Chinese Lunar New Year

The informant gave out the following piece of folklore at my request. They are of Chinese descent, and the setting was casual.


They said that a long time ago, there used to be this creature that wasn’t quite a spirit, or like the guardian lions. These creatures were called “年” aka Nián, meaning “year” in Chinese. They would come down and attack this town every year to steal food, and eat humans. The humans heard that these creatures were afraid of loud noises, so they lit fireworks to scare them away. After seeing how Nián never came back, they began to light fireworks every year.


Some variations also include the color red and masks to scare off Nián. What was interesting about this interaction was the informant’s reaction when I said I, a person also of Chinese descent, was not familiar with the complete legend behind Chinese Lunar New Year. It reminded of the discussions the class had about what it meant to be of a certain identity.

One thing to clarify is that while several nations and cultures observes the lunar calendar, there are usually a few distinct differences between how one culture celebrates it, and how another celebrates it.