Taboos and Superstitions Related to the Chinese New Year

On Chinese New Year's Eve, all brooms, brushes, dusters, dustpans, and other cleaning equipment are put away. With Superstitions ruling the roost, it's not only some of us who are superstitious about things at large.
CelebrationJoy Staff
Last Updated: Mar 9, 2018
Celebration of new year
Sweeping or dusting should not be done on New Year's Day for fear that good fortune will be swept away. The floors may be swept after New Year's Day. Beginning at the door, the dust and rubbish are swept to the middle of the parlor, then placed in the corners and not taken or thrown out until the fifth day. At no time should the rubbish in the corners be trampled upon. In sweeping, there is a superstition that if you sweep the dirt out over the threshold, you will sweep one of the family away. Also, to sweep the dust and dirt out of your house by the front entrance is to sweep away the good fortune of the family; it must always be swept inwards and then carried out to avoid any harm. All dirt and rubbish must be taken out the back door.

Bringing In the New Year and Expelling the Old

Shooting of firecrackers on New Year's Eve is the Chinese way of sending out the old year and welcoming in the New Year. On the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve, every door in the house, and even windows, have to be opened to allow the old year to go out.

New Year Activities Set Precedent

All debts have to paid by this time. Nothing should be lent on this day, as anyone who does so will be lending all the year. Back when tinder and flint were used, no one would lend them on this day or give a light to others.

Everyone should refrain from using foul language and bad or unlucky words on the New year's. Negative terms and the word "four" (Ssu), which sounds like the word for death, are not to be uttered. Death and dying are never mentioned and ghost stories are a taboo too on this day. References to the past year are also avoided, as everything should be turned towards the New Year and a new beginning.

If you cry on New Year's day, then it is believed that you will cry all through the year. Therefore, children are tolerated on this day and not punished, even though they are mischievous.

Personal Appearance and Cleanliness

On New Year's Day, we are not supposed to wash our hair, as it would mean we would have washed away good luck for the New Year. Red clothing is preferred during this festive occasion. Red is considered a bright and happy color that is sure to bring the wearer a sunny and bright future. It is believed that appearance and attitude during New Year's sets the tone for the rest of the year. Children and unmarried friends, as well as close relatives, are given lai see, little red envelopes with crisp one dollar bills, for good fortune on this day.

More Superstitions

For the ones who are most superstitious, before leaving the house to call on others, the Almanac should be consulted to find the best time to leave the home and the direction which is most auspicious to head out. The first person that one meets and the first words heard are significant as to what the fortunes would be for the entire year. It is also a lucky sign to see or hear songbirds, red-colored birds, or swallows on this day. It is considered unlucky to greet anyone in their bedroom so that is why everyone, even the sick, should get dressed and sit in the living room.

While many Chinese people today may not believe in these dos and don'ts, these taboos and superstitions related to Chinese New Year are still practiced. These traditions and customs are kept because most families realize that it is these very traditions, whether believed or not, that provide continuity with the past and provide the family with an identity.
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