The Spring Festival is the most
important and biggest festival in China. To the Chinese people it is as
important as Christmas to people in the West. It is the first day of the lunar
calendar and usually occurs somewhere between January 30 and February 20,
heralding the beginning of spring, thus it is known as Spring Festival. This
traditional festival is also a festival of reunion, thus no matter how far away
people are from their home, they would try their best to get back home to have
the Reunion Dinner.
The Chinese meaning of
this festival is Guo Nian. Guo means pass over and Nian
means year. The origin of the Chinese New Year Festival can be traced back
thousands of years through a continually evolving series of colorful legends and
traditions. According to one of the most famous legends, in ancient China there
lived a monster named Year who, with a horn on the head, was extremely
ferocious. Year lived deep at the bottom of the sea all the year round
and climbed up to the shore only on New Year's Eve to devour the cattle and
kill people's lives.
Thereupon on the day of
every New Year's Eve people from all villages would flee, bringing along the
old and the young, to the remote mountains so as to avoid the calamity caused by
the monster of Year.
On the day of that New
Year's Eve the people of Peach Blossom village were bringing along the old and
the young to take flight when there came from outside the village an old beggar.
With a stick in his hand and a bag hanging upon his arm, he had eyes twinkling
like stars and graceful beard as white as silver.
Seized with panic, the
villagers were in a great hurry to run away. Some were closing the windows and
locking the doors, some were packing, and others were urging the cattle and
driving the sheep. At a time when the people were shouting and the horses were
neighing no one was in the mood to care for the beggar.
Only a grandmother
living in the east end of the village gave the old man some food and advised him
to flee to the mountains to avoid the Year monster. But the old man
stroked his beard and said with a smile, "If you allow me to stay at your home
for the night, I'm sure to drive away the monster Year."
The old woman was
surprised to hear this. She looked at him unbelievingly only to find that, with
white hair and ruddy complexion, the old man had a bearing out of the ordinary.
She went on to persuade him to take flight. But he only smiled without reply.
Thereupon the grandmother could not help but leave her home and flee to the
Around midnight the
monster Year rushed into the villages. He found the atmosphere was quite
different from that of the previous year. The house of the grandmother in the
east end of the village was brilliantly illuminated, with bright red paper stuck
on the doors. Greatly shocked, the monster gave a strange loud cry.
The monster Year
stared angrily at the house for a moment. And then howling furiously, he made a
pounce on it. As he approached the door, there came all of a sudden the
exploding sounds of bang-bong. Trembling all over, the monster dared not make a
It turned out that the
red color; flame and exploding were what Year feared the most. And when
the door of the grandmother's house was thrown open and an old man in a red
robe burst out laughing in the courtyard, the monster Year was scared out
of his wits and fled helter-skelter.
The next day was the
1st of the first lunar month. When people came back from their hideouts and
found everything safe and sound, they were quite surprised. The old woman
suddenly realized what had happened and told the villagers about the old
The villagers swarmed
into the grandmother's house, only to find that the doors were struck with red
paper, the ember of a pile of bamboo were still giving out exploding sound of
bang-bong in the courtyard, and a few candles were still glowing in the
The story was soon
spread far and wide and everybody was talking about it. They concluded in the
end that the old beggar was surely the celestial being who came to expel the
calamities and bless the people, and that red paper, red cloth, red candles and
the exploding firecracker were certainly the magic weapons to drive out the
To celebrate the
arrival of the auspiciousness, the raptured villagers put on their clothes and
new hats and went one after another to their relatives and friends to send their
regards and congratulations. This was soon spread to the surrounding villages,
and people all got to know the way to drive away the monster Year.
From then on, on each
New Year's Eve, each family stick on their doors antithetical couplets written
on red paper, blow up firecrackers, keep their houses brilliantly illuminated
and stay up late into the night. Early in the morning of the 1st of the first
lunar month they go to their relatives and friends' to send their regards and
congratulations. These customs are spreading far and wide and kept for
generations. It becomes the most ceremonious traditional festival of the Chinese