Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Rich History Behind the Chinese New Year

While we celebrated the arrival of the new year on January 1st, preparations for the Chinese New Year are just beginning! The date of the New Year changes from year to year because it is based off of their Lunar Calendar, and this year the eagerly awaited holiday falls on January 31st. 

Out of the countless Chinese festivals and holidays, this is by far the most celebrated and cherished one. It is a time dedicated to honoring the household, remembering ancestors, and relaxing and celebrating with friends and family. And people really know how to get in the spirit, with celebrations beginning the evening before and lasting up to fifteen days after- sign me up! 

Like with most Chinese holidays, the Chinese New Year is a cultural event filled with rich history and tradition. There is deep legend and mythology behind the beginning of the national public holiday involving a mythical creature the ancient villagers referred to as "Nian". The stories say that this creature would reek havoc through the villages on the first day of every New Year- attacking people and eating livestock and crops. In order to protect themselves from Nian, the villagers began leaving food on their doorsteps each New Year's Eve, in hopes that the distraction of food would prevent further attack to their people. 

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The significance of the color red during the New Year also stems from this same legend of Nian. After the beast was scared away by a child wearing red, the villagers concluded that he was fearful of that color. So from then on, in addition to putting food offerings on their porches, the people would also hang red lanterns and red scrolls on all their windows and doors to ward Nian off. It was only after this act that the ancient creature never again returned to cause harm to the villages and people. 

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