Very Superstitious: The Do’s and Don’ts of Chinese New Year

Every culture has their own superstitions: Americans believe it’s bad luck if you cross paths with a black cat, Japanese avoid taking pictures in groups of three because it brings misfortune — even death — upon the individual in the middle, and Greeks throw salt over their left shoulder to ward off bad spirits.

The Chinese are no different, and their superstitions become most prevalent during Chinese New Year — a time where everyone should turn a new leaf and leave behind the drama of yesteryear to begin a new year with a clean slate.

Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind ahead of Chinese New Year to help ensure your Year of the Fire Rooster will be as fortunate and lucky as possible.

Things to do before the first day of Chinese New Year

Happy New Year from JODI Group. Photo: Ross Andrews, Exposure Photo Booths.
Happy New Year from JODI Group. Photo: Ross Andrews, Exposure Photo Booths.

House Chores
Sweeping, taking out the trash, throwing away broken or unused items, and doing laundry should be done before Chinese New Year. By doing these chores, you’re clearing out bad luck from the ending year, and making way for new luck and fortune.

Get a Hair Cut
Cutting your hair before the new year helps you rid yourself of last year’s impurities, and enables new growth.

Decorate the House
Decorating your home with items resembling luck and fortune like red couplets, gold coins, money cats, and dragons will help make the new luck and fortune coming into your home feel more welcome.

Resolve All Outstanding Issues
Try to pay back all debts and make peace with anyone you were feuding with. By starting the new year with a clean slate you are allowing yourself to move on with peace of mind.

Things to do on New Year’s Eve

Photo: Beryl_snw, Flickr.
Photo: Beryl_snw, Flickr. Creative Commons.

Spend Time with Family 
Having a family reunion and sharing a huge dinner with all your loved ones creates good luck for your family, and also brings everyone closer together.

Red Envelopes
Red envelopes, or Hong Bao, are exchanged during Chinese New Year to send well wishes, luck, and prosperity to one another. It’s ideal to do this exchange on New Year’s Eve, since everyone is usually together during this time.

RED ENVELOPE ETIQUETTE → When giving out red envelopes, the bills placed inside should be new crispy dollars, and the use of coins should be avoided. Married people are the ones who give out red envelopes (single people don’t have to), and they should be given to their elders, their children, children of relatives and close friends, and their employees. Amounts placed in the envelopes should never consist of the number 4, as “four” in Chinese sounds like death and is considered bad luck, where as the number 8 is considered to enhance luck.

Open All the Doors and Windows 
Keeping windows and doors open in your home will allow the entry of new luck into your home.

Financial Deals
Don’t lend or borrow money on the eve of Chinese New Year, as it is believed you will end up lending or borrowing money all year round.

Don’t use negative or unlucky words
Refrain from using words like “death” or any variation of the word. It is believed that if you say it, you’ll jinx the year, and death may be bestowed.

Try to avoid any confrontations or arguments and always greet people with kindness and happy wishes.

Do’s and Don’ts for the New Year’s Day

Photo: Peter, Flickr. Creative Commons.

Don’t Take Medicine
Taking medicine on the first day of the lunar new year means you will get ill, and it will probably last the whole year.

New Year’s Breakfast
The first thing you eat should be sweet; it’s believed that by doing so, you will receive good news. Don’t eat porridge (or oatmeal) on the first day of the Lunar New Year. Porridge is traditionally associated with poverty in Chinese culture, and eating porridge as your first meal of the new year does not bode well. Meat should also be avoided out of respect for the Buddhist gods, who believe animals should not be killed as they will be out and about greeting one another.

Don’t Wash or Cut Your Hair
You can shower, just don’t wash your hair! Washing or cutting hair signifies the ridding of your fortune (and luck).

Stay Away From Sharp Objects
Knives, scissors, nails, needles — stay far away from them on New Year’s Day! Any resulting accident can translate to the depletion of your wealth, and deterioration of health.

No House Chores
Sweeping, doing laundry, taking out the trash, or any other housekeeping should be taken care of before the first day of the Chinese New Year.

Keep Bad Spirits Away
People must stay up to ring in the Lunar New Year to welcome the year with firecrackers, which will scare off bad spirits and Nian, the New Year monster.

Married Daughters Shouldn’t Visit Her Parent’s House
It is believed that if a married daughter visits her parent’s home on New Year’s Day, they will experience financial hardship in the new year.

Wear New Clothes
“New Year, new me.” Wearing new clothes (even underwear), especially bright colored clothes — like red, will help you set the right tone for the new year. Avoid wearing black or white, as these colors resemble times of mourning.

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