Thursday, February 3, 2011
5 Minute Factoids: Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year is the longest and most important festivity in the Chinese Lunar Calendar. The origin of Chinese New Year is itself centuries old and gains significance because of several myths and traditions. Ancient Chinese New Year is a reflection on how the people behaved and what they believed in the most.
According to tales and legends, the beginning of Chinese New Year started with the fight against a mythical beast called the Nien. Nien would come on the first day of 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 Nien ate the food they prepared, it wouldn’t attack any more people. One time, people saw that the Nien was scared away by a little child wearing red. The villagers then understood that the Nien was afraid of the colour red. Hence, every time when the New Year was about to come, the villagers would hang red lanterns and red spring scrolls on windows and doors. People also used firecrackers to frighten away the Nien. From then on, Nien never came to the village again.
Check out these books on the Chinese New Year:
In D Is for Dragon Dance, Ying Chang Compestine provides an alphabetical look at holiday customs from “A is for Acrobats” to “Z is for Zodiac.” Yongsheng Xuan’s large-size artwork, rich in sun-bright hues, conveys anticipation and exuberance as two children participate in family celebrations. The paintings are layered atop uniform-colored backdrops of Chinese calligraphic characters, adding depth and texture. Some of the entries include brief explanations, facilitating classroom discussion. An afterword offers “Tips to Ensure Good Fortune in the New Year” and a recipe for dumplings.
A young girl describes her family’s preparations for Bringing in the New Year as “Jie-Jie sweeps the old year out of the house,” “Ba-Ba hangs the spring-happiness poems,” “Ma-Ma makes the get-rich dumplings,” and “Mei-Mei gets a fresh haircut.” After the narrator dons her fancy “new qi pao dress,” the big moment finally arrives with firecrackers, lions “to scare away last year’s bad luck,” and the appearance of a dragon (spread gracefully across a lushly hued three-page fold-out).