This 19 February, we say goodbye to the Year of the Horse and usher in the Year of the Goat. Preparation for the festivity is a must, especially for Chinese who follow traditional beliefs.
Chinese New Year is strongly associated with a variety of traditions and myths – a festival riddled with superstitions. To those who celebrate it, there is no escape from being ordered around by parents, grandparents or any older family member to prepare and get the house ready for a new year ahead.
Here are some of the beliefs that Chinese would do and avoid doing before (and during) Chinese New Year:
1. No Cleaning On New Year
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Cleaning is not allowed on the first day of Chinese New Year because it is believed that the very act will sweep away all the good luck and fortune for the whole year. Therefore, household cleaning should be done before the New Year’s day, so that all the bad lucks from the previous year will be swept away from the house. However, the dust and garbage that have been cleaned should not be carried through the front door as it will also mean bringing death to your family member.
2. No Ghost Stories Allowed
According to Chinese beliefs, anything that you do during the New Year’s day will affect your entire year. If you and your family are happy throughout the whole Chinese New Year, good luck will come to you for the entire year. Since ghost stories essentially involve mentions of death, it is believed that it will lead to family members being haunted or even worse, meeting death during the year. Neither elders nor children are allowed to mention anything about spirits or the undead.
3. No Washing Hair
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Washing hair on the first day of the New Year equals to washing the fortunes away from your body. You would not want to wash away your hard-earned good luck for the year now, would you? Some Chinese parents do not even encourage their children to get a haircut on the first day of the New Year. This action is seen as cutting away your luck for two reasons: A) “hair” sounds a lot like “wealth” in Mandarin, which means you’ll be cutting your wealth; B) it is bad luck to use sharp objects to take something away from your body, for the same reason as point A (or see number 7).
4. No Books
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Chinese believe that the word “book” is a homonym for “lose” in Mandarin. “Book” in Mandarin is shu, which sounds similar to the Mandarin pronunciation of “lose”. No one in this world would prefer losing to winning. Therefore, reading books on the first day is always avoided and discouraged. Chinese book stores will also remain closed. However, there are no restrictions from reading other materials except for books.
5. No Shoes
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“Shoes” is also a homonym, but this time in Cantonese. The word “shoes” is pronounced as hai, which sounds like sighing – an action perceived as something done only by those burdened or dissatisfied with something; not a good way to start the year. It also sounds similar to “rough”. The elderlies would not want the family to have a rough year. Therefore they will try to avoid buying shoes during New Year for a smoother year ahead.
6. No Crying
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Crying on New Year means that you will be drowned with sorrow and sadness for the whole year. Chinese believe that when you start a new year with unhappiness, you will end it in much the same manner as well – hence the reason why children have the excuse of being little rascals for a day, as they are spared from punishments on the first day of Chinese New Year. Adults will also try to avoid arguments between family and friends.
7. No Sharp Objects
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Handling sharp objects is considered as a big taboo on the first day of New Year. Knives, scissors or other sharp objects can hurt people. Therefore, they are considered as evil objects that could harm others. It is best to place them away from children during the New Year as the elderly believes that sharp objects will influence children to grow up into bad people. It is also believed that cutting something with a sharp object means you are cutting off your good luck.
8. Pay All Your Debts
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As is believed by many, not paying off debts ahead of the New Year may result in ending the year the same way. Gambling is often done on Chinese New Year but anyone involved in the activity never makes a habit of owing anybody money during the game. Also, if you’re thinking of doing an act of kindness, cross ‘lending money’ off your list as it means that you will only be giving out money throughout the whole year, with none flowing back into your wallet.
9. Thumbs Up For Red
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For Chinese, red is traditionally a symbolic colour of happiness, prosperity, good fortune and joy. That is why red objects are seen everywhere during Chinese New Year, such as red packets, red lanterns and red decorations. The colour is to brighten up the mood and atmosphere. Other than Chinese New Year, the colour red is also used during other Chinese celebrations and festivals such as a Chinese wedding or eating red coloured hard-boiled eggs on a birthday, because it symbolises happiness.
10. Reunion Dinner
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Last but not least, the reunion dinner is probably the most important meal of the year, where every single family member sits together at a round table to have the meal together. Sitting around a round table represents a family that gathers together like a circle without edges and never breaks apart. Dishes that are prepared during reunion dinner usually have its own auspicious meaning or name to it. For example, long noodles represent long life and long green vegetables means to have a good harvest (good income).
(Photo source: blog.myfatpocket.com)