BY CRYSTAL WONG
“Nothing is redder than a Chinese at Chinese New Year, but do you know why we like the colour red?” asked my grandmother.
Have you ever wondered why the Chinese love red so much, especially on Chinese New Year? Everything is red — red packets, red lanterns, red decorations, etc. Why?
Why not any other colour such as blue or yellow or green? My grandmother said there is a legend about why red was such a mainstream colour in Chinese culture and also during Chinese New Year.
It all started with the Nian Shou. Legend has it that a ferocious half bull, half lion beast called Nian Shou would terrorise many villages during spring. It would eat all their crops, livestock, and worse, children. Villagers have tried many ways to defeat the beast.
They came to know that the beast has a weakness to these three things: fire, loud noises and of course, the colour red. They were told that the beast dislike clean surroundings. So, the villagers do spring cleaning every new year, set up the village with red lanterns and also led off fire crackers.
With the loud noise and the colour red, the Nian Shou was defeated. It never came back to terrorise the village. The villagers celebrated victory by beating gongs and drums. Saying Gong Xi, which means “congratulations”.
This has slowly become a tradition to all Chinese families, to celebrate Chinese New Year with loud noise of gongs, fire crackers and lion dances. The colour red has been turned into the colour of luck and prosperity.
The Colour Red
The colour not only represents luck and prosperity, but the word red in Chinese is hong, which is similar to the Hokkien word ong, which basically means prosperity.
This is why pineapples are also considered a Chinese New Year fruit because in Hokkien, pineapple is Ong Lai, translated into English means “Prosperity Comes”.
My mother said the Chinese loved prosperity and fortune, and also luck. With all these three things in you, you could go further in life, nothing could drag you down because of all the luck you have in life, and also you can live a much better lifestyle.
Red packets are given to children during Chinese New Year because it symbolises good luck. So giving someone a red packet means that you wish that person good fortune in the coming year and also a lot of luck.
Having red lanterns hung outside the house wards off all the bad energy and bad luck.
Red wedding dress symbolises celebration, fertility and good luck in the newlywed’s future.
The 50 different shades of red have significance in the Chinese culture, important also on other occasions other than Chinese New Year.
Chinese parents give out red painted eggs which are served during birthdays which are common in the first months or the first year. Giving out eggs represent joy and renewed life of the baby.
Psychologists also said that by wearing the colour red brings success, good luck, and most importantly good wealth. It also symbolises removing the old and welcoming the new.
On that, we wish you a Happy Chinese New (Niu) Year in the Year of the Ox. May all your wishes come true and the road ahead of you is blessed with good luck, auspiciousness, and prosperity.