Rats! The year is an hour earlier

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 January, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 26 January, 1996, 12:00am

PARTY-GOERS planning to count down to the Year of the Rat may have to change their schedule because the Lunar New Year's Day will be arriving one hour earlier than previously thought.

The official Guangming Daily yesterday carried an article challenging people's belief in the widely-adopted system of counting days. It says a day starts at 11 pm according to the lunar calendar.

And so, the first day of the Year of the Rat should start at 11 pm on February 18 rather than at midnight, February 19, as stated in the territory's lunar calendars.

The complication arises because people mix up the lunar calendar with the Gregorian calendar and think a day starts at midnight, according to the article.

But the lunar calendar divides a day into 12 terrestrial branches - about two hours each - and the system starts a day with the zi branch, which is equivalent to the period of 11 pm to 1 am, it says.

Bureaucrats in Hong Kong laughed off the suggestion and maintained the law dictated the public holidays.

According to the Holidays Ordinance, the first, second, and third days of the Lunar New Year are public holidays. This year, the holidays fall on February 19, 20, and 21.

The Education and Manpower Branch, which determines which days people should get to take it easy, promised employees they would not miss some of their time off.

'Technically they may be right . . . but bosses won't ask their staff to go to work after 11 pm because their holidays have finished.'