Holiday season comes to its grand finale for all Chinese, spouses, residents of Asia and fans of Chinese culture, CNY is around the corner (28th January, first fact, in case you weren’t sure).
We all love the traditions of Spring Festival, may it be fireworks, dumplings, red packets (big time) and gatherings with family and friends. But why are things the way they are you may ask yourself (or should, given that you are reading this). Rest assured, we at MYKU got you covered on the most important facts and tales around Chinese New Year. For yourself to know and to impress your friends with these anecdotes over CNY dinner.
First off, CNY is massive! Imagine, there are an estimated 1.3 billion Chinese living in China (that is almost 1/5 of the world’s population), celebrating CNY and we even did not count the Chinese living around the world. You may have thought Christmas is big, but this is a whole different level.
History for starters: the celebration of Chinese New Year originated from the celebration of Spring. This was important in the old days as it helped people to keep track of time in order to facilitate farming-preparations for agriculture. Unlike the western calendar, the lunar new year (kicked off by Spring Festival) changes every year as it was based on moon’s orbit around the earth and not on a written date.
More than just its agricultural importance, the lunar calendar served as a religious and culture guide including rituals for prosperity and fortune telling about the year to come. What’s most interesting are the mythical tales surrounding the origin of Chinese New Year.
The Legendary Nian.
One of the famous mythical legends around Chinese New Year was the fight against Nian (Nianshou 年兽), a mythical beast, half bull – half lion. In the last days of winter, when food became scare in the mountains, Nian would descend into the villages to hunt for food including children on the first day of Spring.
At first, the villagers put food in front of their doors to protect themselves, but over time they realized that the ferocious Nian was afraid of three things: the color red, fire and noise.
Chinese have used firecrackers ever since to symbolically scare Nian away and would hang red lanterns and scrolls on windows and doors. Legend goes, ever since Nian did not return and the children were saved.
Red Packets aka Hong Bao.
Let’s get to one of the key customs around CNY, known as Yasui Qian (压岁钱) ,the ritual of giving red envelopes filled with money to kids and singles. Now we all are fond of this tradition, but you should know why you are getting all this cash.
Legend goes, there was a demon named Sui that came to scare children while they were sleeping on New Year’s night. Children touched by this demon would fall ill. To protect the children in that night, the parents would light candles all night to prevent the youngsters from falling asleep.
On one New Year’s eve, an official’s household gave their child eight coins wrapped in red packets to play with so as to keep him awake. When the child fell asleep, the parents placed the red packet with eight coins under its pillow. When Sui came and tried to touch him, the eight coins turned into eight fairies to scare the demon. This is how the custom of giving red packets started and number eight was considered a lucky number.
Whatever the legend, Chinese New Year is a time to celebrate new beginnings. If you are invited for a gathering during this time, don’t forget to wear something red to show your respect. Rest assured, we got you covered on this too, check out our stunning Gold or Rose Gold timepieces, featuring red straps.
MYKU wishes you a very happy prosperous Year of the Rooster! 🐓🎋