Tuesday, February 1, 2011

At the Stroke of Midnight

February 3rd begins the 15-day celebration of the Chinese Year of the Rabbit. It is the longest and most festive of Chinese holidays. In China, it's known as the Spring Festival and everyone who follows tradition spends weeks before preparing for it.

Everything is swept and cleaned of the old year to let in the new year. (No sweeping is done during the first of the holiday for fear of sweeping out the good luck of the New Year.)Special foods are prepared, gifts are purchased, and sometimes a new coat of red paint is applied to windows and doors. Red being the color of the festival.

You see, there is an ancient legend that a mythical beast named Nien came and devoured everything - even children - on the first day of the New Year. So, every year the people put out food in hopes that the monster would not attack them. One day, a little child was wearing red clothes and the color frightened Nien. Hence the use of red for lanterns, scrolls and firecrackers to mark the Chinese New Year.

Scrolls and images are placed on doors and windows. Two of the oldest traditions of festival art are paper cutouts (on right)and wood-prints.

Wood-prints or nianhua are special to the New Year festival. These prints were actually a combination of wood prints and painting. (Nowadays it is done with offset printing and lithography.)

The prints are usually put on both sides of the door to keep evil away and allow only good luck to enter. These "door-gods" have evolved over a very long time (started circa 200 BCE).

The subjects evolved from deities and spirits to fat, healthy babies, flowers and birds. They represent health, wealth, good fortune, and happiness.

One last note: The Year of the Rabbit is about peace, calm, family and security. May it be so!


  1. As the expression goes, "from your mouth to God's ear." We could really stand some peace and calm in the world. Gen


  3. Well, thank you and the same to you!

  4. Happy New Year! Yay for the Rabbit, the new year, and the new moon! Let's hope it really is all about peace, calm, family (& all extended family & friends) and security. Thanks for the posting and beautiful photos.

  5. Yes, may it be so!

    Thank you Connie

  6. dang...and here I thought the year of the rabbit was all about pro-creation!
    boy, family, yeah, I can see. peace? you ever see rabbits fight? nasty claws.
    I'm done now...
    ps: I love your blogs!
    pss: gung hai fat choy!