Every Chinese New Year is a time for new beginnings; out with the old, in with the new. The Chinese have a history steeped in customs and traditions, and it is most apparent during the Chinese Lunar New Year and the spring festival.
Although you may be excused for not knowing the customs and traditions, it is perhaps wise for you to get acquainted with some of them, for fear of committing a faux pas during your Chinese New Year visits - and it wouldn’t hurt to be on the safe side when it comes to luck and fortune!
Yes, you should stay away from any kind of porridge as the first breakfast of the year. It is associated as ‘poor people’s food’ and thought to bring poverty. And although it may be your favorite thing to have, perhaps giving it a miss over Chinese New Year wouldn’t be so bad; the pay off may be worth it!
No Washing Hair & Laundry
Some of you may rejoice on this one! Hair and clothes must not be washed on the first day of the Lunar New Year as it is seen as washing your good fortune away. Let dry shampoo take care of your locks if they need freshening up, and you probably deserve a one-day break from doing your laundry anyway!
You can put your domestic goddess persona and chores to rest for the first day of the new year. Sweeping may get your floors clean but apart from dust and bad luck, you’ll also be sweeping all your good fortune away! If you can’t stand the thought of your floors being dirty though, some find that mopping is an acceptable loophole.
No Unlucky Words
You are what you speak this season, so avoid negative words such as death, failure, mishaps and swear words. These would be sensitive to your guests, family members, and your hosts if you’re visiting someone’s home. So here’s to spreading more positivity and optimism with the words that you speak!
No Monochrome Fashion
To many, black clothes are flattering for the figure, but to the Chinese the colours black and white are traditionally associated with mourning. The recommended colours for this festive season are red, gold, orange and green that represent joy and abundance. Take advantage of this taboo and be daring with your outfits and bright colour choices!
If you owe or lend money before the Lunar New Year, it is believed that you will carry financial burden and misfortune into the new year. Clear your debts before receiving your ang pows for good fortune!
Although giving gifts is a thoughtful gesture, the last thing you want to do is offend anyone. Be careful what you choose to give someone as some items have negative connotations; for example, sharp objects like scissors symbolise cutting off relationships, clocks are bad luck as they symbolise the passing of time, and umbrellas mean break-ups, just to name a few. If you do want to give presents during your Chinese New Year visits, check with someone in the know first, just in case.
Avoid breaking glasses, bowls, plates, vases, or mirrors, because breaking any of these may result in financial loss and family splits. This applies all year round and also applies to broken furniture or household items. If you do break something, the fragments should be collected, wrapped in red paper and then binned on the fifth day of the New Year.
Living in a cultural melting pot like Malaysia, many of us are already familiar with these taboos, or at least some of them. And if you didn’t know them, now you do. Getting to know a different culture improves our sensitivity to cultural differences, which leads to better understanding, and that’s always a good thing.
Wishing you a happy (and lucky!) Chinese New Year!