According to legends of the past, the beginning of the Chinese New Year started with a fight against a mythical beast called the Nian. Nian would come on the first day of the New Year to eat livestock, crops, and even villagers. (especially children) To protect themselves, the villagers would put food in front of their doors at the beginning of each year. It was believed that after the Nian ate the food they prepared, it wouldn’t attack any more people. There was also one occasion when people saw that the Nian was scared away by a little child wearing red. The villagers then realized that the Nian was afraid of the color red. Hence, every year before the New Year, the villagers would hang red lanterns and red couplets on their windows and doors. People also used firecrackers to frighten away the Nian. From then on, Nian never came to the village again.
Found in close relation to the Chinese New Year also is the Chinese zodiac. The Chinese zodiac is a scheme that relates each year to an animal and its reputed attributes, according to a 12-year mathematical cycle. The zodiac traditionally begins with the sign of the Rat, and there are many stories about the origins of the Chinese Zodiac which explain why this is so. The one I grew up hearing was:
Cat and Rat were the worst swimmers in the animal kingdom. Although they were poor swimmers, they were both quite intelligent. To get to the meeting called by the Jade Emperor, they had to cross a river to reach the meeting place. The Jade Emperor had decreed that the years on the calendar would be named after each animal according to the order in which they arrived to the meeting. Cat and Rat decided that the fastest way to cross the river was to hop on the back of Ox. Ox, being naïve and good-natured, agreed to carry them both across. Midway across the river, Rat pushed Cat into the water. Then as Ox neared the other side of the river, Rat jumped ahead and reached the shore first. So it claimed first place in the competition.
Following closely behind was strong Ox who was named the 2nd animal in the zodiac. After Ox, came Tiger, panting, while explaining to the Jade Emperor how difficult it was to cross the river with the heavy currents pushing it downstream all the time. But with its powerful strength, Tiger made it to shore and was named the 3rd animal in the cycle.
Suddenly, from a distance came a thumping sound, and the Rabbit arrived. It explained how it crossed the river: by jumping from one stone to another in a nimble fashion. Halfway through, it almost lost the race, but the Rabbit was lucky enough to grab hold of a floating log that later washed him to shore. For that, it became the 4th animal in the Zodiac cycle. Coming in 5th place was the Flying Dragon. Of course, the Jade Emperor was deeply curious as to why a swift flying creature such as the Dragon should fail to reach first place. The mighty Dragon explained that it had to stop and make rain to help all the people and creatures of the earth, and therefore it was held back. Then, on his way to the finish, it saw a little helpless Rabbit clinging onto a log so it did a good deed and gave a puff of breath to the poor creature so that it could land on the shore. The Jade Emperor was very pleased with the actions of the Dragon, and it was added into the zodiac cycle. As soon as he had done so, a galloping sound was heard, and the Horse appeared. Hidden on the Horse's hoof was the Snake, whose sudden appearance gave the Horse a fright, thus making it fall back and giving the Snake the 6th spot, while the Horse placed 7th.
Not long after that, a little distance away, the Sheep, Monkey, and Rooster came to the shore. These three creatures helped each other to get to where they are. The Rooster spotted a raft, and took the other two animals with it. Together, the Sheep and the Monkey cleared the weeds, tugged and pulled and finally got the raft to the shore. Because of their combined efforts, the Emperor was very pleased and promptly named the Sheep as the 8th creature, the Monkey as the 9th, and the Rooster the 10th.
The 11th animal was the Dog. Although it was supposed to be the best swimmer, he could not resist the temptation to play a little longer in the river. (Although its explanation for being late was because it needed a good bath after a long spell.) For that, it almost didn't make it to the finish line. Just as the Jade Emperor was about to call it a day, an oink and squeal was heard from a little Pig. The Pig got hungry during the race, promptly stopped for a feast and then fell asleep. After the nap, the Pig continued the race and was named the 12th animal of the zodiac cycle. The Cat finished as thirteenth place and did not make it in the zodiac. (It is believed that this is also why cats hate rats and are afraid of water.)
This year is the year of the dragon = my year! There were a lot of people born in my year because dragon is considered the luckiest year in the Chinese zodiac and also, 88 = super lucky numbers! Therefore, there's always a lot of competition when it comes to my year cause there are naturally more people fighting for the same number of elite school spots, etc. So, what's your chinese zodiac?
in my family, we have 2 sheeps (my dad and younger sister sammie), 1 rat (my mummy), 1 ox (my older sister rissa) and 1 dragon (me!)