Ancient myth: How Chinese New Year began

Like most holidays, Chinese New Year is rooted in many deep legends that have been passed on for ages. According to ancient myth, the beginning of Chinese New Year started with a fight against a mythical beast called The NIAN or "Year" in Chinese. NIAN would come on the first day of the New Year to devour livestock, crops, and even villagers - especially children.

To protect themselves, the villagers would put food in front of their doors at the beginning of every year. It was believed that after the NIAN ate the food they prepared, it wouldn’t attack any more people. One time, people saw that the NIAN was scared away by a little child wearing red. The villagers then understood that the NIAN was afraid of the color red. Hence, every time when the New Year was about to come, the villagers would hang red lanterns and red scrolls on windows and doors. People also used firecrackers to frighten away the NIAN. From then on, the NIAN never came to the village again. The NIAN was eventually captured by Hongjunlaozu, an ancient Taoist monk/immortal god. The NIAN became Hongjunlaozu's steed (pictured above). Before he left, he advised the villagers to decorate their homes & windows each year with red paper decorations to scare away the NIAN.

The phrase "guo nian" which means "survive the Nian" became "celebrate the Year." The word "guo" in Mandarin means both "pass over" & "observe."

Legend also tells us that the LION was the only animal that could manage to wound the ferocious NIAN. This is why the Lion Dance became popular - as it would frighten away the beast, with the loud drum & deafening cymbals. The menacing face of the Lion dancing aggressively would scare any evil away. Troops of Lion Dancers travel & perform everywhere during Chinese New Year.

This year - Chinese New Year is celebrated on January 26th, 2009!! (3 days!)

We also wanted to include some neat links to make your own Chinese New Year crafts.
Enchanted Learning - crafts & activities
Kaboose - cute crafty ideas
The Best Kids Booksite - good books, craft ideas & info too

*You can also read more about Chinese New Year by reading previous posts in "Topics to Explore" along the right sidebar.