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Origin of Chinese New Year—Tale of Nian

monster nian

(Monster Nian)

Chinese New Year has a history of more than 4000 years, it was presumed started during the ancient pried of Shun Time and settled down as a tradition celebration since West Han dynasty. In China, people also call Chinese New Year festival as “Nian”, call celebrate the festival as “Guo Nian” which literally means live the festival. But who knows that “Nian” was actually name of a furious monster in ancient time.

The monster Nian was born to be very ugly and ferocious, it would eat anything merciless. Nian would come down from mountain and feed on human beings every 365 days at night. Villagers were very afraid of it and locked their doors earlier before sunset on that day. They stayed home and prayed for survival. So live through Nian was a very challenge task at that time.

Luckily in the village there lived a wise old man, he pointed out that it could be the panic in villagers that encouraged Nian to come and hunt again and again. So he told the villagers to stand up and fight it together. They learned that Nian was afraid of red colored things, noise and fire.

people were fighting against monster nian.

(People were fighting with Monster Nian)

Therefore later every time when it was about Nian to come and hunt, people decorated their houses with red things, lighted up lots fireworks and played drums loudly to drive Nian away. They also prepared a big meal to eat early before Nian come. The whole family would sit together and prayed for protection of their ancestors and for the favor of nature to help them to survival Nian.

What the villagers did was a big success. Nian was scared away by the fireworks and crackers and villagers did that year after year. In the end, Nian was so frustrated that it just disappeared, it never came back to bother villagers ever again.

But those activities of families sit together for a big meal, dragon dance and drum play, fireworks show and red decorations were kept as traditions till present days. The phrase “Guo Nian” meaning survival the Nian in Chinese, remains as another common way of saying celebrating the Chinese New Year.