By Dave Dana

January 25, 2020, begins the Chinese New Year, a celebration of the Spring Festival. The day is the 23rd day of the 12th Lunar month of the Chinese calendar, the Year of the Rat. It varies from year to year. A new moon will appear to herald the Lunar new year, a major public holiday in much of the world.

According to legend, a new year began because of a mythical beast called the Nian, which would eat villagers in the night, especially children. One year, an old man said he would spend the night getting revenge on the Nian. He had discovered that the Nian was afraid of red color and loud noises. He put red papers up in the village, and set off fire-crackers. The people no longer thought the old man was crazy, and now thought he was a god. Today, the color red is the predominant color used in the near year celebrations, with great meaning: joy, virtue, truth, sincerity, good fortune, happiness, wealth, and longevity. Dragon dancers perform often: a line of people holding up a cloth dragon with colorful head, claws, scales, and tail peering, swaying to beating drums and clanging music, scaring away evil spirits.

The new year is time for families to honor ancestors and deities. Local customs vary but include family dinners, cleaning the house to prepare for good luck to come in, lighting fire-crackers, red decorations, and gift-giving. All this unique thorough preparation and celebration assures an auspicious new year.