(This is a very short article, so I will not include a summary section. Enjoy.)
This legend is like other legends of China with many versions to the story, but I only know the simplest one.
The legend is about a monster called "Nian," who always came down from the mountain (or up from the sea), eating live-stock and people around New Year. One New Year's Eve, there was a grey haired old man from Peach Blossom Village who was passing by the village. When he arrived into town, he knocked on one of the houses and asked to stay for the night.
The old woman was kindly enough to give him some food. After he finished eating, she advised the elderly man to hide with her and the rest of the village in the forest to avoid the monster. The old man declined and said that he would stay in her house and fight off the monster.
She bid him farewell, and then went into the forest. The monster came that night, and it started to smell for its meal. The monster started to approach the house of the old man but when it got near the creature let out a scream once it saw a red paper on the door.
The monster then gently walked toward the door, but as it approached closer to the gate, a loud BANG and a bright light came out from the front door. Out of fright, the monster could not move. At this time, the old man walked out with a red robe, scaring the monster and making it run away.
When morning came and the villagers came back from the forest they were surprised see everything intact. The woman tried to look for the old man but could not find him. The only things left were a red robe, a red piece of paper, and some C4 explosives. Just kidding, it was a candle.
From that point on, in order to create the bright light and loud noise, the people use firecrackers. People also put some red lanterns or calligraphy on red paper around the house. In addition, people dress children in bright red clothes to protect them from bad things.
The only question I have about this story is that if the monster is scared of the color red, then how can the creature eat the people in the village? (Some questions can never be answer)
Because of this monster, the people use the fiend's name Nian for the word "Year." Sometimes you will hear people said "Guo Nian" or "Nian Guan," which means, "Pass year."
Thank you for tuning in. Hopefully this article answers some question you may have. From where I am, and wherever you are, have a good night and good luck, everyone.