Surrounded by myths and legends, the Chinese New Year festivities occur between January 20 and February 21 every year.

The celebrations, also known as the Spring Festival, mark the end of a Lunar Year and the start of a new one. Chinese New Year 2020 marks the Year of the Rat taking over from the Year of the Pig.

Deep-rooted traditions and superstitions play a central role in the 15-day celebrations with many having their roots in an ancient story.

What is the Chinese New Year story?

The legend is that a savage monster named Nian.

Despite living in the ocean, Nian would come ashore at the end of each Lunar Year, terrifying villagers by destroying property as well as eating livestock and even children.

Every New Year's Eve petrified villagers would head into the mountains to escape this beast.

But one year, as people were boarding up their homes and packing ahead of the annual retreat, an old man walked into the village. He was greeted by an elderly woman who told him about Nian and urged him to join them in the mountains.

Tourists take a picture in front of a giant dragon lantern during a lantern festival in Shenyang
Dragon dance: Chinese New Year will start this year on January 31st

He refused, telling the woman that if she left him alone for the night in her home he could end Nian's reign of terror. The unconvinced woman agreed, leaving him to take on the beast.

As expected, Nian appeared that night to find a deserted village, except for this one house which was illuminated by candles and decorated with red papers.

The irritated monster was heading towards the house when it was stopped by a deafening cracking sound from the courtyard. Then the old man - wearing a red robe and roaring with laughter - threw open the front door and came out of the building.

Terrified by this Nian fled back to its aquatic home.

The following day returning villagers were astounded to find their village undamaged.

The old woman who let the mysterious man stay in her house while she fled raced home in a bid to find out how he saw off Nian. All she found though were red papers, candles and firecrackers.

Villagers quickly worked out though that were way to defeat Nian was by frightening it with loud noises, bright lights and the colour red.

From then on people would celebrate this triumph by decorating their homes in red, lighting candles and setting off firecrackers. Instead of fleeing, people would stay up to welcome in the new Lunar Year in their illuminated towns, observing traditions which have lasted until this day.

New Year's Day in China is also known as Guo Nian, which means "surviving Nian's attack".

Happy Chinese New Year!

Read More

Chinese New Year