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Top 3 Famous Chinese New Year Legends

The Chinese New Year is the subject of several myths and tales. As one of the biggest Chinese celebrations comes near, we will share famous legends for you to understand and appreciate why we have the traditions that we have today.

Why New Year is celebrated

Chinese New Year’s Day is named Guo Nian (过年) in Chinese, which may either mean ‘celebrate (a new) year’ or ‘overcome Nian’. The character (Nián) may be translated as either “the monster Nian” or “a year.” There once was a monster with a long head and pointed horns called Nian (also known as Nianshou). It spent the entire year in the sea and only emerged on New Year’s Eve to devour humans and cattle in adjacent settlements.

In order to escape being hurt by the monster on New Year’s Eve, people would retreat to isolated highlands. Before an elderly guy with white hair and a ruddy complexion came to the town, people had been living in terror of this creature. In spite of his refusal to retreat into the mountains with the villagers, he was able to frighten the monster away by wearing red clothing, sticking red papers to doors, burning bamboo to make a loud cracking noise, lighting candles inside the homes, and wearing red decorations. When they returned, the inhabitants were shocked to see that their homes were still standing.

Every New Year’s Eve after that, people followed the old man’s advice, and the monster Nian never reappeared. This custom has been upheld to the current day and has developed into a significant manner to welcome the new year.

Why red envelopes are given

The elderly or married send red envelopes to children or unmarried adults during the Chinese New Year season. Another name for a crimson envelope is a yasui qian (“suppressing Sui money”). In addition to the monster Nian, a demon named Sui is said to have appeared on New Year’s Eve to terrorize children while they slept.

It was rumored that children who were possessed by the demon would become mentally unstable, get a horrible fever, and be too afraid to scream aloud. Parents would burn candles and stay up all night to protect kids from Sui. One New Year’s Eve, the parents of an official’s family handed their young child eight pennies to play with in order to keep him awake and keep him safe from the devil. The child wrapped the money in red paper and opened, closed, and reopened the bundle until he was too exhausted to continue. The eight pennies were then hidden beneath his pillow by his parents in an envelope.

The eight coins released a powerful light that frightened the demon away when Sui attempted to touch his head. Eight fairies were revealed to be the eight coins. As such, giving red envelopes to kids became a tradition to ensure their safety and offer them luck ever since.

Why spring couplets are used

According to historical records, humans first hung taofu (inscribed charms on peach wood) on doorways more than a thousand years ago. According to legend, a massive peach tree stretched more than 1,500 kilometers across a mountain in the phantom realm. The gateway to the ghost realm was being watched over by two guards named Shentu and Yulei to the northeast of the tree. The spirits that hurt humans would be captured and given to tigers as food.

As a result, the two guards were feared by all spirits. It was thought that hanging a piece of peach wood with the names of the two guards carved on it above doors would ward off evil. By the Song Dynasty, two fortunate antithetical lines had begun to replace the names of the two guards on the peach wood. Later, red paper, which stands for luck and pleasure, took the place of the peach wood. Since then, it has become a tradition to paste spring couplets as a way to greet people with a happy new year.

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