The Legends of Chinese New Year
How did the Chinese New Year celebration started?
February 1 marks the Chinese Lunar Year. As we welcome the Year of the Water Tiger, how did the celebration of Chinese New Year begin?
The Monster Nian
There are many legends about how Chinese New Year started but there are three popular stories. The first is about the story of Nian. According to the story, Nian had a long head and sharp horns, scaring villagers. An old wise man taught the villagers to fight Nian back by wearing and posting red on their homes and lighting fireworks to drive him away.
The story of the Red Envelope
The tradition of giving red envelopes is based on a legend where a monster/demon named Sui comes out and terrorizes children while sleeping. This would cause children to get sick. Parents on the other hand would light red candles and stay up to watch over them.
The legend says that the parents would give their children eight coins wrapped in red paper and when the child falls asleep, the coins are hidden under the pillow. When Sui tried to scare the child, he wasn’t able to do it because the coins would not allow it to get near the child. It’s said that the eight coins turned out to be eight fairies guarding the child.
Since then, the tradition of giving red envelopes has become part of Chinese New Year.
The Story of Spring Couplets Posted on Door Frames
Another custom during the Chinese New Year is the display of Spring Couplets on Door Frames. Legend has it that 1,000 years ago, peachwood supposedly has a spirit that can suppress evil and bitter smell that drives away evil spirits. People then would hang taofu charms written on peachwood to keep the family members safe from evil spirits.
Another legend goes that a huge peach tree in the spirit world was guarded by two soldiers – Shantu and Yule. They would catch the ghosts who harm the people and feed them to the tigers. It was believe that hanging an inscription of the names of the two guards or their photos would drive the ghosts and evil spirits away. This would later evolve in the use of red paper, symbolizing happiness and good luck.
Knowing the story
While the legends of Chinese New Year are “legends”, the Lunar Year means welcoming with hope and good fortune. May we all be blessed along with our Filipino-Chinese brothers and sisters this Year of the Water Tiger!