Dancing dragons and loud pops from firecrackers normally mark the Chinese New Year or Spring Festival. Due to COVID-19, a lot of celebrations were canceled or scaled down for 2021, called the “Year of the Ox.”
In Chinese culture, a zodiac sign is given to individuals born that year. There is the year of the Rat, Snake or the Pig. These animals’ signs are not well-liked in some cultures, but the Chinese recognize them for their positive traits. One’s animal can decide one’s career, relationship success and health, according to Wikipedia. The Chinese New Year celebrations range from Jan. 21 to Feb. 20 and occur on the new moon, according to the Lunar Calendar. Some birthdays and ages are calculated to the Lunar Calendar as well.
The use of firecrackers for the new year comes from the legend of Nian, a scary monster that would eat people, crops and livestock on New Year’s Eve. To prevent Nian’s destruction and attacking people, a young boy used firecrackers to fight him off, which has become a tradition.
Some people place food in front of their doors to stop the monster. Firecrackers are set off at midnight and in the morning for good luck. Fake paper money and gold bars are burned in honor of deceased loved ones. Similar to the Mexican Day of the Dead or Korean Chuseok, the offering brings fortune and good luck to ancestors in the afterlife, according to Wikipedia.
Another tradition is the color red to scare off Nian. People put red scrolls on their windows and place red lanterns to keep the beast away.
The celebration is more than about the myth; it’s about family and spring harvest. It’s about welcoming fresh starts and new beginnings. Vietnamese and North and South Koreans celebrate the Lunar New Year, too. Families and friends visit each other to eat dumplings and have dinner.
They watch dragon and lion dances together. Some buy yellow flowers and give kids gifts of money in red envelopes. The festival lasts for 15 days in China and in Chinese communities until the following full moon. As the Asian community faces a rise in racism and physical attacks, a new monster is in their midst. We all need to be firecrackers and em-brace, nurture and protect our fellow Americans and human family. Happy Chinese New Year.