Nian New Year


“I guess some Chinese stories and traditions have different meanings in different parts of China. For example, we like exchange red packets for new years and the reason why its red is cause in Chinese mythology there’s this monster that shows up every new year I forgot the reason but yeah in the story there’s a monster that shows up every new year and apparently, it’s scared of the color red which is why everything is in red. The monster’s name is:

Chinese: 年獸
Phonetic: nián shòu
Transliteration: zodiac
Translation: year

and if you translate it into English it means year. I don’t know the story, but thats also part of the reason we have fireworks is to scare the monster.”


Informant (JG) is a student aged 19 from Beijing, China. Although she was born in Los Angeles, she has spent most of her life living in China. She currently goes to USC. This piece was collected during an interview over breakfast in the dining hall. She learned this in primary school. She doesn’t have any interpretations for its meaning, she just thinks it’s there to preserve New Year traditions.


This folk belief demonstrates how elements of festivals and folk practices may be “rationalized” by other elements of folklore. In this instance, the possibility of a monster is what drives part of the folk practice. It also encourages the people to keep the tradition going.