Chinese New Year : Myths and legends

Filled with colours, plentiful food and traditions that have outlasted centuries, Chinese New Year (Lunar New Year) is an auspicious and central celebration to Asia. Also known as the spring festival, the Chinese New Year marks the beginning of the new lunar cycle as well as marking the end of winter and symbolising the desire for new beginnings. The festival has a history that dates back 3000 years and worship on this day can be traced back to ancient worship of the heavens and earth. With a rich and cultural history, it’s no surprise that traditions have become embedded into this historical festival. With the year of the Ox of the zodiac Chinese New Year approaching, here are a few of the ways Chinese New Year is celebrated and their relationship to myths and legends:

 

Gathering with friends and family 

The Chinese New Year is known as the biggest migration event of the year with billions of trips projected for the festival period with family and friends flying in from all over. It is a period made to spend quality family time. Chinese New Year’s Eve is of significant importance to this tradition and family are expected to gather, regardless of where they may be, on this night. It is regarded as the most important meal of the year and is known as the ‘reunion meal’. It is tradition to stay up late on this night to welcome the new year’s coming. 

 

Spend on those close to you 

Like many other festivals, on Chinese New year it is tradition to exchange gifts. In some areas and for older people, it is tradition to gift a gift. However, in the young, red envelopes with money in them are gifted or nowadays, epackages with money a sent. The auspicious red colour is believed to bring good luck for the coming year.

 Chinese New Year red envelope

Fireworks and firecrackers

It has long been tradition to set off firecrackers on Chinese New Years eve. Firecrackers made up of red rolled up paper and filled with gunpowder are set off leaving a shred of red paper in their wake. There is a belief that the sound of the firecrackers will scare away the lion like monster Nian who legend says rose on New Years from sea to feast on human flesh. This mythology is also enacted on the roads in the form of colourful lion dances that is often played out alongside drums and cymbals or in the air. This is a very well-known and prominent celebration that is recognised globally as a symbol of Chinese New Years.

Worship at the temple 

On the 3rd night of Chinese New Year, the folk often visit the temple to light incense and pray for blessings and a good year. Temples also host lion and dragon shows in their courtyards for people to celebrate and enjoy. 

Hang up the decorations 

Red flashes in every street, home and all throughout Asia during this period. It is an auspicious colour and thought to ward of the lion like monster Nian. During Chinese New Year, it’s unlikely that you cross a street without seeing red lanterns or red decorations.