Sebastian R. Ortega/ Edge columnist
According to National Geographic, Nearly 3 billion people travel to and within China to celebrate the Chinese New Year that started on February 12. They dress in red, make lamps that are red, send each other red envelopes, and men dressed in red dragon costumes can be seen dancing during festivals. People who celebrate the new year in January might wonder why the spring festival is painted this colour.
The main reason why this color is used during the week and a half festivity, turns out to be because of fortune.
Red represents fire in china, and it is supposed to bring good luck whenever present. It represents happiness, beauty, vitality, good luck, success, and good fortune.
It is famously popular in relation to anything Chinese and is widely used in other important events such as weddings.
According to Chinese mythology however, it is because of a beast named Nian, which means year in Chinese. The creature’s appearance reassembles that of a horned lion with the body of a dragon, which would come out of the sea and devour people. Since this happened every lunar new year, the people of China would hide in the mountains from Nian.
However, the beast refused to attack certain things.
The villagers soon realised that the monster was afraid of three things: fire, noise, and the color red. They covered themselves and their houses in red to fend off this evil spirit.
This is why some people refer to the lunar new year as “Guo Nian”, which means Pass the beast.
Some scholars debate if this creature is actually part of Ancient Chinese Folklore, but most people cite this story as the reason why the color red is so prominent in the festivity; as well as to explain the common activity of lighting firecrackers.
As for the scientific reason, research has gone as far as to suggest that color vision in primates evolved to identify emotional states in skin color. (Changizi et al., 2006)
For example, red skin could be a sign of health, attractiveness, or sexual arousal.
Chinese culture tends to hold superstitions that are hard to trace their origins from. It might seem bizarre to its western counterpart, but it is no different than believing that the number 13 is an unlucky number.