It All Began This Way....

Posted by M ws On Saturday, January 21, 2012 2 comments
The most important holiday for Chinese around the world is undoubtedly Chinese New Year -- and it all started out of fear.

The centuries-old legend on the origins of the New Year celebration varies from teller to teller, but they all include a story of a terrible mythical monster who preyed on villagers. The lion-like monster’s name was Nian (年) which is also the Chinese word for “year."

The stories also all include a wise old man who counsels the villagers to ward off the evil Nian by making loud noises with drums and firecrackers and hanging red paper cutouts and scrolls on their doors because for some reason, the Nian is scared of the color red.

The villagers took the old man’s advice and the Nian was conquered. On the anniversary of the date, the Chinese recognize the “passing of the Nian” known in Chinese as guo nian (过年), which is also synonymous with celebrating the new year.

Based on the Lunar Calendar

The date of Chinese New Year changes each year as it is based on the lunar calendar. While the western Gregorian calendar is based on the earth’s orbit around the sun, China and most Asian countries use the lunar calendar that is based on the moon’s orbit around the earth. Chinese New Year always falls on the second new moon after the winter solstice. Other Asian countries such as Korea, Japan and Vietnam also celebrate new year using the lunar calendar.

While both Buddhism and Daoism has unique customs during the New Year, Chinese New Year is far older than both religions. Like many agrarian societies, Chinese New Year is rooted in much a celebration of spring just like Easter or Passover.

Depending on where rice is grown in China, the rice season lasts from roughly May to September (north China), April to October (Yangtze River Valley), or March to November (Southeast China). The New Year was likely the start of preparations for a new growing season.

Spring cleaning is a common theme during this time, as many Chinese will clean out their homes during the holiday. The New Year celebration could even have been a way to break up the boredom of the long winter months.


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The Chinese New Year Story

Long ago, the world was not a safe place; monsters dominated the world. There was one horrifying monster that came out on the same day each year to eat people. This monster was named Nian, and the people marked the end of a year by his visits to the human civilization. That is where the Chinese word for year came from.

This monster was the most feared by the people because every time it came out, whole villages would be destroyed at a time. So, every time the monster came, people would huddle together in their homes and stay up all night, wanting not to be eaten. This happened for many years until a wise man thought up a plan to scare the monster away.

This man proposed that the people should light bamboo. The bamboo would crack and make a lot of noise, possibly scaring the monster away. The villagers thought this was a very good idea and started to light the bamboo. The noise was tremendous. The monster was scared by the loud noise and ran back to its cave without not eating any people.

The next morning, everyone was present. They were all elated. The people congratulated each other for executing the plan effectively. So, from then on, people stayed up late, lit firecrackers (to simulate the lighting of the bamboo), and congratulated each other when the new year came.

And that is why some say Chinese New Year is celebrated....

Wishing all my Chinese readers Gong Xi Fa Cai!

2 comments to It All Began This Way....

  1. says:

    Antares Was the monster named Nian or BN?

  1. says:

    masterwordsmith Dear Antares

    Haha!!! Excellent response. The answer is obvious to many now :-).

    Happy Lunar New Year!

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