Today marks the start of the Asian Lunar New Year. Depending on which part of the world you live in, the celebrations are focused on the Year of the Sheep, Ram or Goat. As someone who only celebrates it from the spectator point of view (who doesn’t love a good parade and some fireworks?), it’s a bit confusing as to what this lunar year is all about.
The history of Chinese New Year celebrations stems from the fear of a mythical monster, Nian (also the Chinese word for “year"). Legend goes that a Nian was monster with a long head and sharp horn. This monster preyed on villagers.
A wise old man is believed to have helped the villagers. He told them that they could ward off the evil Nian by making loud noises with drums and firecrackers, and by hanging red paper cut-outs and scrolls on their doors. The Nian was apparently scared of the color red.
So like all good stories with happy endings, the wise old man helped the villagers conquer Nian. As noted in The History of Chinese New Year, the “passing of the Nian”, known in Chinese as guo nian, is annually celebrated on this anniversary date.
So if you celebrate, may your Chinese New Year’s be prosperous, healthy and happy - be it as a cute sheep, strong ram or inquisitive goat.