The Chinese follow many interesting traditions, the most celebrated of which are probably those practised during the Chinese New Year. Preparations for the run-up to Chinese New Year celebrations begin days ahead of the time. It’s a time of anticipation and sheer exhilaration.
The Chinese New Year is determined by the lunar calendar and was traditionally a time when heavenly deities and ancestors were honoured. The story of Chinese New Year is fondly told until today. Legend has it that there once lived a monstrous demon-like creature named Nian. On every first day of the New Year, Nian would come to life and consume all the grain and livestock in the village. In addition to this, if there were any unsuspecting children outside at the time, Nian would devour them too.
Once a year, the locals would lock themselves away in their homes, weary of the creature and his destructive ways. One year, just before the first day of the New Year, an old man arrived in the village. He wanted to know why everyone was so afraid of Nian, as they were just one ‘person’ and the villagers many.
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The villagers remained afraid of Nian and locked themselves in their homes despite the old man’s logic. That night, Nian did not come to the village. The old man had ridden Nian until he was tired and hungry and forced to return to his cave. This went on night after night, until the old man announced that he could no longer find the time to protect the people of the village as he had other responsibilities to attend to.
The old man turned out to be a god and instructed the villagers that Nian was very afraid of the colour red. They were advised to hang red signs on all of the doors, as well as hang red decorations in the streets. Children were to wear facemasks to conceal their identities and use lanterns to scare the evil Nian away.
The story goes that the villagers did as they were told, and that Nian was never seen again.
The Significance of Various Elements
Today, the tradition of hanging red ornaments and decorations all over the home still prevails. Lanterns are lit and paraded in the streets so as to ward off demons. Loud music, fireworks and the beating of drums can be heard in the streets all day long.
Banners of red and gold containing New Year’s messages are traditionally placed at the entrances of both businesses and homes. In Chinese culture, the colour red symbolises prosperity and life, and gold is representative of great wealth and prosperity. So, if you’re going to China, or playing a casino game themed around its many symbols, traditions and artefacts, make sure you are wearing something red and gold!