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The Story of the Chinese New Year As Told by Cats

In honor of the Year of the Snake, we've enlisted some cats to tell an ancient tale -- in photos.

Liz Acosta  |  Feb 11th 2013

Did you celebrate the Chinese New Year this Sunday? This is the Year of the Snake. Snakes are hardworking, industrious, and patient, slowly working toward a goal. With high moral standards and hearts made of gold, they are natural born leaders, but can occasionally fall victim to self righteousness and vanity. How many of you were born in a Year of the Snake? Do these characteristics sound like you?

According to legend, the Chinese New Year was forged in a battle between villagers and a dragon-like beast called Nian.

Nian would arrive at the beginning of the New Year to devour the livestock and crops of the villagers, even occasionally eating the villagers themselves. Nian’s favorite, however, were village children, which the dragon loved to slurp up like candy.

To ward off the dragon’s voracious appetite for children, the villagers began preparing food and leaving it for Nian to eat on their doorsteps. This worked for a while, but the villagers still lived in fear — Nian’s belly seemed bottomless.

One day, the villagers witnessed a strange thing. One very small child had run out in the street during one of Nian’s frenzies, but instead of plucking the child up for a tasty treat, Nian fled in fear. It was because the child was wearing red, and Nian hated the color red. The next year the villagers strung up red paper lanterns, and Nian dared not come close, and everyone was safe.

Eventually Nian was captured by an ancient monk, who made the great dragon beast his steed.