10 tips for observing Spring Festival traditions

2016/02/08 13:25:24
10 tips for observing Spring Festival traditions

Chinese New Year series (2) By Keoni Everington CNA staff writer

Now that you have gone through your basic training on Spring Festival faux pas in Part 1 of this series, you need to get ready for the big day -- New Year's Day (大年初一). The first day of the year starts with the first new moon of the first month on the Chinese lunar calendar.

The following are 10 rules to follow specifically on New Year's Day, unless you really want a bad start to your year:

1. Set off fireworks and bang gongs at midnight on New Year's Eve

In addition to the color red, "Nian" (the New Year monster) also greatly fears fire and loud noise. This is why many people set off fireworks, clang gongs and generally make a lot of racket on Chinese New Year's Eve.

2. Don't sleep until after midnight

In addition to tucking money under the pillow, people stay up past midnight to usher in the New Year. Originally the practice was meant to watch out for the crafty "Sui" (祟) creature, or "guard against Sui" (守祟), but now this has become "preserving time" (守歲), to ensure good fortune throughout the year.

3. Don't wake people up

Even though many people may be sleeping in from a long night, avoid the temptation to wake them. If you wake a person up on this day, especially if you call them by name or offer them New Year's greetings, they will have trouble waking up and will need constant prodding to get things done for the whole year.

4. Don't wash your hair

The Chinese character for "hair" (髮) is a homonym with the first character for the Chinese word "fortune" (發財). Washing your hair will wash away this fortune.

5. Wear red underwear and new clothes

It is considered extra good luck if you wear red underwear. Wearing new clothes symbolizes a fresh new start to the coming year.

6. Put away brooms, dust pans and trash cans

Put away all cleaning implements and trash bins to avoid sweeping away good fortune for the year.

7. Make sure to have leftovers to eat

Cook plenty of food on New Year's Eve so you have enough left over for this day. This symbolizes that you will have a generous surplus of everything in your life for the rest of year.

There are a ton of dishes that are traditionally eaten on the first day of the New Year that will be the subject of Part 3 of this series.

8. Wives can't visit their parents

It is customary that married women stay at the home of their husband's parents on the first day of the New Year and it is considered extremely bad luck for her to visit her parents on that day. Instead, she, her spouse and children must visit them on the second day -- Son-in-Law Day.

9. Don't use a needle

Avoid needlework as moving the needle symbolizes making a financial move, which would be the wrong day to do because it will only lead to depletion of wealth over the coming year.

10. Don't wash clothes during the first two days

The first two days are considered the Water God's (水神) birthday, therefore washing during that time would greatly insult him and cause ill fortune in the coming year. Like washing your hair and other forms of cleaning, it washes your luck away.

Best practices on New Year's Day

Beyond the superstitious practices listed above for the first day of the lunar year, it is also considered very important to provide offerings and burn incense for your ancestors and then pay homage to the gods. As for living mortals, it is very important for the youth to honor their elders, often in the form of toasts.

Everyone exchanges red envelopes (紅包) on this day. Be sure to give even numbers of cash in the red envelopes, as odd is reserved for funerals, but of course avoid the dreaded number four. The closer and more senior the relative, the more money should be inside, in order of most money to least: your parents, close relatives and friends, your employees, your children, children of close friends and relatives, and children of acquaintances.

(Click here for Part 1 of the series)
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