1. Why is the festival known as the Spring Festival?
2. The date for Chinese New Year varies yearly
3. The significance of the colour red
4. Gong Xi Fa Chai, Hong Bao Na Lai! (Translated as wishing you a prosperous new year, red envelopes please!)
Did you know that there is an interesting story behind how the “hong bao” (red packets pronounced in Mandarin) came about? A red packet is also known as yasui qian (meaning as money to suppress Sui). According to ancient Chinese legend, there was a demon named Sui that would come out to frighten children while they were asleep on New Year’s Eve. According to the legend, a Chinese official gave their son eight coins to play with to keep him awake so that he will not be haunted by Sui.
The child wrapped the coins in red paper and played with it – opening and rewrapping the packet repeatedly until fell asleep. The parents then placed the red packet under the child’s pillow. That night, when Sui tried to touch the child’s head, the eight coins emitted a bright light and scared the demon away.
From that day onwards, the Chinese began the tradition of giving away red envelopes as a way to keep children safe and bring good luck. Though most Chinese nowadays no longer believe in the existence of Sui, the tradition of giving out red packets is maintained during the Chinese New Year. Hey, no complaints though – who doesn’t want to money for free!
5. What’s with the animals and why is the cat not included?
Every year, the Chinese New Year is associated to an animal, in specific order – from the rat right up to the pig. This is also known as the Chinese zodiac. In fact, the Chinese believe that everyone is born under one of these animal signs, depending on the year that you were born in. But you might be thinking: Why were there twelve animals in the zodiac calendar and how did the order come from?
There are many myths of how the Chinese zodiac came about, but the most well-known story was that the Jade Emperor (known as the Emperor in Heaven in Chinese folklore) ordered that the first 12 animals who arrived at the palace on a particular day will be given a place in the Chinese calendar.
At that time, the rat and the cat were good friends and neighbors. When they heard of the news, the cat mentioned that they should arrive early to sign up but he always wakes up late. The rat then promised that he would wake the cat up the next morning. However, as morning arrived, the rat was so excited that forgot his promise and proceeded to the gathering without waking the cat. As a result, the cat woke up late and was the 13th animal to arrive, thus missing out a place in the zodiac.