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Happy new year everyone! Today is the lunar Chinese New Year, also known as Spring Festival. This is probably the most important festival for Chinese people in addition to the .  During the festival we generally eat a lot, light up fireworks, and give red envelopes to children.  Doors in China are also decorated with red paper with couplets written on them and there are often many parades with dragon and lion dancers. What is less known in America is the original reason for this joyous and boisterous celebration, and it is a pretty interesting legend that I shall retell here.

A long long time ago, there lived a ferocious monster named Nian.  It was bigger than an ox and so ugly that no man could lay eyes upon it without vomiting. Its favorite food was human and it was able to swallow several people in one bite, but it was so lazy that it would only hunt once a year.  Every year it came down from the mountains in the midst of winter on a moonless night and raided the first village it came upon. Thus the people dreaded the new moon in the coldest night of the winter, and feared for their lives every time the year ends.

One year, the hungry Nian came down from the mountains as usual and ran to a village under the cover of darkness.  Only one house in the village had its light on and Nian walked towards the home.  As it approached the window it suddenly heard a loud noise and was startled, and then it saw the home had red paper on its walls and it was even more frightened!  The giant beast was afraid of the color red and loud noises!  It howled in terror and ran away from the village.

The villagers rejoiced the fact that Nian did not take any of them victim, and the next year they were ready.  They all decorated their homes with red lanterns and red paper and prepared firecrackers and loud musical instruments.  On the night of the new moon in the middle of winter, they had a giant party with gongs, drums, and firecrackers.  The village was lit up in lights and glowed red.

Some say that Nian came by the village again and was killed as it cowered in fear, and others say that Nian just never bothered the humans ever again.  Nevertheless, the villagers continued the tradition of celebrating in the midst of winter with lots of noise and crimson decorations.  Thousands of years passed, and the word for “year” in Chinese became “Nian”.  If you look closely at the , you can imagine that its a stylized picture of a beast with a horn, large mouth, and a long tail.  The expression for new year’s day is sometimes “guo nian”, which means “having past the nian”, or “having survived the nian”.  Red became a color of joy, celebration, and ward against evil and that is why it is the color many Chinese brides wear.

Well, I hope you enjoyed the story, and if you have a Chinese friend tell them happy new year!

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buy levitraon 02.07.08 at 7:14 pm

a good story!!!

buy levitraon 02.07.08 at 11:05 pm

happy new year~

buy levitraon 02.08.08 at 9:03 am

Thanks for sharing–I never knew there was a story behind it!

buy levitraon 02.08.08 at 10:02 pm

Thanks for sharing the story – I missed this part before. We are having a Chinese New Years party tomorrow with our friends from China and families formed through Chinese adoption and now the noise makers our children are making will make more sense to me!

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[...] Originally Posted by Gootsy New Years resolution posts (even now). Maybe they are Chinese. [...]

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I know this story from childhood, but recently have been thinking about how similar this story is to the Jewish Passover. It’s interesting that “guo nian” may also be translated as “the passover of the year”. And the red couplets on the door frames are similar to the blood of lambs smeared.

On a similar note, Chinese people like to have phrases which sounds auspicious. E.g. “nien nien yu yue” (may there be surpluses every year). That’s just one example. In my book, that’s very Biblical – similar to the proclamation of good things over one’s life.

buy levitraon 01.26.09 at 1:42 am

[...] Happy Chinese New Year [...]

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Hi, folks. My name is Frank (or MrSpock, because of my ears and my dream). I have started programming in 1985 and I work as a software developer now. I am basically both an old-school programmer (started with Pascal) and a new one (a child of the Internet era HTML, PHP) at the same time. I have basically lost a decade in the programming world. Losing the nineties is not as bad as it seems; I skipped the Windows era ;-)

My dream in life is to develop affordable space travel and space tourism. As a result I also love collecting space related photos made by both pro’s and amateurs. One of own personal problems is that I tend to become an expert of a subject very quickly, so I have to keep changing subject often in order to stay sufficiently ignorant :-) This is why I am interested in many topics and many languages. Fortunately space travel has so far proven to be so complex that it will keep my attention for a long time :-)

I’m usually more of just a lurker on the net but I’ll chime in when I feel I need to, looking forward to meeting everyone and being a part of the community! Well I won’t bore you guys and girls any longer, see you all around!

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