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Chinese New Year Legend

Chinese New Year [Chinese Spring Festival] Legend Highlights:

  • Chinese used firecrackers, fireworks and color red to scare “nian”, a man-eating beast, away. 
  • The Lantern Festival is also known as the Yuanxiao Festival. The special sweet rice ball dumpling called “Yuanxiao ball” is a traditional food on this day

Chinese New Year

Legend says that there was a man-eating beast, “nian”, in ancient China. “Nian” would come from the mountain once per year and infiltrate houses silently to prey on humans. People later learned that “nian” was afraid of loud noises and the color red, so people use explosions, fireworks and color red to scare “nian” away. 

“Celebrate the year” in Chinese is “Guo Nian” meaning “survive the nian”. “Chuxi” is another Chinese word telling the same tail.  “Xi’ is the day of the legendary man-eating beast, “nian”, preys once a year on New Year’s Eve.  “Chu” means “get rid of” in Chinese. Thus “Chuxi” refers to the New Year’s Eve and leads to the celebration for another year of safe life.  These customs led to Chinese New Year celebrations. 

Lantern Festival

There are many different legends were told about the Lantern Festival. One story is that in ancient China, people believed that heavenly spirits could be seen under the magic light of the first full moon. They would burn sticks to light up the fires in search of spirits that might go around the full moon.

Another legend is about the Jade Emperor in Heaven, who was angered at a village in the earth for killing his favorite goose. Jade Emperor ordered to destroy the village with a storm of fire. A good-hearted fairy warned the people to light lanterns throughout the village on the appointed day. When Jade Emperor looked down from the Heaven, the village looked like ablaze. Satisfied that his goose had already been avenged, Jade Emperor decided not to destroy the village. From that day on, people celebrated this day by displaying lanterns with different shapes and colors. Lantern parades are carried out through the corners and streets under the first full moon.

People also love the story about a lonely young girl, Yuanxiao, who was a maid in the palace in Han Dynasty. Yuanxiao was a clever and kind-hearted girl. She was sad and homesick since she was not allowed to see her family as a palace maid. In order to help her, her friend told the Emperor Wu Di that the Supreme God of Heaven had ordered the Fire Fairy to set the city of Changan into fire on the 16th day of the first month of the lunar year. To prevent this from happening, her friend suggested to the Emperor Wu Di to order firecrackers and lantern shows the night before to please the Fire fairy. Also, a special kind of dumplings was made and Yuanxiao was let go to present the dumplings to the Fire fair. The emperor Wu Di bought the story and Yuanxiao was let go outside of the palace to have a family reunion while the whole city of Changan spent the night letting off firecrackers and showing lanterns.

The Emperor Wu Di had such a wonderful time with the firecrackers and lantern shows that he ordered to have the lantern shows again next year. Thus Lantern Festival became a custom of New Year celebration. The Lantern Festival is also known as the Yuanxiao Festival. The special sweet rice ball dumpling called “Yuanxiao ball” is a traditional food on this day. People celebrate under the first full moon of the New Year to celebrate family reunions and a full happy life.


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