One of the most aesthetic decorations I found at the Chinese Lunar New Year open market recently held at El Dorado Shopping Center, were the bright red paper lanterns. They were neatly suspended in the air with thin, almost impossible to see, wires. They swayed in the wind like skilled ballerinas. The sight of these bright red dancing lanterns was spectacular against a blue and sometimes dark gray skies.
According to tales and legends, the beginning of Chinese New Year started with the fight against a mythical beast called the Nian. Nian would come on the first day of New Year to eat livestock, crops, and even villagers, especially children. To protect themselves, the villagers would put food in front of their doors at the beginning of every year.
It was believed that after the Nian ate the food they prepared, it wouldn’t attack any more people. One time, people saw that the Nian was scared away by a little child wearing red. The villagers then understood that the Nian was afraid of the color red. Hence, every time when the New Year was about to come, the villagers would hang red lanterns and red spring scrolls on windows and doors. People also used firecrackers to frighten away the Nian. From then on, Nian never came to the village again.
The fifteenth day of the new year is celebrated as the Lantern Festival. Candles are lit outside houses as a way to guide wayward spirits home. This day is celebrated as the Lantern Festival, and families walk the street carrying lighted lanterns.
These lanterns are made with bright red paper and oval in shape. They are used on the fifteenth day of the Chinese New Year for the Lantern Festival, and are bright, colorful, and in many different sizes and shapes.
Below are several pictures of the red Chinese lanterns I encountered during my recent photo walk to a Chinese open market in Panama City. Here we go.