Dos and Don’ts of a Prosperous Chinese New Year
If you’ve already broken your New Year’s resolutions, fret not – there’s a chance to make promises you can’t keep all over again at Chinese New Year. Celebrated for a total of 15 days from the last day of the lunar year (February 4 this year), the holiday, known as Spring Festival in China, prompts the planet’s largest human migration, as city workers all over the country head to their rural homes to visit family.
Each year of the Chinese calendar is represented by one of a dozen animals and four elements, with this cycle championing the Earth Pig as its mascot. While earth symbolizes balance, patience and stability, the pig is bestowed with qualities of diligence, compassion and generosity. However, myth has it that the pig, the 12th and final animal in the cycle, was last in the race to reach the emperor’s party because he overslept. The lazy swine, therefore, is also associated with sloth.
Along with mythology stretching back thousands of years comes a long list of traditions and superstitions that must be observed in order to pass a prosperous Chinese New Year. Those on course to break their resolutions for a second time, take note!
Eat dumplings every day
Dumplings are a must at Chinese New Year, firstly because they’re delicious, secondly because their Chinese name jiaozi is similar to the ancient word for “replacing old”, and thirdly because their shape resembles silver ingots, which were used as currency in an-cient China and therefore symbolizes wealth. Most Chinese people will just make sure dumplings are part of the big New Year’s Eve family feast, but if you want the full benefit, eat them every day for the entire 15-day period. No-one’s judging.
Get busy with a mop
Clean your house from top to bottom to sweep away bad luck from the past year – but make sure you’re done by the stroke of midnight on Lunar New Year’s Eve. After that, any good luck you’ve accumulated could be eliminated by further sanitizing.
Scoff dessert with purpose
If ever you needed an excuse to eat dessert, this is it. There are several tasty Chinese sweets that hold special meaning at this time of year and can therefore be devoured guilt free. Tangyuan, literally translating to “soup balls,” are chewy globs of glutinous rice served in a warm sweet syrup. As their name sounds just like the Chinese word for “reunion”, the more you eat, the more you’re celebrating family. Another sticky rice delight is naingao, a dessert whose name sounds exactly like the words for “higher year,” therefore bringing good fortune to those who eat it. And if that’s not enough, yummy steamed Chinese cupcakes known as fagao are spelt with the same character as facai, which means “get rich.” Sweet teeth have never been so beneficial!
Mess with your hair
If your locks are getting unruly or greasy, make sure you do all the washing and cutting they require before midnight on New Year’s Eve. As the Chinese character for hair (fa) is the same as the word for prosper, cutting or washing your mop is seen as discarding your good fortune.
Be a klutz
While breaking things is bad luck at any time of year, it’s thought to bring extra misfortune during this festive period. Keep away from fragile items if you’re a butterfingers, and even be careful not to break the bones when you’re eating your New Year’s Eve fish.
Be a bookworm
Cancel your magazine subscriptions and stay away from the library! As shu, the Chinese word for “book”, sounds exactly the same as the word for “lose”, obtaining anything of a literary lilt during Spring Festival is considered bad luck.
Published: January 29, 2019
Last edited: January 29, 2019