Today begins the celebration of Chinese New Year, a fifteen-day celebration of early spring. Chinese New Year is a traditional time for families, community, and togetherness. Wherever they are, people come home to celebrate the previous year of hard work, have a good rest, and to wish for a lucky and prosperous coming year with their families. This festival has also evolved to celebrate the start of a new business year and wishing for profits and success in various vocations. Chinese people believe that a good start to the year will lead to a lucky year.
According to legend, the Chinese New Year celebration began with a mythical beast called the Nian, a beast who lived either under the sea or beneath the mountains. The Nian would eat villagers, especially children. To protect themselves, villagers put food in front of their doors at the beginning of every year. It was believed that after the Nian ate the food, it wouldn’t attack any more people.
One day, a god visited one of the villagers and told him to put red paper and firecrackers on his house. The villagers then understood that the Nian was afraid of the color red. When the New Year was about to come, every villager dressed in red clothes, hung red lanterns, and placed red scrolls on their doors and windows. Firecrackers were set off to frighten away the Nian.
From that day on, the Nian never came to the village again
In case you haven’t heard, this year is the year of the monkey–Fire Monkey, to be exact. “Monkeys” (according to those who take Chinese astrology seriously) are particularly careful about their health, love lives, career, and investments in Monkey years.
As Chinese people believe that the year’s start affects the whole year, and there are many superstitions and taboos for the Spring Festival season. Among the taboos:
- No cleaning on the first two days of the festival
- No washing hair on the first day
- No asking for a loan
- No crying. The cry of a child is believed to bring bad luck to the family, so the young are placated fastidiously.
I was surprised to learn that wearing red underwear is very popular during the festival. The color red is believed to ward off bad luck and misfortune.
So don’t forget to wear your lucky undies…