February is on its way, bringing some more warm weather and a new lunar year. Like all great celebrations, Lunar New Year it’s steeped in tradition and myth developed across millennia.
According to the legends, Chinese New Year began with a fight against a mythical beast. This beast was called Nian (The Year) and looked like an ox with the head of a lion.
On New Year’s Eve, this savage beast would come out to harm animals, people and homes. But despite being an almighty beast, Nian had weaknesses in battle. The people discovered that Nian feared the colour red, fire and loud sounds.
Given this knowledge, a wise old man in the village suggested it would be better if they stuck together and chased the monster away. So the villagers used Nian’s weaknesses to protect themselves. They placed red house decorations (Dui Lian), set off fireworks and hung lanterns.
That particular New Year’s Eve, Nian was so surprised that it ran around the village until it was completely exhausted and the villagers were able to kill it.
We still honour the traditions of this story in our celebrations. Like the villagers all those years ago, we gather together under large firework displays, loud dragon dances and beautiful red lanterns.
New Year’s Eve
The night before the Nian is set to arrive, families gather together for safety.
Wherever they are, people are expected to be home to celebrate the festival with their families. The New Year’s Eve dinner is called ‘reunion dinner’ and is the most important meal of the year for many.
In China fireworks are used to drive away evil spirits like Nian as well as to celebrate the coming year.
It is believed that the person who launched the first firework of the New Year will obtain good luck.
During Lunar New Year, you will see a variety of red decorations around town. Red lanterns, red envelopes and red streamers all help to ward off Nian. They’re also great gifts for this time of year.
The villagers in the myth used drumming to drive away the evil spirits.
Drums were used in so many aspects of traditional Chinese life, including sacrificial and worshipping ceremonies, warfare and performative dance. They’re equally important in modern times, building atmosphere and a sense of communal experience.
In Chinese culture, the lion symbolizes power, wisdom and superiority. The Lion Dance is one of the most important traditions at Chinese New Year. It is performed to bring good fortune and chase away evil spirits.
Artists imitate a lion’s various movements or demonstrate martial arts accompanied by the music of beating drums, clashing cymbals and resounding gongs.
The lion dance is the perfect way to create a festive atmosphere and bring happiness to the community.