar Calendar is used to set weddings and other auspicious dates.

The Chinese Lunar Calendar is also used to determine festivals and holidays.

A normal Chinese lunar year consists of 12 lunar months, listed numerically as: Month 1, Month 2, Month 3 … Month 12. A month may have 29 or 30 days but never 31.

dsc04836weblarge.jpg A leap Chinese lunar year consists of 13 lunar months but there is no Month 13. Instead the month that is leaped will be listed as Month “x” large/small (having 30/29 days) and Month “x” small/large (having 29/30 days).

A whole month is added during a leap year. It is not always the same month; the years between are not consistent either.

Curious to find out more about the leap year, I purchased this calender book (right photo), which begins with the year 1903 and ends with the year 2021, to see if I could find the pattern to how leap year is determined. Unfortunately I coud not (lack the intellectual capacity to figure it out). But I shall continue to search. Hopefully I will find another book or someone who is able to shed some light on the matter.

The 1st day of every Chinese lunar month is new moon.

The 15th day of every Chinese lunar month is full moon.

The Western (also known as the Gregorian) calendar is based on the earth rotation around the sun. The Chinese Lunar Calendar is based on the cycles of the moon. That is why Chinese New Year never falls on the same day of the Western calendar.

This year Chinese New Year is February 10, 2013. It is the Chinese year 4711, the year of the snake (snake people are deep thinkers and soft spoken).

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Joining friends at a restaurant to celebrate so will not be doing any cooking.

I would, however, like to share one of my kids favorite dishes with you. Suitable for the Chinese New Year banquet table; so easy, it will become one of your quick “go to” dish any time. Serve with rice and a green vegetable or salad, I served it with steamed broccoli raab, delicious!

From My Students’ Favorite Chinese Recipes, updated edition by Norma Chang

1 tablespoon ginger wine. Click here for info.
3 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons broth or water
1 teaspoon sugar
Combine all the above in a small bowl. This is the sauce.
1 pound large raw shrimp, shelled, deveined, washed, pat dried and toss with ½ teaspoon kosher salt. Refrigerate ½ – 2 hours.
4 tablespoons oil
4 slices fresh ginger
2 scallions, cleaned and thinly sliced
2 – 4 cloves garlic, minced

1. Add oil to preheated wok, swirl to coat entire surface. Add ginger slices. Turn heat to high, when oil reaches smoking point, add shrimp and stir-fry until color changes. Remove shrimp to a clean plate. Discard ginger slices.
2. Remove all but 1 tablespoon oil from wok, add scallion and garlic, stir-fry using medium heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in sauce and shrimp. Stir-fry until shrimp is cooked and coated with sauce. Serve at once.

NOTE: Increase broth for sauce to 4 tablespoons if using a frying pan instead of a wok.


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Kitchen Hint – Freezer Food Safety

This kitchen hint was posted on 10/27/12. You may wish to check it out if you are in the path of winter storm Nemo. Click here to view post

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Copyright © by Norma Chang. All Rights Reserved. Do not use/repost any photos and/or articles without permission.

About Norma Chang

I am the author/publisher of 2 user-friendly Chinese cookbooks: "My Students' Favorite Chinese Recipes (updated edition)" and "Wokking Your Way to Low Fat Cooking" A gardener who enjoys cooking and eating and loves to think outside the box A garden volunteer at Locust Grove Heritage Vegetable Garden Conduct hands-on cooking workshops for teenagers Conduct cultural programs for children and family Conduct healthy cooking classes for adults
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59 Responses to A Little Bit of Chinese Lunar Calendar Facts + A Shrimp Recipe + Kitchen Hint

  1. Happy year of the snake! I was interested to read about the lunar leap years — didn’t know about those. I am far from the banqueting that my family does for new year, but I hope to be making a feast or two of my own.

  2. Judy Killmer says:

    Norma, thank you for the Chinese Lunar Calendar facts – verrrrrry interesting. I really enjoyed learning about it. Also the recipe sounds great. Where would I find the ginger wine (liquor store or in a super market)? Judy

  3. Happy New Year, dear Norma. Have a lovely time and keep the kitchen door firmly closed for a couple of days, lol. Carina

  4. Annie says:

    Norma, Happy Chinese New Year to you and your family:) 万事如意 🙂

  5. Kristy says:

    That shrimp dish looks so flavorful and delicious! I’m sure it would be a hit here. Happy Chinese New Year! I knew it was going to be a better year for me and I didn’t even realize it was my year (I’m a snake according to the Chinese calendar). 🙂

  6. Karen says:

    An interesting post about the Chinese New Year. I had a little calendar book that I bought in Hong Kong years ago but forgot about all the details. Enjoy the celebration with your friends.

    • Norma Chang says:

      Hello Karen,
      I wish I understood the Chinese lunar calendar better, it contains a lot of information and seems, oh, so complicated. I know I will be having a great time with my friends.

  7. Kim says:

    Oh that shrimp looks amazing! Happy New Year, let’s hope you can dig out and get there this year :0). The Chinese knew when they made their calendars they could count on the moon to mark it,. It makes prefect sense to me.

    Happy Cooking

  8. Gong Xi Fa Cai, Norma! Wishing you and your family all the best for the Year of the Snake! xx

  9. Eva Taylor says:

    Happy New Year! Hope you have a great time! Are you going to a Chinese Food Restaurant?
    That kitchen hint was excellent!! Thanks again for the reminder.
    Coral Shrimp sounds very tasty. And yes, we’re being really beat up by Nemo, it’s brutal. Hasn’t stopped since around 7 last night. Can’t imagine how much snow I have at home.

  10. Happy Chinese New Year my friend 😀

    Choc Chip Uru

  11. Daphne says:

    It looks delicious.

  12. Kate says:

    What a beautiful recipe! I can’t wait to dig around and try some of these. Everything here look absolutely wonderful.

  13. Natalie says:

    Those shrimps look SO good!!

  14. Eha says:

    Just three things at this busy time: A tremendously happy New Year to you and yours; thank you for the lesson – I have so much to learn [methinks I am a piggie to start 🙂 !] and hope that Nemo comes and goes without causing too much damage!!!!

  15. This is one of my wife’s favorite shrimp dishes. I normally make it with a bit more sauce so she can mix with some rice. Thanks for sharing this wonderful dish and wish you a very happy year of the snake!

    • Norma Chang says:

      Hello Yi,
      Glad I posted one of your wife’s favorite shrimp dishes. I too make more sauce sometimes depending on who is going to be at the table. A happy Year of the Snake to you and yours also. Thanks for visiting.

  16. ChgoJohn says:

    I know very little about Chinese New Year nor the customs that surround it. Thanks, Norma, for taking the time to explain things to us. Wishing you and your a most happy New Year and a wonderful year ahead!

    • Norma Chang says:

      Hello John,
      You are welcome. Wish I knew more. It seems the more I learn the less I know especially regarding the Chinese lunar calendar. It contains a wealth of information. How did the astronomers who created the original calendar collect all that info?

  17. Happy Chinese New Year, Norma. Shrimp and broccoli are my favourite combo when making the stirfries.

  18. I miss celebrating Chinese New Year from when we lived in Mauritius. Happy Chinese New Year to you Norma. Your shrimp looks fabulous.
    🙂 Mandy xo

  19. Happy Chinese New Year Norma! That shrimp looks fantastic!

  20. Is it that time already? I was keeping a close look for the date to post something specific I guess I have to hurry, although my calendar shows me Chinese New Year through the 14th. Happy New Years Norma! I have two snakes in my house: deep thinkers, yes. Soft speakers, amm, I am not so sure. 🙂

  21. wok with ray says:

    Thank you for the Chinese calendar lessons and thank you for this beautiful and flavorful looking shrimp! Happy New year, Norma! 🙂

  22. Lrong says:

    Delicious looking dish… very apt for the occasion… Happy CNY to you!

  23. hotlyspiced says:

    You know so much more about Chinese New Year than I do. They celebrated it at my son’s school with every child being asked to come dressed in red instead of the usual navy blue school uniform. They also had spring rolls available for purchase at the canteen. Food is so integral to the new year celebrations xx

  24. What a pretty dish to celebrate Chinese New Year.. I can see why it is your children’s favorite, Norma. It looks not too difficult as well once. xx

  25. Very nice recipe and I love that it’s red, very fitting…Happy lunar New Year, Norma!!!

  26. leduesorelle says:

    Gung hay fat choy! Celebrated by cooking up a big batch of tomato noodles, with pork instead of beef, one of my childhood favorites.

  27. Lisa says:

    It is interesting to contrast a heliocentric calendar with a lunar one.

    Our neighborhood set off a huge amount of firecrackers for the lunar new year. But I must admit that my neighborhood does tend to find any excuse to blow things up. I think it is very festive, but the neighborhood animals get pretty traumatized.

    • Norma Chang says:

      Hello Lisa,
      Thanks for introducing me to a new word “heliocentric”, googled the word to learn more.
      Yes, the neighbourhood animals do get traumatized from all the noises from the fire crackers especially the last one that sends off a huge boom to chase away all the monsters and welcome in the new year.

  28. These look delicious Norma. Happy Chinese New Year (belated)!

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