Lichun, known as “the beginning of springs”, is the first solar term in the 24 solar terms of China. Chinese people consider Lichun as the beginning of spring. The date for Lichun usually comes at February 4 or February 5 in Gregorian calendar when the sun reaches the celestial longitude of 315° and ends when the celestial longitude reaches 330° (usually at February 19).
When a year comes to the Lichun period, people will easily find that the days are becoming longer and the sun becomes warmer in China. Temperature, sunshine hour and rainfall are on the turning point of a year, on a rising trend. Therefore, Lichun has long been a popular solar term in China, because it brings people warmness and hope.
Farmers in China often celebrate Lichun with special events, such as worshiping and offering to the gods. They hold ceremonies in order to pray for a blissful and prosperous new year to come. In the lunar calendar, Chinese New Year might come before or after Lichun. A year without Lichun is called Wu Chun Nian (no spring year). A year with Lichun is also considered as “widow year” in Northern China or “blind year” in Southern China. Marriage during that year is believed to be unlucky.
Whipping Spring Cows
At the day before Lichun, there will usually be two village officials walking down the street, reporting “spring’s coming”. Everybody seeing the officials will smile and give a bow to them. In that day, the village or the whole city holds grand ceremonies to “welcome the spring”. They usually make a clay sculpture of a cow, which people call it “spring cow”. Women embrace their children to go around the cow for three times, and it is said that in that way the children can be kept away from disease. Although people do not believe in the saying, but the activity has been carried on as an entertainment activity.
On the day of Lichun, a sage old man will be elected to host the activity. He symbolically whips the clay sculpture of spring cow for three times, in the purpose of claiming the starting of a year’s farm work. After that, all the villagers start whipping the cow together. They do not stop until the clay sculpture is beaten into mud. Farmers then take the mud to sprinkle into their own farmland. Some people might also take the mud to spread on their cooking place, in order to dispel insects. Nowadays, this tradition is rarely seen China now. Only a few places, such as the area of Chaozhou and Shantou in South China’s Guangdong Province, are carrying on this tradition.
Food Culture of Lichun
The day of Lichun is also called “Yaochun (biting the spring)”. People try to eat something new to keep the spring, such as turnip, ginger, scallion and pancake (known as eating spring pancake).
People will wrap some vegetables with the thin pancakes. There has been a long history of eating spring pancakes during Lichun. Besides eating pancakes with vegetables, farmers will also send spring pancakes as presents to each other.