One of the most famous beliefs associated with the Ancient Chinese New Year gains importance due to the myth of Nian, which in modern Chinese solely signifies year.
Nian was the name of a ferocious beast that started to devour people the night before the beginning of a new year. Nian had a very big mouth that would swallow dozens of people with one bite.
One day, an old man came to rescue the people and told Nian that "I hear say that you are very capable, but can you swallow the other beasts of prey on earth instead of people who are by no means of your worthy opponents?" After these words the old man was riding the beast Nian and was never seen again. Before the old man left, he had advised each and every household to paste red paper decorations on their windows and doors to lit the torches, and to set off the firecrackers at each year's end to keep away Nian, because Nian feared the color red, the light of fire, and loud noises.
Early the next morning, as thoughts of victory and renewal fill the ambience at effectively keeping Nian away for another year, the most heard greeting was Guo Nian, which signifies "Survive the Nian" and has become today "Celebrate the New Year"
Photo credits: Nniud.