Chinese New Year Legend

PureInsight | February 12, 2007

[] In ancient
times, there was a legendary ferocious beast named Nian. Nian lived at
the bottom of the sea all year around, but when the Chinese New Year's
Eve came, Nian would leave the sea, approach villages, eat livestock
and hurt human beings. Therefore, every year when the New Year's Eve
was getting closer, people all fled to tall mountains to prevent from
being hurt by Nian.

One year, when people were busy with fleeing to the mountains, there
was an old man entering a village. He told an old lady that if she
allowed him to live at her house for a night, he would drive the
ferocious beast "Nian" away. But no one believed his words. The old
lady tried to persuade him to hide himself in the mountains. But the
old man insisted on staying in the village. When the beast Nian entered
the village to do bad deeds, all of a sudden it was badly frightened by
loud sounds from firecrackers. Meanwhile, he saw the red couplets on
the door of a house and the candles in the house were still lit. The
beast Nian was so scared that it ran away. It turned out that
firecrackers, light and the red color were what Nian was most scared
of. The second day, when the villagers came back, they found that
nothing was damaged. Then they figured out that the old man was an
immortal being. Meanwhile they knew the three treasures which could
drive Nian away.

Since then, every New Year's Eve, people all post red couplets on their
doors, ignite firecrackers and keep their candles lit the whole night.
This custom was quickly spread far and wide and the New Year became the
most important traditional Chinese holiday.

Every year, the seven days before the Chinese New Year, based on
Chinese lunar calendar, were called "xiao nian." During these days,
each household starts to prepare for the New Year's coming. They clean
the house and purchase special New Year's treats, such as chicken,
fish, candy, and the like. Each household also prepares presents for
visiting relatives and friends and buys new clothes for the children.

On New Year's Eve, it is the time for the whole family to be reunited.
In northern China, people usually eat dumplings, because the Chinese
pronunciation of dumpling is the same as that of the word "reunion."
Therefore, dumpling symbolizes "reunion." People in the south also eat
New Year's cake which represents a blessing for a better year. At 12
a.m. on the New Year day, every family will ignite firecrackers.

On New Year's day, people wear new and beautiful clothes. They go to
visit old people in their family to wish them Happy New Year first.
Children kowtow to adults and receive money gift wrapped in red paper.
In the following days, people will visit relatives and friends to wish
each other a Happy New Year.

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