Chinese New Year series (1) By Keoni Everington CNA Staff Writer
There are a mind bending amount of taboos during the Lunar New Year festival in Taiwan. To help navigate the minefield of numerous do's and don'ts during the two-week Chinese Spring Festival period, this three-part series will give you the lowdown on the basic rules for the overall festival, New Year's Day, and foods one should eat during the Superbowl of Taiwanese holidays.
The festivities surrounding Chinese New Year, also referred to as Spring Festival, typically run from New Year's Eve until the Lantern Festival (the 15th day of the Lunar New Year). The following are 10 major superstitious practices that are still commonly observed throughout the Spring Festival:
1. Don't break bowls or plates
It is bad luck to break a bowl or plate, but if you do, the remedy is to say 歲歲平安 (Suìsuìpíng'ān). The first character sounds like the sound to "break" (碎), but in this case it is replaced with a homonym that means "age" (歲), and said twice means to live a long life and adds the words "peace" and "safety" (平安) at the end.
2. Don't use negative words
Stay away from terms with negative meaning relating to death, sickness, ghosts, poverty, and especially the number four. Instead, use euphemisms.
3. Clean your entire house before New Year's Day
Be sure to clean every corner of your home before the New Year to get rid of bad luck and bad vibes from your house, and carry the trash out the back door, not the front. The word for dust "chen" (塵) is a homonym with the word for "old" (陳). Do not clean your house on New Year's Day because it will sweep away your good luck.
4. Paste the character "Fu" upside down
The word for "blessing" (福) upside down (倒) is a homonym for the word to "arrive" (到), indicating that fortune will arrive at your home. Bats are also a symbol of blessing and the word for "bat" (蝠) is also a homonym with blessing (福), and turning it upside down mimics the way bats roost. Another option is to place the character for "spring" (春) upside down instead.
5. Paste images of door gods for protection
If you are more concerned about protection from evil than being prosperous, paste images of door gods directly on your front door. Legend has it that there is a ferocious beast called "Nian" (年獸), which comes down from the mountains at this time of year and wreaks havoc. Fortunately, its kryptonite is the color red, so placing red-colored couplets around the door as well as the door gods will keep Nian away.
6. No scissors or knives
It is said that the use of sharp, bladed objects during this festival will cut one's wealth.
7. Don't wear all black or all white outfits
The colors white and black are associated with funerals in East Asia. The best bet is to wear red because it fends off evil spirits and symbolizes prosperity and wealth.
8. Avoid hospital visits
It is traditionally believed that visiting the hospital during the Chinese Spring Festival period is thought to bring on more illness for the coming year, with the important exception of medical emergencies.
9. Don't incur debts
It is considered highly foolhardy to borrow or lend money during the Lunar New Year festival because lending during this period is thought to lead to financial loss, and borrowing is taboo.
10. Place red envelope under pillow on New Year's Eve
In addition to the dreaded Nian, there is another monster called Sui (祟), which does evil deeds to children while they sleep. Legend has it that one family discovered that putting coins in a red envelope under their son's pillow scared Sui away. Since that time, people have placed what is called "suppressing Sui money" (壓祟錢), which also sounds like "suppressing year money" (壓歲錢), thus it is believed it will provide good luck for the whole year.
(Click here for Part 2 of the series)