A Chinese New Year Legend

In ancient times, there was a legendary ferocious beast named Nian. Nian lived at the bottom of the sea all year around, but when the Chinese New Year's Eve came, Nian would leave the sea, approach villages, eat livestock and hurt human beings. Therefore, every year when the New Year's Eve was getting closer, people all fled to tall mountains to prevent from being hurt by Nian.

One year, when people were busy with fleeing to the mountains, there was an old man entering a village. He told an old lady that if she allowed him to live at her house for a night, he would drive the ferocious beast "Nian" away. But no one believed his words. The old lady tried to persuade him to hide himself in the mountains. But the old man insisted on staying in the village. When the beast Nian entered the village to do bad deeds, all of a sudden it was badly frightened by loud sounds from firecrackers. Meanwhile, he saw the red couplets on the door of a house and the candles in the house were still lit. The beast Nian was so scared that it ran away. It turned out that firecrackers, light and the red colour were what Nian was most scared of. The second day, when the villagers came back, they found that nothing was damaged. Then they figured out that the old man was an immortal being. Meanwhile they knew the three treasures which could drive Nian away.

Since then, every New Year's Eve, people all post red couplets on their doors, ignite firecrackers and keep their candles lit the whole night. This custom was quickly spread far and wide and the New Year became the most important traditional Chinese holiday.

Every year, the seven days before the Chinese New Year, based on Chinese lunar calendar, were called "xiao nian." During these days, each household starts to prepare for the New Year's coming. They clean the house and purchase special New Year's treats, such as chicken, fish, candy, and the like. Each household also prepares presents for visiting relatives and friends and buys new clothes for the children.

On New Year's Eve, it is the time for the whole family to be reunited. In northern China, people usually eat dumplings, because the Chinese pronunciation of dumpling is the same as that of the word "reunion." Therefore, dumpling symbolises "reunion." People in the south also eat New Year's cake which represents a blessing for a better year. At 12 a.m. on the New Year day, every family will ignite firecrackers.

On New Year's day, people wear new and beautiful clothes. They go to visit old people in their family to wish them Happy New Year first. Children kowtow to adults and receive money gift wrapped in red paper. In the following days, people will visit relatives and friends to wish each other a Happy New Year.

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