How did the Lunar New Year festival arise – and what’s with all the lions, lanterns and fireworks?
Red lanterns, mouse year decorations and the festive music booming from every corner are all reminders that the Lunar New Year is only a few days away. As the longest holiday in Hong Kong, Lunar New Year is the most important festival of the year for the Chinese community, celebrated by an estimated 1.5 billion people globally.
But did you know that historically Chinese New Year once fell around October? So how did the festival become the way it is today?
Like any other ancient cultural tradition, there are numerous magical mythologies to explain the origins of the Lunar New Year festival. The most widespread one talks of a monster called Nian, which means “year” in Chinese. It is said that Nian hid in the mountains (although some versions say it was under the sea) and came out once a year during winter, to feast on crops and villagers. Terrified families would gather on the eve of Nian’s arrival, staying up the whole night waiting for the threat to pass. This is what later became Shou Sui ceremony on New Year’s Eve, when many modern families still stay awake together throughout the night.