On the eve of Chinese New Year, Chinese people have a tradition to stay up into the wee hours of the first day of Chinese New Year, also known as Ao Nian (staying up late into the New Year). This tradition is wrapped in an interesting legend.
A long time ago, there were ferocious creatures in the deep forests called Nian. The creature ate every living animal in sight. They ate different animals everyday, and even ate humans. People were terrified of Nian. But they also noticed that Nian only came out to attack humans once every 365 days. Each time, Nian emerged at night and returned to the forests after the dawn.
Counting on the date of Nian coming out, people called this night as Nian Guan, a critical moment to defeat Nian. At this night, people prepared for a big meal in advance, and then flamed out and cleaned the kitchen. After closed both front and back doors and fixed the stalls, the family could have dinner at home. Many dishes were prepared for this dinner with family members sat around the table, representing the family union. Before having the dinner, people worshiped ancestors and gods to pray for the safety. After dinner, people dare not to sleep and sat together to embolden each other. People lighted candles or oil lamps to stay up late, representing warding off all illnesses and devils. This tradition has been passed down from then on.