On a recent trip in Thailand from Ko Samui to Bangkok I had the good fortune to share a portion of my journey with a Chinese national. From my bus companion I learned a lot in a few hours about the Chinese people and a few of their customs especially as it relates to celebrating the Chinese New Year.
This is an important time for most of them as they celebrate a part of their legendary history.
Legend tells of a village in China thousands of years ago which was ravaged by an evil monster one winter's eve. The following year the monster returned and ravaged the village again.
Before it could happen a third time the villagers devised a plan to scare the monster away. Red banners were hung everywhere. The color red has long been believed to protect against evil.
Firecrackers, drums and gongs were used to create loud noises to scare the beast away. The plan worked and the celebration lasted several days during which people visited with each other, exchanged gifts, danced and ate tasty things.
Today, elder family members give younger members of the family red envelopes filled with money. For my bus companion she is excited to be heading home in time to celebrate the New Year although with a little sadness. This is her last year to receive gifts. Next year will be her turn to start giving.
For me, I appreciated the chance to learn more about the Chinese people from a Chinese.
I am looking forward to continuing the celebration in the next few days hopefully at least dancing and eating more tasty things with a few hundred if not a few thousand celebrants in Taipei.