Surrounded by myths and legends, the Chinese New Year festivities take place every year between January 20 and February 21.
The celebrations, also known as the Spring Festival, mark the end of a lunar year and the start of a new one. Chinese New Year 2020 marks the Year of the Rat following on from the Year of the Pig.
Deep-rooted traditions and superstitions play a central role in the 15-day celebrations, many of which have their roots in ancient history.
What is the history of the Chinese New Year?
The legend is that a wild monster named Nian.
Although he lived in the ocean, Nian would come ashore at the end of each lunar year, terrifying the villagers by destroying property and eating livestock and even children.
Each New Year’s Day, the petrified villagers headed for the mountains to escape this beast.
But one year, as people closed their homes and packed their bags before the annual retreat, an old man entered the village. He was greeted by an elderly woman who told him about Nian and urged him to join them in the mountains.
He refused, telling the woman that if she left him alone overnight at her house, he could end Nian’s reign of terror. The unconvinced woman agreed, leaving him to deal with the beast.
As expected, Nian appeared that night to find a deserted village, except for that one house which was lit with candles and decorated with red papers.
The irritated monster was heading for the house when it was stopped by a deafening crackle coming from the courtyard. Then the old man – dressed in a red robe and howling with laughter – opened the front door and walked out of the building.
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Terrified by this, Nian flees to his aquatic house.
The next day, the returning villagers were amazed to find their village in good condition.
The old woman who let the mysterious man stay in her house while she fled rushed to her house in an attempt to find out how he had eliminated Nian. All she found were red papers, candles and firecrackers.
The villagers quickly realized that the way to defeat Nian was to scare him with loud noises, bright lights, and the color red.
From then on, people will celebrate this triumph by decorating their homes in red, lighting candles and setting off firecrackers. Instead of fleeing, people would remain standing to welcome the Lunar New Year in their illuminated cities, observing the traditions that have endured to this day.
New Years Day in China is also known as Guo Nian, which means “survive the attack on Nian”.
Happy Chinese New Year!