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The superstitions and traditions of Chinese New Year

Wednesday, 21 February 2018 6:36:17 pm Australia/Sydney

The Chinese have many superstitions and traditions, borne from centuries of rich culture. Here are 8 beliefs, many of which play on puns since many Chinese characters are pronounced similarly.


(image via here)


1. Shout for joy, students, as it is considered bad luck to study or read during CNY. The Mandarin word for books, shu, sounds the same as the word for "lose". Likewise, don’t read or bring a book to the gambling table because you’re almost definitely going to walk away with empty pockets.


2. It is believed that the New Year sets the precedent for the rest of the year, so you'll get a disapproving look if you mention anything remotely negative. This includes using foul language, telling ghost stories or mentioning death.


3. On that note, wearing black during CNY is a huge taboo as black clothes are worn at funerals. If red is not your colour, opt for other bright colours like orange or yellow. In recent days, some black on your outfit is tolerated among the younger generations. Here are some shoes you could brighten up your outfit with:


Women's Pata 6S W Wine

Men's Sabra 6 M Blue/Grey/Yellow

Women's Speed 17 Lace Up W Purple

Psst. click on the images to go directly to the product page!


4. Here's a reason to rejoice - a clad-iron excuse to ignore that growing laundry pile. Some don't wash clothes on the first and second day, because these two days are celebrated as the birthday of Shuishen (水神, the Water God). Also probably because everyone is simply too busy visiting and celebrating to really care about laundry.


5. Likewise for sweeping the floor. It’s expected to hear families exclaim "You're sweeping all the good luck away!" when they see someone picking up the broom on the first day of Chinese New Year. That’s why spring cleaning is completed before that.


6. According to tradition, people must stay up late on New Year's Eve to welcome the New Year, and then let off firecrackers and fireworks to scare off inauspicious spirits and Nian, the New Year monster. If you ever are in China during Chinese New Year, you can be sure the towns will literally be exploding with firecrackers.


7. As a woman is seen as a financial burden (thanks to ancient China for treating women as hapless creatures), she is regarded as having relieved her parents of having to provide for her when she gets married. So, she is not allowed to visit the house of her parents on the first day as this is believed to bring bad luck to the parents. Traditionally, a married daughter visits the house of her parents on the second day of Chinese New Year.


8. Giving gifts of money in decorated red envelopes is a way to “spread the good luck” to whoever receives it. It is the thought that counts, and not necessarily the amount (although more is always nice, of course). It’s common to receive even sums of money as the Chinese believe good things come in pairs, and sometimes figures that end with 8 ($18, $28, $38, $58, $68, etc) as the number is pronounced as ba, which sounds similar to the character for prosper (fa). The number 4 is avoided as its Chinese character si is a little too similar for comfort to the character that means death (also si, but with a different intonation).

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