A Tea Addict's Journal

Passing the year

February 18, 2007 · 1 Comment

Not much of an interesting tea day, as I drank, interestingly enough, teabag teas. Well, not exactly. I had a so-so Darjeeling with my breakfast this morning, and then had a Tazo teabag in the afternoon. Neither were exactly nice, and I just didn’t have a chance today to brew my own teas. I was hoping to make something nice.

Chinese New Year is a pretty festive affair. Families get together to eat and chat and just gather for the sake of gathering together. At one point about 12 people were crammed into my grandfather’s room, all chatting about family stuff. It was quite nice, and something I certainly haven’t done for quite a while.

However, Chinese New Year isn’t quite so benign in its mythical origins. The Chinese term of going through the new year’s is “Guonian” 過年, which actually literally means “Passing the Nian”. Nian is year, but Nian also refers to an ancient mythical beast that comes once a year. It will come up from the deep seas, where it resided, and eat and rampage its way through the lands. People were scared of it and left home every year on the 30th to avoid the beast. One year, an old man showed up and asked the villagers to let him stay there — if they would, he could make sure the Nian won’t harm them. The villagers obviously thought he was crazy, and left anyway. He stayed behind.

When the Nian came, everybody except the old man had left already. Suddenly, however, there was a loud burst of sound with a lot of red confetti flying around — a red firecracker went off. Nian was badly scared. Turns out that Nian is afraid of loud noises and the red colour. The old man appeared, wearing red, and Nian ran away.

So, the legend goes, the tradition of decorating the houses in red with parallel banners and lighting red firecrackers became the custom each year to scare the Nian away. This, of course, is just a legend that justifies a lot of people’s festivities during this time of the year, but I’m sure at one point people perhaps really believed in such things. Either way, it’s a time when everybody is supposed to have a good time. Kids get their red bags stuffed with money. Adults exchange gifts when they go visit each other, and everybody is encouraged to eat lots of special food and wear red. It’s a good time.

Among the things I got was, surprisingly, a cake of puerh, from my uncle who got this thing from a friend of his in Kunming. I don’t think this is the best of teas, but it’s a nice gift and comes in a really nice packaging.

The tea itself is cooked, and supposedly 6 years old now if you read the little booklet carefully. It looks…. like a cooked cake, and cooked cakes….. are impossible to distinguish in terms of age. It smells strong. I don’t know how it tastes.

Festivities continue tomorrow, with fireworks at night!

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1 response so far ↓

  • foniyo // February 19, 2007 at 11:29 am | Reply

    It’s so sad that I study Chinese history and learned for the first time about the mythical Nian. Well, thank you for that lesson. I shall remember it every time we “cross the year.”
    The puerh cake looks very nice. Great for decorating and I hope, for drinking as well.
    hope you enjoyed the fireworks! 🙂

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