Annually, an animal called the Nien came in the night and killed every first born in every home unless there was blood painted upon the door of the house. The next morning, the people would come out and congratulate everyone who was spared for having been passed by the Nien once again. This was called Guo Nien, meaning “pass the year (or animal).”
Joseph was born and raised in Taiwan and went to school there until he moved to America to attend college at John’s Hopkins University. He told me this story about the Chinese New Year. He said that when he heard the story, he noticed the incredible similarities between this story and the story of the Pharoah of Egypt, Moses, and the plagues. In that legent, Moses commands the Pharoah to free the Hebrews enslaved to do the Pharoah’s bidding. When the Pharoah refused, Moses, by God’s hand, inflicted the plagues in order to prove God’s existence and force the Pharoah to let the Hebrews go. When he once again refused, God sent the plague that would kill the first born in every home unless there was a mark of lamb’s blood on the each house’s door as sacrifice.
Joseph said that the story of the Nien reminded him of his culture and that his mom and dad would tell the story to him and his younger brothers every Chinese New Year’s Eve.
I recently learned of this legend. While it is a legend, I do not believe it has any truth value. However, it is a great story as to explain the development of the year.