Understanding the history of Chinese New Year and the legend of spring festival can help you find out what is Chinese New Year and why is Chinese New Year celebrated.
History of China New Year
The celebration of the Chinese New Year is so old that can go back thousands year ago, starting from 2300 BC under regime of Emperor Yao and Emperor Shun. It is said that in ancient times, the feudal rulers placed great importance on this joyful event and organised grand ceremonies to mark this occasion.
The festival has always been celebrated based on the Chinese lunar calendar but at one stage the government tried to remove this tradition.
Here is the timeline of Chinese New Year history:
2300 BC: Small scale New Year celebration type of activities.
1766 BC – 1122 BC: New Year celebration started from religious ceremony.
206 BC – 220: New Year celebration is official at the first day of the first month in Lunar Calendar and crack bamboo appeared. (Crack bamboo will create loud cracking sound when put on fire. It is believed that the sound drives away evil.)
220 – 420: Fireworks used in New Year celebration.
960 – 1279: Fireworks using gun powder begun.
1928: The ruling Kuomintang party in China decreed that Chinese New Year will fall on first day of January of the Gregorian calendar, but this was abandoned due to overwhelming opposition.
1967: During the Cultural Revolution, official Chinese New Year celebrations were banned in China.
Since 1978: the public celebrations were reinstated and the celebration date remains.
Spring Festival Legend
In ancient China there lived a monster named Nian or “Year” in English, who, with a horn on the head, was extremely ferocious. Year lived deep at the bottom of the sea all the year around and climbed up to the shore only on New Year’s Eve to devour the cattle and kill people. Over years, the people tried to protect themselves from Nian. One spring, Villagers came up some ideas. They hung bright red paper on every door in the village and as soon as Nian entered the village, they threw bamboos into the fire, which gave out thousands of explosions. Nian suddenly ran away as fast as he could.
Since then, every year around this time, people hung red paper and burned bamboo to protect themselves from Nian. This practice has evolved to the current celebration of Spring Festival, when people stick red posters (paper) or Dui Lian in Chinese and set off firecrackers (originally made from bamboo).
Chinese peasants eagerly wait for Chinese New Year because it is on this day that the kitchen God is supposed to depart away to the lord of heaven (known as the to the Jade Emperor) to report about the family. During his absence-that is, the period in which He leaves the kitchen only to return in the New Year-the family members clean up the house and make a fresh start to welcome the God as well as the new promising year.