Chinese New Year is an important worldwide holiday, celebrated by over a billion people around the globe because of its ancient legend and celebration rituals. But is the true meaning of this holiday lost to the younger generation?
Chinese New Year started because of a monster called the Nian. Nian would eat humans, preferably kids. Filled with despair, one year all the villagers decided to hide from the beast. Before the villagers went into hiding, an old man decided to take on Nian himself. Naturally, the villagers thought he was insane. The old man put red papers up and set off firecrackers in hopes of scaring away the beast.
The next day, the villagers came back to their homes and nothing was destroyed. They assumed the old man was a god who came to save them. Later, the villagers realized that Nian feared the color red and loud noises. When the New Year was about to begin, the villagers would wear red clothes and hang red lanterns and red spring scrolls on windows or doors.
In addition, villagers set off firecrackers to scare away Nian. Frightened, Nian never returned to the village again. Hongjun Laozu, an ancient Taoist monk, eventually captured Nian. Later Nian fled to some unknown mountains, never to be heard of again.
On New Year’s Eve, family members gather for a reunion dinner. Usually, the dinner will be at the home of the eldest family member. The New Year's Eve dinner is incredibly large and sumptuous. Hot pots are also popular and serve as a symbol of family unity. Red envelopes, often containing money, are given to children and young adults.
Chinese New Year itself, which is a symbol for the beginning of prosperity, has now become just a day for relaxation. Symbolic dishes, such as noodles for long life or arranging eight dishes on the table, is a historical part of the holiday that gradually is dying out with the older generation.
Rather than eating noodles and serving eight dishes, more and more family members discard the tradition and celebrate more “modernly.” Many give out virtual or paper red packets, although the gift cards, candy, or money inside have no meaning other than a goodwill gesture.
Relevant to the Next Generation?
Personally, I do not believe in celebrating Chinese New Year as a formal holiday. The gathering of families is always welcome, but why not do so on a relaxing day such as a nearby Saturday, rather than a precise date based on an archaic Lunar calendar?
Distributing money to kids will bring them joy, but for what purpose other than to signify another holiday? To me, this holiday feels like just another form of another birthday of another important leader. Frankly, there are no clear values or admiral leader to emulate. It’s different from Thanksgiving, during which you are thankful. During Chinese New Year, you are supposed to celebrate the defeat of the Nian, but I simply can’t relate to a dead dragon. As time progresses, only the future knows what will happen to this ancient holiday.
As another young reader, what do you think?