Happy Chinese New Year
Here’s wishing everyone a Happy Chinese New Year! This year would be my year, since I was born in the year of the
cow ox, and 2009 is also the year of the ox.
I haven’t been celebrating Chinese New Year for a couple of years ever since I came to Singapore (except that time I was in Indonesia while waiting to enter university, and the two years that I was in a relationship). That’s why to me Chinese New Year is mostly associated with the lack of cheap food in Singapore, since only restaurants and fast food outlets are open. Most food stalls in hawker centres and food courts are closed. Sometimes if you’re lucky, you will find one or two Malay or Indian food stalls open near you.
Are you aware that the Chinese has a set of beliefs that they observe during the new year? Wikipedia has a list of them.
- Opening windows and/or doors is considered to bring in the good luck of the new year.
- Switching on the lights for the night is considered good luck to ‘scare away’ ghosts and spirits of misfortune that may compromise the luck and fortune of the new year.
- Sweets are eaten to ensure the consumer a “sweet” year.
- It is important to have the house completely clean from top to bottom before New Year’s Day for good luck in the coming year. (however, as explained below, cleaning the house after New Year’s Day is frowned upon)
- Some believe that what happens on the first day of the new year reflects the rest of the year to come. Chinese people will often gamble at the beginning of the year, hoping to get luck and prosperity.
- Wearing a new pair of slippers that is bought before the new year, because it means to step on the people who gossip about you.
- The night before the new year, bathe yourself in pomelo leaves and some say that you will be healthy for the rest of the new year.
- Buying a pair of shoes is considered bad luck amongst some Chinese. The character for “shoe” (鞋) is a homophone for the character 諧/谐, which means “rough” in Cantonese; in Mandarin it is also a homophone for the character for “evil” (邪).
- Getting a hair-cut in the first lunar month puts a curse on maternal uncles. Therefore, people get a hair-cut before the New Year’s Eve.
- Washing your hair is also considered to be washing away one’s own luck (although modern hygienic concerns take precedence over this tradition)
- Sweeping the floor is usually forbidden on the first day, as it will sweep away the good fortune and luck for the new year.
- Saying words like “finished” and “gone” is inauspicious on the New Year, so sometimes people would avoid these words by saying “I have completed eating my meal” rather than say “I have finished my meal.”
- Talking about death is inappropriate for the first few days of Chinese New Year, as it is considered inauspicious.
- Buying books is bad luck because the character for “book” (書/书) is a homonym to the character for “lose” (輸/输).
- Avoid clothes in black and white, as black is a symbol of bad luck, and white is a traditional Chinese funeral colour.
- Foul language is inappropriate during the Chinese New Year.
- Offering anything in fours, as the number four (四), pronounced sì, can sound like “death” (死) in Chinese. See tetraphobia.
- Also you should never buy a clock for someone or for yourself because, a clock in Chinese tradition means your life is limited or “the end” which is also forbidden
- Avoid medicine and medicine related activities (at least on the first day) as it will give a bad fortune on your health and lessen the luck you can obtain from New Years