The history and origin of Chinese New Year has many mythological tales related to it. According to an ancient Chinese legend, there was a beast called Nian. He frightened people by swallowing them alive. On one particular day, an old man challenged the beast to swallow other beasts, instead of people; and Nian proudly fell for the bait. After Nian consumed other beasts that harassed people, the old man rode him into oblivion as well. The old man turned out to an immortal god and before departing, he advised people to place decorations made of red paper on their windows and doors. This was to scare away Nian, who feared the color red, in case it decided to return. The long held tradition of observing the defeat of Nian is called “Guo Nian”, translating to “Survive the Nian” and also meaning “passing year”. Till today, Chinese people believe in burning crackers and putting red paper decorations on their house on New Year, to frighten the ethereal beast, as it was scared of noise, fire and the color red. Although not many people know about the legend in the present times, they still celebrate Chinese New Year with grandeur and festivity. Find out more about the customs and traditions followed by the Chinese during New Year.
Customs & Traditions Of Chinese New Year
Chinese follow the lunar calendar, not the Gregorian calendar. Their New Year falls on the last day of the 12th lunar month, which is somewhere in end-January or February. Since the period is the beginning of spring, it is known as the Spring Festival and is characterized by the harvest season. It is celebrated over three weeks, during which people visit family members and friends, buy new clothes, arrange delicious feasts and put up red decorations. Some of the traditions followed during Chinese New Year are:
Gifts are usually exchanged within and between households, from the elders to youngsters. Some common gifts presented are fruits, chocolates, cakes and biscuits. Oranges, when pronounced in Mandarin, sound similar to wealth and is therefore the most favored gift. On the other hand, pears sound similar to separation and must never be gifted or shared with loved ones.
Distributing Red Envelopes
Red packets or envelopes are given by the elderly to the younger people and by the married couples to the unmarried people. Locally known as ‘Hong Bao’, they usually contain money. It is a tradition to gift an amount of money that is even in number, as odd numbers are usually given at funerals.
During the New Year season, markets and fairs are set up outdoors and create a festive atmosphere. One can buy clothing, flowers, toys, fireworks and many other things from here. Many people search for a perfect plum tree as well, since plum blossoms are considered a sign of hope and courage.
The New Year is usually celebrated with firecrackers for reasons that are customary as well as for enjoyment purposes. These firecrackers are usually wrapped in red paper, as it is considered auspicious. They are strung together in hundreds to create deafening sounds and scare away evil spirits.
Celebrating Lantern Festival
One of the best parts of the Chinese New Year is the Lantern Festival, which falls on the fifteenth day of the former.