12 Chinese New Year Taboos To Avoid
Chinese New Year is a joyous season to celebrate the new lunar year. While we prepare our homes to welcome guests or to go on house visits, there are some taboos that we should watch out for that may drive away our luck. Here’s a list to ensure that you are well informed this coming festive season.
Please do not:
1. Break objects
Try not to handle fragile items as you may risk breaking ceramics or glass. Breaking something means that you lose your ties to having wealth and prosperity. However, if you do happen to break something, wrap up the broken pieces in red paper as the colour red is auspicious. At the same time, say sui sui ping an (岁岁平安) which means that there shall be peace every year. This homophonic phrase is used because the Chinese word for broken is sui (碎) which sounds like the sui (岁) mentioned earlier on. This is thus spoken to remedy the situation and replace the unfavourable circumstances with peace. You may throw away the broken pieces after five days, but not on the first day as it is inauspicious and may be deemed as throwing away your wealth.
2. Speak negatively
Do not speak unlucky words such as ‘death’, ‘ghosts’, ‘sickness’, ‘poverty’, ‘break’ and the number ‘four (si)’ as they might bounce back and bring you bad luck throughout the year. Greet each other with well-wishes instead to bless them for the new year ahead.
3. Borrow or lend money
Do not lend anyone money or if someone owes you money, do not chase for payment during Chinese New Year. This is because it may cause many people to keep borrowing from you throughout the year. For the borrower, try to pay back your debts by New Year’s Eve, so that everyone can celebrate Chinese New Year without worries.
4. Consume porridge
Porridge is deemed as food for the poor and hence you should not eat porridge on the first day of Chinese New Year as it is seen as starting off the year poorly. On the contrary, people want to start the year hoping that they will have prosperous and affluent days. Hence, they consume dumplings on the first day instead as they look like gold ingots (which were the boat shaped currencies of the ancient Chinese).
5. Do housework
Some may want to clean up their homes to welcome guests but avoid sweeping the floor on the first day of Chinese New Year as it is akin to sweeping away the good energy in the house and your wealth. Do not throw out the trash as well because it is like dumping away your fortune. If it is really necessary to sweep the floor, sweep from the outside of the house and move inward as it mimics the action of collecting money.
Some superstitions regarding the use of water are to avoid pouring away water into the drains or outside of your house. This is because the flow of water represents streams of money and so if you pour water away, it is equivalent to pouring money away. Try not to wash your clothes on the first two days of Chinese New Year as well, as it is the Water God’s birthday, and the God may be offended if you do so.
6. Use sharp tools
Avoid using knives, needles, or scissors as it is deemed to be chopping or cutting away good luck. Using scissors during the first Chinese New Year month may bring you quarrels and fights with your family and friends, hence it is best to avoid using it. You should try to do your cooking before the festive season starts.
Women should not do any needlework so that they can get a good break during this festive season.
Try to prevent your child from crying as it may spoil the festive mood and bring bad luck to the family. If the child cries, do not reprimand them no matter how naughty they are, as this dampens the atmospheric peace and harmony.
8. Purchase new shoes
Although it is good to go Chinese New Year shopping for new clothes to look presentable, do not buy shoes during Chinese New Year. This is because the word for shoes in the Chaozhou and Teochew language is hoi, which sounds like hai or a sigh in English. This gives a connotation of a bad feeling towards the year or an expectancy that the year is not going to be smooth. To avoid this pessimism, let’s not buy shoes during Chinese New Year.
9. Take medication or consult the doctor
As hard as it sounds, try not to take any kind of medicine (be it traditional Chinese or Western) or visit the doctor on the first day of Chinese New Year. This is because there is a superstition that one will fall ill for the rest of the year and not be able to recover if one does anything medically related. However, if you have a medical emergency or a chronic condition, please do not let this superstition hinder you from getting medical help.
10. Dress in black or white
Black and white clothes should not be worn during this lively festival because they are normally worn during mourning. Hence you should wear red clothes because the colour is auspicious and gives off a bright and energetic feeling.
11. Wash and cut your hair
Hair is associated with wealth or fortune, because the word hair in Chinese is fa (发) which is also the same word used in Chinese for “getting rich” which is fa cai (发财). However, if you cut or wash your hair, it would mean that you are cutting away or washing off your riches and wealth. However, the hair washing rule only applies for the first one to three days of Chinese New Year.
12. Wake others up from bed
You should not wake others up from their nap on the first day of Chinese New Year as it is said that the one disturbed will be pushed around to do their work and will be in a constant state of anxiousness. Although it is good to wish each other and pronounce blessings, do not do so while the other party is lying on bed as superstition has it that the receiver will be bedridden for the rest of the year.
All in all, it may be tough to follow all these rules and superstitions, but these rules have been in place for thousands of years. It is practised as a way of caring for each other and ensuring that all can enjoy a worry-free Chinese New Year. Hence, it may be beneficial to be mindful of all these taboos, especially if you are visiting a household that follows these superstitions. With that, we hope that you will have a blessed time with your friends and family. 新年快乐，阖家幸福！