Etiquette: 5 important Chinese New Year don’ts
All in the name of luck
No black or white
The malls, streets and homes are strewn in red for a darn good reason: red symbolises good fortune and joy. Your long-awaited ang pows come in red packets, while gifts and anything visible to the human eye, like your décor and your clothes (some say even your undergarments should be red on this auspicious day) should be red. Black and white décor, clothes or gifts are generally frowned upon because these two colours are largely associated with death and mourning, and nobody wants all that negativity around on the only day in the year you get to sort-of "create" your good luck and fortune.
We've all probably heard this one plenty of times, to the relief of those who dislike the chore of cleaning. It is widely believed that sweeping, mopping or dusting the house, washing clothes and such, gets rid of all your potential good luck or fortune. Hence the house should be cleaned before the eve of Chinese New Year. The floors may be swept after New Year's Day, but it has to be swept inwards to the middle of the house, then placed in corners and only thrown - specifically carried, not swept - out on the fifth day. It's also not a good idea to break anything or handle sharp objects like scissors and knives, because hurting someone or breaking something would symbolise lots of bad luck for the year ahead.
No washing your hair
For real. Some may even recommend not showering at all, to keep in your good luck, but on New Year's Day it is believed that washing our hair would wash all your luck away. So it would be wise to stay away from the gym or sweat-producing activities on this day. Oh hey, maybe that's another good reason why we should stay away from the household chores on this day!
Sorry, sick people. Chinese New Year isn't quite going to be your day, because it is considered poor taste to serve porridge on the first day. Porridge is regarded as the food of poor people, so having it on this day would signify lack of wealth for the new year. Rice, on the other hand, is encouraged, as cooking it for the first meal of the year means that the family will be rich for the whole coming year. And another downer for the sick, it is considered taboo to brew herbal medicine or take medicine on the first day of the year, to avoid getting ill for the whole year. Hospital visits are also avoided, as it is believed it would bring the bad luck home.
Stay away from these gifts because they "bring" bad luck:
Clocks: The symbol for "running out of time," clocks (including watches and other timepieces) are generally a taboo gift in Chinese culture. The Chinese saying for "giving a clock" also sounds like, "attending a funeral ritual."
Pears: Pears may be delicious and healthy and all that, but in Chinese the word for "pear" sounds like "parting," so if you give pears it's like saying goodbye to that person.
Handkerchiefs: Also a symbol for goodbyes, handkerchiefs are often given at the end of funerals.
Shoes: No Yeezys for the young'uns this year. Like clocks, shoes as gifts are generally avoided all year round as the word for "shoes" sounds like "evil."
Cut Flowers: Another symbol for death, cut flowers are usually given for funerals.
Anything with or in the number four: Gifts in sets or multiples of four should be avoided. The number four sounds like "death," so you get the picture.
Scissors or mirrors: Sharp or potentially harmful objects as gifts are generally in poor taste, even though your grandmother may have been eyeing those tailoring shears for the longest time ever. Mirrors are spooky as hell - not just in Chinese culture, but in many other Asian beliefs - so just stay away from them altogether.