11 Chinese New Year superstitions to follow to keep the luck flowing
No doubt—Chinese people (and, really, the Asian population as a general) are big on superstition. You’ve probably noticed that the fourth floor is missing in most buildings around town, or that your kitchen suddenly becomes rife with oranges around the Spring Festival season. These careful superstitions and customs are all centred around luck (or the lack thereof), and if there was ever a time to up the ante on tradition, Chinese New Year is the occasion.
Needless to say, there must have been one collective faux-pas among the Chinese community last year—what else could explain the absolute trainwreck that was 2020? To keep the future better and brighter, we’ve put together a guide to help you keep the luck soaring high for the upcoming Year Of The Ox.
To keep things as auspicious as possible, here are 11 things to avoid during this year’s Chinese New Year celebrations.
Don’t clean… anything
This is a once-a-year free pass where it is socially acceptable (and actually encouraged) to avoid cleaning your house—unless, of course, you want to sweep your wealth away? Yep, if you want to remain prosperous and fortunate, the rules are simple: No sweeping, no taking out the trash, no washing clothes, no showering… nothing.
If you absolutely must, however, we suggest doing a big clean in the days leading up to Chinese New Year as you won’t be able to scrub nor dub until the festivities are over.
Leave all the doors and windows open on day one
You know what they say—when you shut the door on life, you get left behind. The only difference is that in this case, that door isn’t metaphorical. It’s out with the old and in with the new this lunar year; so, crack those windows all the way and keep that door wide open on day one so you can usher in all the good fortune and prosperity you need for this upcoming year!
Don’t cut your hair (and, preferably, don’t wash it either)
PSST: If you need help keeping your tresses fresh between extended washes, click here.
The “head” is supposedly associated with “beginning” in Chinese. As such, like the whole "not-cleaning" custom, if you want to start the new year off on the right foot, you’ll keep away from the salon and the shower (though the MCO 2.0 might do that for you anyway). In fact…
...no knives, scissors, or any other sharp objects, either.
The reasoning is simple: Anything that could be used to cut off your stream of wealth and success is a huge taboo. It’s a no from the big guns!
PSST: This means no embroidery or needlework too!
Avoid black and white clothing
As these colours are traditionally associated with mourning, it’s best to avoid wearing them during the period (especially on the first day of CNY). Stick to bold, bright hues instead (especially red)!
No damaged clothes
Make sure you’re wearing the best and newest garms from your wardrobe—new clothes symbolise a new start, which means dressing in rags (or any damaged clothes) represents misfortune and poverty.
Remember: Damaged clothes are a shoo-in for bad luck at any age, but this rule especially applies to children.
It’s a celebration! Crying is a big no-no on the big day, so make sure you keep your kids nicely pacified, lest you bring bad luck and disease to the whole family.
No hospital visits
It is believed that visiting someone in the hospital will bring them ill health, so—unless it is an emergency—you may want to stick to Zoom or FaceTime until the new year tides over.
No borrowing money (or asking for it back)
If you’re in debt, you should aim to repay it by Chinese New Year’s Eve. Likewise, if you’re a collector, it’s best that you avoid asking for any debt repayment until after the fifth day. Further, borrowing money on the day itself is also one big taboo—if you do, you may very well find yourself needing to borrow funds for the rest of the year!
Realistically, the custom was likely born from a place of common courtesy. However, the superstition dictates that the failure to abide by these rules could just leave both parties with a heaping helping of bad luck.
It is best to avoid slaughtering your chickens, ducks, pigs, and whatnot during Chinese New Year. That said, if you must feast on your faves, make sure all of the killings happen beforehand.
PSST: We're just going to go ahead and assume that actual, cold-blooded murder isn’t on your agenda for the new year (ICYMI: It’s illegal), because that is definitely a surefire way to bring dishonour to your family.
No afternoon siestas
Unless you’d like to be branded lazy all-year-round, we would highly recommend that you stay wide awake for the first day of Chinese New Year. Besides, it is quite impolite to take a nap when you have guests and festivities to attend to!
Find more CNY stories here.