Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Year of Dragon-Happy New Year!!!

photo via kayodeok

Happy Dragon Year!!! Today is the new year eve in traditional Chinese calendar!!! In old times, I would run around and scream with other kids on the streets-过年了!!It was extremely cold outside in old times, but weather never stopped kids from having fun! We would wear  fur hat (really had to in that sever weather), stay outside and lit up many fireworks. We would lick the bottom of the fireworks which then "stick" with the iron surface immediately. Once saw the firework lit, covering my ears with hands, ran and scream!!!

Before western calendar was adopted by China, Chinese traditional calendar was the official calendar throughout China.  春节, or Spring Festival in English, refers to the first day of a new year in traditional Chinese Calendar.
photo via phamp197x

Spring Festival is the most important holiday for Chinese (and other Asians). Because of that, emperors of each new dynasty named the first day differently. In Xia Dynasty, it's called Sui (岁)。 In Shang Dynasty, it's called (si)祀。 In Zhou Dynasty, it's called Nian (年)。In Tang Dynasty, it's called 载(zai).

In old times, we called it 过年,instead of Spring Festival (春节)。 过 means "pass", "overcome". 年 refers to "year" or "harvest".

My grandpa told me many culture related stories. The word 年 is actually believed a brutal beast who kills people and destroys properties. The animal lives in the deep sea and only comes out of water in the beginning of each year. People hate and are afraid him so much that they have to escape to mountains during this time of each year.

Photo via WeiZhang@hudson

While people are busy moving foods to the mountains, here comes an old homeless gentleman walking with a cane. An old lady kindly gives him some breads and says to him the beast is coming. He responds, if you allow me to stay for a night, I can help you kick the beast out! The lady is shocked, staring at him, who has gray hair, but looks very energetic and young. She says, the animal will kill you. Leave here, now!

The gentleman continues to stay. In mid night, 年 comes to the village, but notices something different this year-in front of the old lady's house, there's red paper hanging on the wall and lights in every room. The beast is angery, starting to shake and scream. He runs to the house but hears big noises from the inside-the fireworks!! The beast is so scared that he jumps into his Mercedes and fly back to his home-Bermuda triangle;)). Bet he gets few traffic tickets. It turns out the beast is afraid of red color, fire and the noise from fireworks.

The next day when people get home, they see nothing is destroyed. They realize that red paper, fire, and firework helps keep their properties protected. 过年 means "conquer the beast" then you will have a successful and fortunate year!!

Even until today, Chinese continue to hang red "fortune" (福),wear red clothes, celebrate with red fireworks, and keep lights on until the next day.

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