Top Ten Chinese New Year No-Nos
Things are rapidly changing in China. Many of the old traditions and superstitions are falling away. Chances are if I mention some of these superstitions to kids in China today they’d be surprised.
But according my big book of Chinese culture these are all no-nos on New Years day and/or for the entire 7-day festival (called oddly the Spring Festival even though it’s in the Winter).
10. No Crying Babies – As the father of an 18-month old, this one strikes me as particularly impractical. But traditional Chinese families will go to great lengths during the Spring festival to keep children from crying. At this stage with our daughter I’d be ecstatic to get through a tear-free 24 hours.
9. No wearing of old or damaged clothes – In Chinese tradition, your New Years Day sets the tone for your entire year. So, anything that smacks of lack of prosperity is studiously avoided. That rules out about half my wardrobe.
8. No Porridge – This one is part and parcel of the prosperity thing. In China, affluent people do not eat porridge, aka oatmeal, cream-of-wheat etc.
7. No hair washing– Chinese is a tonal language and consequently many words sound similar but have widely different meanings. There are countless Chinese superstitions based on this kind of word play. The word for “hair” is “fa.” “Fa” is also the first character of the word for “to get rich” and so washing your hair during the Spring Festival is considered equivalent to washing your fortune away.
6. No needlework or knitting – During the Spring Festival, any mishap resulting in bleeding is considered inauspicious. (I usually consider bleeding in general to be inauspicious, but that’s just me.) Needlework and knitting is avoided apparently on the “why take unnecessary risks” theory.
5. No sweeping – the act of sweeping is thought to move energy out the door and thus, this time of year, is equivalent to sweeping away your good luck.
4. No borrowing or lending money - Going into debt would be a violation of the “lack of prosperity” rule in effect for the Spring Festival and being on the other side of such a transaction is considered equally bad luck. It is particularly bad luck to ask someone to repay a debt during the Spring Festival so the repo guy should just take the week off.
3. No wearing white or black – Black and white are both colors associated in China with death or mourning.
2. No visiting the in-laws – OK, that’s not quite the way the prohibition goes, technically it’s that a married woman should not visit her parents home. But for us guys it’s an in-law free holiday. : )
1. Don’t let your rice pot go empty – Obviously!
I’ll be back later in the week with the top Chinese New Year To-Dos. See you then.