Growing up in a Chinese household, my family dedicates over two weeks to Chinese New Year: the cleaning, cooking, decorating, and celebrating. There is a very specific way for things to be done — from the decor to the food, everything has its superstition.
Though I can’t make any promises that they’re effective, these traditions have been passed on through generations and are still being followed.
Might as well give them a try:
We clean our house before New Year's Eve.
As much as Chinese people believe in good luck, we also believe that there are bad spirits keeping us from it.
About a week before Chinese New Year, there is a lot of dusting, sweeping, and mopping going on in my home. Houses are cleaned to their entirety to sweep away bad luck and 'inauspicious breaths,' according to History.com.
Any cleaning after the eve of Chinese New Year is considered bad, because you're potentially sweeping away any fortune coming your way.
Red is our lucky colour.
Red is not my favourite colour, but it doesn't matter when I go shopping for Chinese New Year. This colour is traditionally believed to bring wealth by warding off the spirits of bad fortune.
It doesn't matter what it is you're buying -- if it comes in red, get it!
It is also advised to pay attention to your zodiac year. This comes every 12 years, one for each animal in the zodiac. When it lands on the animal of your birth year again, it is known as your benming nian, which is supposed to full of bad luck, according to China travel expert Sara Nauman. So beware: If it is your zodiac year, you are advised to wear red underwear for maximum luck.
We adorn our home with decorations.
Every year, all the rooms in my house are decorated with red envelopes, banners with messages of good luck, pairs of door couplets, and lanterns. Many of the decorations feature the animal of the zodiac year as well.
SF Gate reports that many of these decorations are supposed to represent the talismans from the Han Dynasty that helped protect people from misfortune, bad omens, and disasters.
Once again, all decorations should be on red paper or include red. It's really no surprise
-- since everyone is wearing red for Chinese New Year, your home should, too.
We fill our home with flowers.
My favourite part Chinese New Year is when my home resembles a small garden, full of flowers and plants. Botany is crucial in bringing wealth, according to Chinese superstition. When the flowers blossom, so will your wealth.
The most popular plants to bring wealth are pussy willows, peonies, orchids, and bamboo pots. These plants represent longevity, prosperity, luxury, and good fortune. I'm not sure if they work, but they're rather pleasant to have around anyway.
If you'd like to adopt this tradition, or just fill your home with auspicious flowers this winter, China Highlights has a nice guide to flowers that could bring you wealth.
We emphasise the number 8, and avoid the number 4.
Numbers are not just numbers, especially during Chinese New Year. Even numbers are preferred because of their belief of balance and harmony. But the two numbers you have to remember for your wealth are eight and four.
The number eight in Cantonese is 'bot'and is supposed to sound like 'fot', which means rich. So, if you believe in the superstition, this number is supposed to bring you wealth.
The number four is pronounced 'say' in Cantonese, which sounds like the word 'death.' During Chinese New Year, this number is to be avoided.
Instead of just cutting out the number as decor, I usually have something in that amount. For example, I'll put a candy tray of eight different kinds of goodies for good luck.
We don't shower on the holiday.
One of the oddest superstitions I have followed is not showering, and especially not washing my hair on Chinese New Year. This superstition can be compared to the idiom, 'getting yourself into hot water,' or a bad situation.
Instead, the night before the holiday, we bathe in tea and pomelo leaves to wash away the bad luck and bring good fortune.
We exchange red envelopes.
A major part of Chinese New Year is the lai xi or hoang bao, some of the few names we have for red envelopes. In the red envelopes are new and crisp bills usually ranging from $2 to $100, depending who is giving and receiving it.
These red envelopes are a major part of Chinese New Year, and are handed out throughout the two weeks. We go from relative to relative to bai lien, which means greeting the new year together, and exchange these envelopes. Exchanging red envelopes means giving blessings of wealth and good fortune to each other.
China Highlights has a handy guide for who gives, and how much.
We plan our meals carefully.
Food is a major part of Chinese New Year, and eating certain meals is supposed to bring you wealth and prosperity. Every eve of the new year, my family gets together for one big cookout to prepare food for the two weeks.
Usually we prepare vegetarian dishes, knwon as jai, filled with seaweed, noodles, bamboo shoots, and other vegetables for our morning meals. As part of a Buddhist culture, we don't eat meat before noon on the day of the holiday, to cleanse ourselves with vegetables.
For dinner, however, we prepare a feast: fish, chicken, long noodles, dumplings -- the list goes on! Each food has its own superstition: Fish is supposed to bring a 'surplus' of wealth; dumplings eaten during the celebrations are supposed to bring you more money; pomelos and tangerines symbolise fullness, wealth, and good fortune. China Highlights lists more.
Though there is no way to prove if these superstitions work or not, they have been followed for generations. Give them a try, and you might get some good fortune!
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