What is the origin of the Chinese New Year?

What is the origin of the Chinese New Year ? The Chinese have been ushering in a new year with the celebration for over 3,800 years. What began as a ritual for a good harvest has slowly turned into China’s largest and most important annual holiday. That’s how.

Long before China was unified, its people understood the concept of one year.

The beginning

As early as the Shang dynasty, farmers offered sacrifices to their ancestors, praying for a bountiful harvest in the new agrarian cycle. It wasn’t until later, however, that people came up with a name for the year, calling it Nian. Gradually, the rituals of the new year developed to include various gods in addition to the ancestors who controlled the harvest.

The concept of a year was further strengthened in the Han dynasty under Emperor Wudi when he declared the first day of the lunar calendar to be the Chinese New Year. At that time, the celebration of a new year was common throughout the empire, and people had already started burning bamboo to create a high-pitched noise, a ritual that was later replaced by the throwing of firecrackers.

Some rituals and traditions

Why break the bamboo and throw firecrackers? This ritual can be linked to the legend of the monster Nian. Yes, the monster of the year. The Nian was said to have the body of an ox and the head of a lion. He lived in the sea, but once a year, the Nian came to land to eat cattle and villagers, especially the young.

One year, a man decided to take revenge on the Nian. While everyone else in town was hiding from the monster, this man faced him head-on. He had discovered that the Nian feared loud noises, fire and the color red, so he put red paper and fired firecrackers, driving the beast away and saving the villagers from the terror of him.

Today, Chinese New Year celebrators still do those things: they wear red, stick red paper on their doors and lintels, and set off fireworks.


Of course, few still believe that their ancestors can influence the harvest, and fewer still believe in the mythical Nian. However, by the time of the Tang Dynasty, the New Year celebrations had already shifted from ritual duty to social holiday.

Since then, the Chinese New Year has been about the importance of family and sharing blessings and abundance with loved ones. Gradually, other traditions developed in this sense; People began to exchange money in red packages and festive activities emerged, such as the famous lion dance.

Now, more than 3,800 years after its inception, Chinese New Year is celebrated around the world and is a government-recognized holiday. However, the traditions observed during this time are almost as old as the idea of ​​a year itself.

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Editions 2019-2021