Superstitions and Taboos for CNY

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CNY is all about gathering with our friends and family to celebrate a year of happiness, prosperity, health and good fortune. But, just like any other festive celebration, there are always a set of rules and traditional practices that people follow due to superstition and taboo. Therefore, If this year is your first time taking part in the CNY celebration, this blog will keep you well informed about all the Dos and Don'ts when celebrating CNY.

The DO's

1. Make sure to greet everyone

Basic manners aside, it is part of tradition to greet everyone you see, especially your elders, with 恭贺新禧 (gōng hè xīn xǐ) – Good luck in the year ahead or 笑口常开 (xiào kǒu cháng kāi) – May your year be filled with abundance of smiles and laughter, just a few of the many greetings you can say during your visit. Afterwards, you will also receive greetings back.

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2. Spring cleaning

Remember to clean your home, ensuring to remove all clutter as well as sweeping away all dust, as this is seen as removing all negative energy in your house. This activity is often done as a family activity a few weeks before CNY. It is also important to note that doing spring cleaning during CNY would actually have the opposite meaning, as it is seen as sweeping away your goodluck for the year.

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3. Do give out a pair of red packets if you are married

(If you’re single, feel free to skip this!)

It is a tradition to receive red packets from the elders and also to give them out when you’re married. The amount that you decide to put inside the red packet depends on how generous you are and how well you know the recipients.

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4. Wear Bright/ Red coloured outfits

Red is considered the most auspicious and favourable colour in Chinese Culture and it is closely associated with the celebration of CNY. It is the symbol of luck and joy, therefore by wearing red, it is believed that you will bring positive energy and blessings for the upcoming year. It is also a belief that you will ward off evil spirits.

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5. Remember to bring oranges!

It is a tradition that people bring along and hand out mandarin oranges during house visits as it is a sign of sharing good fortune. Oranges are typically bright orange, which is a highly auspicious colour in Chinese culture. This colour symbolises good luck, wealth, and prosperity. Also, in Mandarin, the word "orange" (橙, chéng) sounds very similar to the word for "success" (成, chéng). This similarity in pronunciation makes oranges a symbol of success and good fortune.

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The Don’ts

1. Don’t speak about death

Any talk about death or anything associated with the word "Dead" or "Ghost" is often frowned upon at gatherings or at the dinner table as it is a belief that this might invite bad luck and misfortune to the family or individual. Therefore it is very important to keep this tradition in mind as people can often be quite sensitive around the topic of death and ghosts during CNY.

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2. Don’t cut your hair/nails

On the first day of CNY, do not cut your nails or hair as this can be seen as washing away your fortune for the rest of the year.

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3. Do not wear Black or White

Black and white are colours associated with mourning and are often avoided during the festive season. Instead, it's customary to wear bright and colourful clothes (as mentioned above).

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4. No Sharp Objects

Avoid gifts that are sharp like knives or scissors as they are often associated with cutting ties and relationships.

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5. Avoid crying children

Last but not least, if you are a parent, try to keep your children happy and avoid scolding them because it is believed that crying during CNY may actually bring bad luck.

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Website Reference

  1. Honeycombers: Chinese New Year Traditions Do's and Dont's