Monday, January 23, 2012

Happy New Year!

Happy Chinese New Year! This year is the Year of the Dragon!


Wishing a prosperous and enjoyable year for all my wonderful readers!

I realized that I never posted the legend of New Year on my blog, so I will tell it to you now! Of course, this is only the version that I grew up with. There are many, many more variations!

I do realized that I am not a stellar novelist by any means, so please bear with my attempt to make the legend more story-like and less "Hey, listen!"

The Legend of New Year

In ancient times, there lived a horrific beast by the name of 年 (Nian, meaning "year").

(source)Artist depiction of 年獸 (Year Beast)

(source) Here's a cuter one in case the first is too scary

Every year on the first day of the first month of the lunar calendar, 年 would come down from the mountains of China and terrorize all the villagers. It ate livestock, destroyed property, and would even eat children!

Villagers left offerings of food outside to keep the beast away from their homes where they hid, but it was still a fearful time for everybody.

One year, as the first day of the first month was approaching once more and the villagers were despondently preparing for the worst, a wise old lady came up with a new idea.

"Let us all light firecrackers outside our homes to scare 年 away," she said. "We will hang magical red papers around our doorways so it cannot come inside. Make a lot of noise with drums and cymbals to scare and confuse the monster."

The villagers were tired of living is fear and desperate enough to try her plan, so instead of preparing food, they prepared the magic papers and firecrackers. When 年 came down from the mountains, they lit the red firecrackers and ran inside their homes sealed with papers around the door frame.

The loud explosions from the firecrackers and instruments successfully scared 年 away! In its dazed and confused state all it saw was red pieces of the explosives and red papers on all the doors, so red became a color it feared. Today, we wear red for good luck and to keep the bad monsters away.

(source) Decorative firecrackers. We used to have something similar to this in our MN house!

Everybody was so happy that they danced and played their drums and cymbals all night long.

The magic papers hung about our doors are called 春聯 (Chuen Lian) and generally come in a set of 3 - one for each side of the door and one that goes over the top. We also have square/diamond papers with a single word written on them, most commonly "wealth" 福 and "spring" 春. These are hung upside down as the word for "upside down" 倒 is pronounced the same (and actually written quite similarly) to the word for "arrived" 到, meaning wealth and spring have arrived!

Other common symbols include bats (pronounced the same as "prosperity"), fish (pronounced the same as "surplus"), and four-word "lucky sayings." One of my favorites is "招財進寶" (Acquire wealth and treasure will follow) because it can be written as one character:

Can you find all 4 characters in it?

Of course, one cannot forget about red envelopes! Red envelopes are given from older to younger generations in "lucky number" quantities, most commonly numbers starting with 6 or 8 because they sound like the words for "smooth" and "prosper." Once you have a stable job/income, however, you should repay your parents by giving them red envelopes instead of the other way around. I am currently still a broke college student ^0^ Ahaha!

Alighty I hope this wasn't too long or poorly worded XD But I do hope it was interesting to read!

Happy New Year and may your wishes come through!