Couples in China race against ‘widow year’ belief

The Beginning of Spring, which falls on Feb 4 this year, comes before the Lunar New Year that begins on Feb 10. The early arrival means the Lunar New Year calendar next year will be "spring-less", which some say is ominous to start a family.


A girl looks at dragon toys at a shopping mall in Nanchang, Jiangxi province, Jan 21, 2024. PHOTO: VCG/ CHINA DAILY

January 29, 2024

BEIJING – Pang Miao, who works for a software company in Xi’an, Shaanxi province, said she was a little surprised that many of her friends chose to tie the knot sooner than expected, until she finally heard about “widow year”.

The phenomenon, in which the Beginning of Spring — the first of 24 solar terms — arrives before Spring Festival, occurs every two or three years. The Beginning of Spring, which falls on Feb 4 this year, comes before the Lunar New Year that begins on Feb 10.

The early arrival means the Lunar New Year calendar next year will be “spring-less”, which some say is ominous to start a family.

“I have attended many such weddings lately,” Pang said, adding that one friend of hers married just three months after meeting her husband.

The 29-year-old said she was never a superstitious person, but got increasing unnerved by friends talking about cases in which a husband became seriously ill for defying the taboo.

A surging number of couples across China are racing to hold weddings before a “widow year” arrives, according to media reports and personal accounts.

Those worries have led to an increase in rushed weddings in Gansu province, according to news website It reported a prominent increase in the sales of wedding-themed products such as wedding candy and colored paper decorations at local shopping malls. Many hotels and conference venues were also fully booked for weddings.

An anonymous netizen earlier this month even took to the website of the Ministry of Civil Affairs, which oversees marriage registration, to lodge complaints.

“There are rumors spreading that 2024 is a widow year and unfit for forming a union, which is totally against common sense and scientifically absurd,” according to a message dated Jan 11.

“I suggest that the ministry and other departments issue documents to explain this to the public, so that young people can get married uninfluenced by the rumors.”

The ministry’s social affairs division soon replied: “We’ll consider your advice and thanks for your care for civil affairs work.”

However, a number of couples have ignored the taboo and proceeded with their plans, though some acknowledged that they were not fully indifferent to unproved claims that husbands-to-be would suffer as a result of the timing.

Gao Xu, 30, was engaged in October and planned to hold his wedding banquet on March 9.

An electrical company employee in Xianyang, Shaanxi province, Gao said he was OK about getting married in a “spring-less year” because there are more important considerations than just superstitious taboos.

“We met through a mutual friend two years ago, and I think now is the time,” he said.

“It would be unfair for my fiancee if I just postpone the ceremony due to some unproved beliefs.”

He said practical considerations, such as if the wedding day is on weekend when more friends can attend, rule his calculations.

For a country that has lost population since 2022, how to entice young couples to get married and have babies has become a serious topic.

Figures from the National Bureau of Statistics showed that China’s marriage rate peaked in 2013 at 9.9 newly married couples for every 1,000 people. The rate has since continuously declined, reaching 4.8 in 2022. Some 6.83 million first-time marriages were registered that year, down from 13.47 million nine years ago.

The birthrate in China has plummeted in recent years due to a mix of factors, such as delays in marriage and a low willingness to have babies, promoting authorities to roll out tax breaks and other incentives to promote marriages.

The number of babies born last year dropped by about 540,000 year-on-year to 9.02 million, according to data released last week by the NBS.

With 11.1 million deaths recorded last year, the total population dropped by 2.08 million to around 1.41 billion.

For Pang Miao, she also thought about marrying her boyfriend, who she has been dating six years, before the new year arrives, but it would be too much of a hurry. Eventually, she decided to hold the wedding in June.

“I have decided to look at things from another way — I am marrying in the Year of the Dragon, an auspicious token in Chinese culture, and probably can get a discount for a wedding venue if there are fewer newlyweds this year,” she said.

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