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The Lucky Color (Grade 7)

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Chinese New Year - Red LanternThe Lucky Color
by Yen Nhi Ha

A fire truck, an apple, a stop sign, and a poppy. What do those items all have in common? The color red!

Red is one of the primary colors of pigment, and can be seen everywhere throughout our everyday lives. When we think of the color red, we tend to associate it with anger, urgency, or even love. However, in many Asian cultures, red has a very symbolic meaning of good luck and success in life.

The importance of the color red in Chinese culture, especially during the Chinese New Year, can be traced back to a folk legend. The monster Nian would come once a year to attack and eat the livestock of a village. According to one story, an old man pasted red papers and candles around his house to ward off the beast. When the monster came, the strange red made the monster tremble, but it still swooped in to attack the strange sight. A booming crack sounded, and the old man stepped out in red garments. The monster left away in fright, and the next morning, the village was untouched. From that moment on, the people would wear red to ward off any evil spirits and celebrate the disappearance of the beast.

In many Asian cultures, the giving of red envelopes during celebrations is very common. While it is most prominent during the Lunar New Year, people can give these red envelopes during other celebrations as well, such as weddings and other auspicious holidays. Many people make sure that the money in the envelope is crisp and clean, but the importance of this tradition is not because of the money. Instead, the red envelope signifies wishing the recipient good luck and prosperity, rather than just a monetary gift.

Joyful celebrations, like weddings, are a good time to wish the well-being of others and have hope for the future. Due to this, many brides and grooms will wear red in order to celebrate the cheerful occasion and bring luck for the future. Additionally, during Lunar New Year festivals, red lanterns decorate the scene and add to the beauty and celebration. People will wear red garments and wish one another happiness for the coming year.

Red is also prominent in the flags of these countries. The Japanese flag features a red circle in the middle of a white flag. The circle represents the sun, and Japan is the nation of the rising sun which brings life and vitality to all. The Chinese flag is red with five gold stars, and the red is the color that represents the Chinese people. This reflects the importance that red has to the people of China and how the color unifies the nation. The red of the flags of South Korea and Singapore also represent the unity of the people and a brotherhood for the nation.

This tradition and the importance of the color red has spread beyond the borders of these Asian countries. In the United States, there are extraordinary celebrations of these Asian holidays and sparks of red will dot the nation, like in California, New York City, and Houston.

The color red will bring to many prosperity and good luck for years to come as parents pass down the importance of red to their children and their children after that.
According to Chinese legend, wearing the color red does what?
  1. wards off evil spirits
  2. create a feeling of anger
  3. draw beasts to local villages
  4. show that someone is in love
Why do many brides and grooms wear red during wedding celebrations?
  1. to show their love for one another
  2. to keep family members from fighting
  3. to prevent rain on their wedding day
  4. to bring luck for the future
On the Japanese flag, what does the red circle represent?
  1. love
  2. blood
  3. the sun
  4. the ancestors
How do people continue to learn about the symbolic nature of the color red?
  1. Parents pass the knowledge down to their children.
  2. Many books have been written about the color red.
  3. A beast visits villages where people do not wear red.
  4. More countries have added red to their flags to bring luck.
In many Asian cultures, what do people put in red envelopes during special celebrations?
  1. money
  2. love letters
  3. family photos
  4. nothing
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