Chinese New Year: Common Superstitions and Taboos

Happy Chinese New Year!

As 2014 changes from the year of the snake to the year of horse, here are some common superstitions to make sure you start off the new cycle on the right hoof….er..foot.

Dirty hair is lucky.
Well, kind of…it is believed that washing your hair on the first day of the Lunar New Year could potentially ‘wash away’ good fortune.

Paint the Town Red.
People are advised to wear red clothing and hang lanterns, amulets, and other decorations around their home or business. Legend has it that the ‘Nian’, a mythical monster that wreaked havoc on the villagers of long ago, was finally chased away by a small boy who was dressed all in red. People realized that the Nian was afraid of the colour and since then have used it as protection and good luck.

Black is Out.
Associated with death or mourning, the colour black is generally avoided. Clothing with bright colours should be worn instead, to frighten away evil spirits. Many people also wear brand new clothing to start the year fresh, and to symbolize abundance.

Don’t run with Scissors.
Or any other sharp objects. In fact, avoid using them altogether. You don’t want anything that can ‘cut off’ your good fortune.

Start off with a clean slate.
Or a clean house at least. It is customary to wash away any remnants of ill fortune that might be lingering from the previous year. The tidying up should be done before the holiday begins however. Cleaning once the New Year has started might sweep away the incoming good fortune.

Watch what you give.
Clocks and watches are to be avoided as gifts as they symbolize time running out or the end of something good.

Make some noise.
Fireworks are a big part of Chinese New Year. The noise, colour and light that they project are ideal for chasing away the Nian and other malignant energies. Drums, cymbals and instruments that make a lot of sound are also used, in particular in conjunction with the Lion Dance.

Shhh.
No ghost stories during the New Year. Keep your spooky spiels to yourself. Tales of the beyond are best left for another time, as they relate to death and negative entities.

Pay up.
It’s best to settle all your outstanding bills before the old year ends to avoid starting off the new period saddled with debt. Avoid lending money also, unless you plan to spend the whole year shelling out.


Good things come in pairs.

Especially if they are oranges. Mandarin oranges are considered to be a lucky fruit and are given to friends and relatives as gifts. Pineapples, bananas, and sugar cane shoots are also auspicious foods.

Flower Power.
There are a number of flowers and plants that are considered fortuitous. Plum Blossoms are lucky. Kumquat and Narcissus are symbols of prosperity. Sunflowers are a bright start to a good year. Eggplant is healing and the Chom Mon Plant is believed to bring tranquility.

If you can‘t say something nice…
…wait until after the New Year celebrations to say it. If you want a happy year, its best to refrain from offensive language or arguments, especially on the first day.

Don’t cry over spilt milk
-Or anything for that matter. If you cry on the first day of the year, you will be more likely to spend the next year in tears.

Does anyone know of any other Chinese New Year superstitions? Do you believe in or follow any of them?

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