2016 is the 4713th Chinese Year. (Sounds crazy, right?!)
Beginning on February 4th, we officially move into the year of the “Red Monkey.” The day of Chinese New Year falls on February 8th.
The exact origin of this holiday is too old to be traced, but many explanations still exist. One idea is that the holiday originated when a beast named Nian (which means year in Chinese) came out the night before the new year and started to prey on the people in the villages. Of course, the people were very frightened by this monster and so a brave old man went up to the beast and said to him that instead of eating the people of the villages, he should eat the other beasts that frightened these people. Nian followed the old man’s request and all of the beasts were chased into the forest. The old man rode away on Nian’s back, and as it turns out, the man was an immortal god. The people of the village were very grateful to the old man for giving them a peaceful life. Before the old man left for good, he told the people to put up red paper decorations on their windows and doors at the beginning of each new year because the color red scared the beast. They also set off firecrackers to scare away the horrible beast.
During the Chinese New Year’s celebration, people participate in many traditional activities. The Chinese believe that as they enter a new year, they should put behind them all things of the past. They clean their houses, pay off debts, purchase new clothes, paint their doors and window panes, and even get new haircuts. These activities symbolize new life and new beginnings.
Homes are decorated with flowers and paper decorations stating wishes of prosperity, good luck, happiness, good fortune, wealth, and longevity for the coming year. Decorations of the incoming zodiac animal are also displayed. Red and gold are very popular colors to decorate with. Red represents power happiness, vitality (and scares away beasts). Gold represents wealth and good fortune.
The dragon is another popular symbol for Chinese New Year. It is a symbol of strength, goodness, and good luck, and supernatural forces. The dragon is said to be a mythical combination of many animals.
A Chinese New Year celebration would not be complete without fireworks. There are many beliefs about why fireworks are used. One is that the noise wakes up the dragon who will fly across the sky to bring the spring rain for the crops. Another belief is that the noise of the fireworks is supposed to scare away all evil spirits and misfortunes, preventing them from coming into the new year. In fact, gunpowder was invented in China over 1000 years ago for that very purpose.