It’s Chinese New Year! Growing up as a Malaysian Chinese, CNY was pretty much the biggest celebration of the year for my family. Now I know the first thing most of you probably think of when I say CNY is lion dancing.
But Chinese New Year isn’t all about fun and games guys! Traditions, customs and superstitions are deeply ingrained in Chinese culture. So here are 8 Chinese New Year traditions and superstitions you didn’t know existed!
1. No sweeping the floor
Sweeping the floor on the first day of Chinese New Year is a huge no-no because it is believed that along with dust and debris, you would be sweeping away all your good luck and fortune!
2. Clear your debts
If you’re in debt or owe somebody money, make sure you cough up before Chinese New Year! Many Chinese superstitions revolve around wealth and prosperity, and it is believed that if you start the new year in debt, you’ll end it in debt too. Similarly, it is taboo to borrow money from others during Chinese New Year because it signifies you having to borrow for the rest of the year.
3. No eating porridge
When I say porridge, I don’t mean oatmeal. To the Chinese, the term porridge is usually used to refer to rice porridge or congee, as it is called here in the Western world. Porridge is a common breakfast food for Chinese people, but it’s taboo to eat it on the first day of the new year. This is because in olden days, eating porridge was associated with being poor.
4. No washing your hair
Time to reach for the dry shampoo, girls! Hair cannot be washed on the first day of the year. In the Chinese language, the word “hair” is pronounced “fa”. The phrase “to become wealthy” is pronounced “fa cai”. And thus, washing your hair translates literally to washing your fortune away. We wouldn’t want that now would we?
5. Eating fish
On Chinese New Year’s Eve, families will gather for a reunion dinner. A massive meal with a variety of different dishes are prepared and served. One dish that is always served is steamed fish. The Chinese word for “surplus” or “profit” is pronounced the same way as the word “fish”. Therefore, eating fish is believed to being wealth in the new year.
6. Red envelopes
During Chinese New Year, married adults give out “hong bao” to children, adolescents and pretty much anyone who is unmarried. “Hong bao” are red envelopes filled with MONEY! This could range from a couple quid to a pretty hefty amount depending on how close you are to the person handing them out. Keep in mind that CNY lasts for 15 whole days, so all that “hong bao” money piles up pretty quick. Not a bad deal, is it?
According to legend, there used to be a fierce monster called “Nian” which would come to villages to harm people and eat livestock on New Year’s Eve, causing damage and loss to a whole year’s efforts. One day a god told the villagers that the “Nian” was afraid of noises and the colour red. And thus began the tradition of lighting firecrackers during Chinese New Year! Chinese firecrackers are made from strings of rolled red paper containing gunpowder that when set off, make extremely loud noises and leave shreds of scarlet paper in their wake.
8. Don’t say negative words
Words with negative meanings and connotations are strictly forbidden. These include but are not limited to words like death, sickness, emptiness, pain, poor, ghost and break. The reasoning behind this superstition is obvious – you wouldn’t want to jinx yourself or your loved ones!
So there you are! Now that you’re fully equipped to celebrate Chinese New Year, it’s time to head out and see all that Birmingham has to offer you this festive season! Click here to find out more.