Today is Lunar (Chinese) New Year, a day to celebrate family and to welcome luck and prosperity for the upcoming year.
We’re all familiar with myths and fairytales and Chinese New Year is connected to one as well. In ancient times, a monster named ‘Nian’ (年) who lives at the bottom of the sea would come up once a year to feast on animals and humans. The villagers would typically all escape into the mountains in fear of being eaten. But one year, a beggar came to seek shelter who promised to chase Nian away if someone would take him in. All the villagers were preparing to leave for the night, so everyone ignored him, except for an old woman who agreed to take him in. The man busied himself with decorating the homes. That night, Nian lumbered in but stopped short when it saw the red paper on the doors. As it roared in anger, firecrackers suddenly sounded and it trembled in fear. Then, Nian saw the beggar dressed in red, and it quickly ran away.
The villagers came back the next day and were happy to see their homes were all still standing. It was then that they realized Nian’s kryptonite was the colour red and loud noises. This is why on New Year’s Eve, families eat dinner in their homes fortified by red decorations and sound firecrackers at midnight. It has become a tradition to decorate with red nowadays to scare away evil spirits and bad luck.
Chinese New Year is a festival that focuses on good luck and good fortune, so what are some things you should avoid to ensure you have a lucky and prosperous year?
Well, follow these taboos to help you bring the best for you and your family in the Year of the Tiger.
- Before Chinese New Year, we spend a day for cleaning. It’s like the Asian version of Spring Cleaning. The reason behind the cleaning spree is to sweep away the bad luck. However, during the actual festival, you should avoid cleaning and sweeping because you might be tossing away all your luck for the year. On a similar note, this is why we shouldn’t shower on Chinese New Year’s Day.
- Do not use scissors or knives on Chinese New Year since you might be cutting your stream of wealth and success. This is why 99% of hair salons are closed during the holidays and many people avoid cutting their own hair until the festivities are all over.
- Although Chinese New Year is all about family, for those married, it’s typical to not meet with the wife’s family until the 2nd day of the festival. My family typically meets with my parents on the first weekend after Lunar New Year. The story behind this is related to how the bride typically moves into the groom’s home after marriage so returning to her parent’s home for New Years with her in-laws would bring bad luck and marriage problems to the family.
- Never ask anyone for repayment on New Years day and if you owe anyone, try to repay any debt before the start of the year. This is a custom to show understanding and allows everyone a chance to celebrate the holidays without worry. Borrowing money is also taboo for the holidays because you could end up having to borrow the entire year.
- Avoid crying or fighting on New Years to ensure a smooth path in the new year.
- Give New Year blessings to all family members, but never while they are in bed. Otherwise they’ll be bed-ridden for the entire year. If you’re a child or unmarried, you’re in on a bonus. You receive a lucky red pocket filled with money from parents and relatives that you can put under your pillow during the festival.
- If you want to give people gifts during New Years, avoid giving clocks because it’s a homophone of paying one’s last respects. Also, when giving fruit, avoid pears because it is a homophone of separation.
- Eat foods that are considered lucky since they are homophone for wealth and fortune. Foods like Chinese mushrooms, lettuce, roasted pork, fish, and lotus root are typically served during the festivities. For dessert, we usually enjoy tongyuen, which are filled with black sesame and are shaped like a ball.
Honestly, I’m not sure if I believe in all of these customs and taboos. But, it’s one of those things where you always wonder, if I don’t do these things, will my year be filled with bad luck. So, admittedly, I do end up following because I rather comply for the day then to have a full year of misfortune. This is a tradition that I’ve been following since my childhood and although every family has their own rituals to celebrate, most Asian families will follow something similar.
Many people like to check the predictions for their Chinese Zodiac animal each year to see how their animal corresponds with the year’s animal representative. If you’re interested in finding out, click this link for more details. According to predictions, this year will be a decent one for rabbits (that’s my zodiac animal!), but we will have to be extra diligent and patient to ensure success.
For so many years, I’ve been reading these predictions on Chinese New Year for my Zodiac animal and then reviewing it at the end of the year to see how accurate the prediction was. The horoscopes were never exact, but it has always been a fun way to reflect and look forward to. Let’s see what happens this year!
Wishing everyone an amazing Lunar New Year! Enjoy the festivities and happy Year of the Tiger!