Renri (Chinese:人日, literally Human Day) refers specially to the 7th day of zhengyue (正月, the first month in the Chinese calendar). According to Chinese customs, renri was the day human beings were created. It is celebrated not only in China, but also other regions influenced by Chinese culture.
According to Questions and Answers on Rites and Customs (答問禮俗說) by Dong Xun in Jin Dynasty, the days on which different animals were created are:
- First of zhengyue : Chicken
- Second of zhengyue : Dog
- Third of zhengyue : Boar
- Fourth of zhengyue : Sheep
- Fifth of zhengyue : Cow
- Sixth of zhengyue : Horse
- Seventh of zhengyue : Human.
Hence, Chinese tradition set the first day of zhengyue as the "birthday" of chicken, the second day of zhengyue as the birthday of dog, etc. And the seventh day of zhengyue is viewed as the common "birthday" of all human beings.
In Chinese legends, nüwa (女媧) is the goddess who created the world. She created the animals on different days, and human beings on the seventh day after the creation of the world.
According to legend, the custom dates back to the Han Dynasty, and gained importance after The Three Kingdoms period and Jin Dynasty. Traditional Chinese wear Rensheng (人勝) on their heads, or put sliced gold on pingfeng and hair. Poems are also composed on this day. Emperors after Tang Dynasty may grant beautiful clothing to his followers on this day.
If the weather on renri is fine, it can be forecast that God will grant good luck to all people on earth. Fireworks andHua Pao (花炮) are lit, so renri celebrates the "birthday" of fire as well.
Since the first days of zhengyue are considered "birthdays" of different animals, Chinese people avoid killing the animals on the respective birthday and punishing prisoners on renri.
Nowadays in zhengyue, renri is celebrated as part of the Chinese New Year. Chinese people prepare lucky food in the new year, where "Seven-vegetable soup" (七菜羹), "Seven-vegetable congee" (七菜粥) and "Jidi congee" (及第粥) are specially prepared for renri. The Malaysian and Singaporean Chinese use "Seven-colour sliced fish" (七彩魚生) instead of "Seven-vegetable soup".
In Japan, renri is called Jinjitsu (人日 jinjitsu?). It is one of the five seasonal festivals (五節句 gosekku?). It is celebrated on January 7. It is also known as Nanakusa no sekku (七草の節句 nanakusa no sekku?), "the feast of seven herbs", from the custom of eating seven-herb kayu (七草粥 nanakusa-gayu?) to ensure good health for the coming year.
The celebration of the feast in Japan was moved from the 7th day of the first lunar month to the 7th day of January during the Meiji period, when Japan adopted the solar calendar.