Chinese New Year is filled with traditions—fireworks, lanterns, and delightful family meals. Yet beyond these activities lies a rich tapestry of lore, stories, and myths that shape the customs and celebrations of this significant holiday. Learn about the stories and myths that give Chinese New Year its cultural significance as the celebrated occasion it is today.
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What stories are important to the Chinese New Year
Chinese folklore influences this holiday, creating some of its long-storied traditions. Some of the captivating tales related to the holiday include the following:
The legend of Nian
Nian, a fearsome beast, terrorized villages every New Year’s Eve, leaving destruction in its wake. For years, villagers felt powerless until an elderly man arrived. When Nian attacked, a barrage of firecrackers startled the beast, making it tremble with fear and flee. In response, villagers adorned their homes with red lanterns and ignited firecrackers to deter the menacing creature. This tradition of lighting red lanterns and firecrackers endures to this day.
Visits from the kitchen god, Zao Jun
Another intriguing tale features the kitchen god Zao Jun, responsible for each household’s well-being. Zao Jun is said to reside in the stove or hearth of a house. Annually, Zao Jun ascends to the heavens to report on family behavior to the Jade Emperor, influencing their fortune for the coming year. To reliable a favorable report, families offer sweet, sticky foods, like nian gao (sticky rice cakes), to appease Zao Jun’s favor.
Tale of the Zodiac race
Each of the twelve animals in the Chinese zodiac boasts its unique story. Legend has it that these animals raced to establish their zodiac order. The Rat, renowned for its cleverness, hitched a ride on the Ox’s back, cunningly leaping off moments before the finish line. The story of the Rat’s victory is a reminder that intelligence and resourcefulness can overcome obstacles.
Additionally, the zodiac’s order dictates personality traits and destiny. For example, the individuals born in the Year of the Rat are clever and resourceful. Understanding the zodiac’s significance guides Chinese New Year traditions.
Legend of Demon Sui
The Legend of Demon Sui sparked the tradition of gifting red envelopes to children. In this myth, Demon Sui would arrive on New Year’s Eve, menacing children by scratching their foreheads with sharp talons, causing fevers. One night, a child’s parents gave him eight copper coins wrapped in red paper for protection. As the boy slept, a radiant light emitted from his money, frightening away the demon. Since then, elders gift hongbao—red envelopes filled with money—to younger children and grandchildren to ward off Demon Sui.
As this holiday approaches, staying connected with family is paramount. Stories and myths provide a delightful way to bond with loved ones. After the festivities, ensure your loved ones stay connected by sending money with Western Union.
Send money reliably and conveniently online, through the Western Union app or by visiting an agent location. Create unforgettable memories for your loved ones this Chinese New Year. Make your loved one’s Chinese New Year unforgettable.