Celebrating the Chinese New Year is more than just setting off some fireworks and eating delectable Chinese food.
The popular holiday also involves refraining yourself from doing a number of taboos and being mindful of some Chinese culture-related superstitions. Following these traditions is aimed to make your year prosperous and auspicious.
A lot of these taboos and superstitions are, naturally, rooted in Chinese culture and traditions, although many Filipinos may recognize some of them as they exist in local superstition, too. Of course, as with most cultural superstitions, some of them are based on common sense, as well.
Here are some of the things you shouldn’t do during Chinese New Year:
1. Do not wash or cut your hair on Chinese New Year
Do you have a salon appointment this Chinese New Year? Maybe you should reconsider—if you want to follow Chinese superstition, anyway.
In Mandarin, the character for “hair” (发 or fā) is also used in the verb “to become wealthy” (发财, or fācái which is also used in the New Year greeting gōngxǐfācái! for May you have a prosperous new year). The Chinese language is filled with tons of homophones and many superstitions are based on how words sound similar to other words. So it is taboo to cut or even wash your hair during Chinese New Year—the beginning of the new year in the traditional Chinese calendar—as it constitutes washing your fortune or prosperity away.
2. Do not clean
The act of cleaning or sweeping at the beginning of the year is seen in Chinese tradition as sweeping your wealth away. It is considered taboo to clean your house on this day. Yes, if you are to follow Chinese New Year traditions, you should not do any kind of cleaning. At all.
Of course, you may consider this as a bit extreme. If you want to follow this tradition and still clean your house, you can sweep inward instead of outward so, technically, you wouldn’t be sweeping the trash away. Any garbage you want to throw out, you can do so after the fifth day of the Chinese New Year. The idea is that there is a traditional day of cleaning before the new year strikes to get rid of the bad luck and attract good luck. You wouldn’t want to wipe away the good luck that came to your household at that time by washing or sweeping it away.
3. Do not use scissors—or give them as gifts
Simply put: Scissors—or sharp objects, in general—are not auspicious items during the Chinese New Year. Traditionally, according to the website Chinese New Year, this is so women are given a break during the first day of the year. But it is also believed that using scissors or knives on this day means cutting your wealth. There is also a belief that you should avoid getting injured or hurt during Chinese New Year (visiting hospitals is also considered unlucky). Using sharp objects on that day may seem like you are tempting fate and are asking to be injured.
Meanwhile, giving away scissors or sharp objects as gifts is believed to mean that you want to cut off your relationship with its recipient. There are actually a number of items that are believed to be unlucky or taboo as gifts—including handkerchiefs (which is supposed to suggest or imply a farewell), anything with the number four (which, in the Chinese language, sounds similar to the word for death), and mirrors (which is believed to attract ghosts).
4. Do not borrow money
It is believed that you should not borrow money during the first day of the year as it supposedly bodes bad luck for you for the entire year. But there’s more to do this taboo—if someone owes you money, you are not supposed to ask for payment on this day as well as it means bad luck to you and the person who owes you money. If you owe someone money, you are supposed to pay it back before the Chinese New Year. In general, you shouldn’t let other people take objects from you—specifically, your pocket, though it applies generally as well. Try not to have anything stolen too, as it is believed to be a sign that your wealth and fortune will be stolen for the whole year. Now that’s bad luck.
5. Do not eat porridge
As it should be evident by now, many Chinese New Year taboos involve invoking good fortune for the coming year by doing activities that suggest wealth—and by not doing things that imply bad fortune. Here’s an example: You should not eat porridge during the Chinese New Year as it is a meal that is often eaten by people who have nothing else to eat (a porridge, after all, is a simple dish). Some even suggest not to eat meat during the day. To attract wealth, it is suggested that you fill up your rice jar or containers, as it suggests good fortune for the rest of the year.