The Story of Chinese New Year There are many legends that are part of the Chinese culture. Many of them exemplify moral lessons, not so different from Aesop and his fables. One story in particular is the story of Chinese New Years. Long ago in the mountains, there lived a horrible demon creature named Nian. Every year, on the ...
The Story of Chinese New Year
There are many legends that are part of the Chinese culture. Many of them exemplify moral lessons, not so different from Aesop and his fables. One story in particular is the story of Chinese New Years.
Long ago in the mountains, there lived a horrible demon creature named Nian. Every year, on the first day of the year, the creature would awaken and descend upon the village. He would eat all the grain and livestock. And if there were any unfortunately children stuck outside, they would disappear.
The villagers lived in fear of this beast and boarded up their houses on this night to protect their families. One year, right before this event was to occur, an old man visited the village. He turned to the villagers and asked, "Why do you fear this creature such? You are many and he is but one. Surely he could not swallow all of you."
But the villagers remained skeptical and locked themselves up anyway. That night, Nian did not come. The old man had ridden him until dawn and the creature went back to its cave hungry. This went on for several nights until the old man revealed, "I cannot protect you forever."
He turned out to be a god and had to return to his duties elsewhere. The villagers were terrified that once the old man left, they would once again see Nian return.
So the old man informed them, "The beast is easily scared. He does not like the color red. He fears loud noises and strange creatures. So tonight, spread red across the village. Hang red signs on every door. Make loud noises with drums, music, and fireworks. And to protect your children, give them face masks and lanterns to protect them."
The villagers did as the old man instructed and Nian never returned again.
In Chinese, the word for New Years is Guo Nian. Literally translated it means to "pass over Nian" or "overcome Nian". That is exactly what the villagers did.
It has become a tradition that part of New Years celebration is to hang lots of red decoration in your house. Streets are filled with music, loud drums, and fireworks all day long. And special paper lanterns are made in a variety of shapes and sizes, paraded through the streets to scare off any demons that might come.
Thus ends the story of Chinese New Years or Guo Nian.
Chinese New Year Eve - 30th (or 29th) Lunar day of 12th Lunar Month
Chinese New Year Eve usually is on 30th lunar day of 12th lunar month. However, a lunar month might have only 29 days. In this case, the Chinese New Year Eve becomes on 29th day of 12th lunar month. The next day will be a new moon day, which is the Chinese New Year Day.
In Chinese, Chinese New Year Eve is called Chu-Xi or Guo-Nian . Chu means removal. Xi means night. Guo means passing. Nian means year.
Original meaning of Nian is related to farmer's harvest. Chinese Farmers celebrated their achievement for the past year, appreciated the gracious reward given from the god, and prayed for the same luck for the coming year.
Nobody knows when the legendary story about Nian began. Nian was a ferocious and carnivorous beast. It had lion-type head with elephant-type body. Nian couldn't find the food in the cold winter time, because many animals hibernated in the mountains. It must go down from the mountain to find the livestock. Later, It become a man-eater.
Nian was too strong to kill. Every winter night, people must stay inside the house. Years later, people found Nian was afraid of red, fire and noisy sound. So they cut red-color peach wood hanging on the door, made a campfire in the front of the door. When Nian approached the village, then people put the bamboo into the fire to make cracking sound. They also beat the metal kitchen and farming utensils to make noisy sound to scare Nian away.
People survived, celebrated and said congratulation each other on the next day. People felt like a restarting point after passing the disaster. Then, they called Guo-Nian (passing Nian) as the day before the new starting day.
Events on the Day of Chinese New Year Eve
House cleaning should be ready on or before the day Chinese New Year eve. But Chinese family is still very busy on this day. Early morning, someone has to go to flower-market to buy flowers for worship events and new year day decoration. Red is the auspicious color in China. The pink peach flower and Japanese sakura are very popular choices for the flower arrangement.
The first event on the Chinese New Year Eve is to worship Jade Emperor with flower and fruit without animal sacrifices (top ranking gods are vegetarian) in the early morning to thank the gracious protection from the god of heaven in the past year and pray for safe, smooth and luck for the coming year.
Many families probably are still working in the final house decoration. They need to finish the decoration on doors and windows.
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