Chinese New Year is now one of the most widely celebrated holidays around the world. Not only is it celebrated by weeklong off-days in many countries such as China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and South Korea, it is celebrated by millions of ethnic Chinese groups all over the world.
Folk tales is as part of the Chinese culture as every other long-surviving cultures around the world and one of the most well-known Chinese folk tales of all time is the origin of the Chinese New Year. In the Chinese language, 年 (Nian) means year. Legend says that long long time ago, Nian were horrible beasts that lived in the mountains who would come down to terrorize the villages every 365 days to devour the livestocks after dark and return back to the mountains after dawn.
After calculating the “day of terror,” the villagers began to view the New Year Eve as the “Obstacle of Nian” and developed a whole set of rituals to survive Nian — by preparing dinner in advance, securing livestock, locking up doors and staying indoors to eat the “Eve of Nian” supper. On this day, the whole family gathers to seek ancestral blessings and to eat together. After dinner, they stay up to encourage and protect each other. Over time, this developed into the tradition of staying up until countdown.
The villagers eventually realized that Nian were afraid of loud sounds, light and the color red. Hence, it became a Chinese tradition to celebrate Chinese New Year with fireworks and with red hangings of proverbs on door-frames. The color “red” thus became the color of luck and prosperity in the Chinese culture.
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May you and your family prosper in the Year of the Dog! Don’t forget to greet each other with a 新年快樂，恭喜發財！