Once upon a time in China there lived a terrifying dragon called Nian. His home was under the sea, but once a year, on New Year’s Eve, he came to a nearby village where he ate their grain, their livestock and any young children who happened to be outdoors.
Not surprisingly, the terrified villagers used to run and hide in the mountains on this date leaving their homes behind.
One year a wise old man visited the village just as the villagers were fleeing, and he asked them why they were leaving. “The terrible dragon is coming!” they said. “You must come and hide with us for he may eat you.”
The old man said he wasn’t afraid and that he knew how to deal with the dragon, and so he stayed behind in the village.
When the villagers returned there was no sign of Nian, and amazingly their grain and animals were untouched. The old man said that he couldn’t protect the village every year, but he could show them how to protect themselves. “The secret,” he said, “is that the Dragon is frightened of the colour red and of loud sounds and bright lights.”
Now every New Year, the Chinese dress up in red clothes, hang red decorations in their doors and windows, and they set off fire crackers so that the noise and the lights will scare away the Dragon.
It must work because the dragon Nian has never been seen again since this wise old man’s visit.
Related post: Chinese New Year