FEBRUARY 10 TO 25, 2024


A very long time ago, a monster lived in China. All over the country people talked about this terrible apparition. They called him Nian [pronounced Njen], which also means Year. In cities, villages, forests and on mountains, many Chinese expressed their fear of Nian. According to the stories, he ate people and knew no mercy.
The monster lived deep in the ocean. There he slept every day, snoring loudly. On the last day of the year, New Year's Eve, this monster awoke and opened his big terrifying eyes. Nian woke up and came ashore.
The monster was far too strong; there was no one who dared to fight this monster. There was nothing for it but to outrun Nian. All the inhabitants decided to flee en masse to the mountains on New Year's Eve. There, hidden among trees and mountains, they hoped to be safe from the hungry Nian.

One year, on New Year's Eve, an unknown traveler entered a Chinese village. The man, from a distant land, was looking for food and a place to sleep to rest after his long journey. There was no time to provide the man with a hot plate of noodles or a cup of Chinese tea. Everyone was busy preparing to flee.
Only one person, an elderly woman, paid attention to the traveler. She decided to take him to her house and offer him shelter. While the traveler ate a large plate of steaming soup, the woman explained why the villagers were so busy today. The fear of Nian commanded them all to leave the village in a hurry.
The traveler, by now with a well-filled stomach, was incredibly grateful to the woman for her help and shelter. He decided to return the favor and share a great secret with her. In the warmth and comfort of the old woman's home, the traveler confided in the old woman and shared the age-old secret.
That evening, as the turn of the year approached, Nian arrived at the village. The monster moved desolately through the streets. With much sniffing and growling, he passed all the dark houses until he passed the old woman's house. The lights in the house were on. Nian licked off his whiskers and prepared himself for a tasty meal.

The moment he was about to launch his attack, a deafening sound broke the silence in the village. Loud bangs surrounded Nian and he cringed in fear. He suddenly saw, through the light of the fireworks that caused the bangs, that the house was shrouded in red paper. The monster groaned in fear and made his way out. In one breath he ran back to his hiding place in the sea.
When the people of the village returned to the village the next day, the first day of the New Year, they saw that nothing bad had happened to the old woman. Full of awe and curiosity, they sought out the woman to learn how it was possible that she had managed to outrun the hungry Nian. The old woman shared the secret the traveler had entrusted to her in gratitude. The monster was terrified of loud noise and the color red. Fireworks and decorating the house in red had saved the old woman's life. The villagers hugged and thanked the old woman. She had discovered Nian's fear.
The next year, all the people stayed in the village at the turn of the year. They had made the village beautiful with red decorations, stayed up all night and set off popping firecrackers. Red lanterns burned around the houses, they wore red clothes. They banged loudly on gongs and drums to make as much noise as possible. From that year on, the monster never returned. The village continued to lavish every year, and they believed this was their salvation from the hungry Nian.
These customs and habits led to the first New Year celebrations in China, which are still celebrated today with fireworks, drums and red colors.