When I was in China, we just couldn’t stop counting down the days until Spring. Even now in Ottawa, I continue to count down in my heart. The rain and snow of Ottawa reminds me so much of Spring—it’s right here!
In Chinese culture, people use Solar Terms as milestones for each different periods of the season. There are a total of six Solar Terms for Spring: Li Chun (“Start of Spring”), Yu Shui (“Rain Water”), Jing Zhe (“Waking of Insects”), Chun Fen (“the Spring Equinox”), Qing Ming (“Clear and Bright”), and Gu Yu (“Grain Rain”). Qing Ming is also celebrated as a festival.
The start of Spring, which is the start of Li Chun, is usually in February. (Personally, this always reminds me of the so-called “Spring Break”, which I enjoyed when studying at the University of Ottawa. Despite the name, it doesn’t really feel like Spring.) This year, Li Chun fell on February 4th. Following Li Chun is the Solar Term Yu Shui, which took place on February 19th. People believe that Yu Shui marks the beginning of rain, and a good rain in the beginning of Spring is a good omen. The third term, Jing Zhe, which fell on March 5th, is in theory the day when animals come out of their Winter dens. For me, Jing Zhe is the day when I can see ants peeping out of their holes, feeling the air with their antennas for signs of blossoms. The date of the fourth Solar Term, Chun Fen, was March the 21st. Chun Fen usually overlaps with Nowruz, the Iranian celebration for Spring. In Chinese culture, Chun Fen is a milestone for longer daylights and shorter nights. The Solar Term after Chun Fen is Qing Ming, which was on April 4th this year and is a sign of warmer weather. The last Solar Term is Gu Yu. Gu Yu fell on April 19th and indicates that the rainfall around that time will be beneficial for grains and crops.
Besides the Solar Terms, Chinese people have other traditions to await the coming of Spring during cold Winter nights. I still remember a folk song passed on to me by my grandmother, a song called Shu Jiu (“Counting down every nine days”). In the folk song, the weather gets better every nine days after Chinese New Year. Each 9-day period means a new sign of warmer weather: the ice will melt, the swallows will arrive, willow branches will sprout, and finally, voila, Spring has arrived!