Happy Year of the Snake


Wu Yinxian, Night of Festival, China, 1984 (236.1988)


China Pictorial, 1975 (346.2005)


Weegee, ChinatownFire Cracker Going Off (14538.1993)

February 10 will mark one of the biggest holidays on the Chinese calendar, the Chinese New Year or Spring Festival. We will be leaving behind the year of the dragon and entering into the year of the water snake.

Why the fireworks and red decorations?

According to one Chinese legend, there once was a monster named “Nian” (“year”) who subsisted on a diet of human beings and animals. Once a year around the time of the new year, the horrible monster would come down from the mountains and attack the villagers–that is until a wise man suggested that they scare the monster away with the color red, firelight, and blasting sounds. When the monster came down for his annual feast, he became startled by the noise, light, and red color everywhere and fled, never to be seen again by humans. Ever since, people put up red decorations, set off fireworks, and keep Nian from coming out from his hiding place.

So think of Nian this year when you see the fireworks and maybe even wear red . . . just in case.

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