The season of Chinese New Year is one of the many times where you’d hear festive music blaring for weeks even before the celebration. It is also that time of the year where the family elders would oil up their superstition engines to make sure we’ll welcome the year with prosperity, happiness and good luck (mostly on the prosperity part).
I’m pretty sure most of you grow up experiencing the practices every year but for the sake of not accidentally becoming an utter disgrace to your ancestors, let us refresh our minds with pointers to not create “sui-ness” for the upcoming year okay? Gotta store all the luck we can get to brace ourselves for another year!
1. Your rice container should NOT be empty.
Why: The rice container is portrayed as the level of people’s living standards. Having an empty storage is being viewed as the inability to afford upcoming meals thus leading to a year of struggle. Filling the container before the New Year’s Eve is believed to attract a healthy financial situation.
What say me: This superstition can be viewed as one that is made to cultivate a good habit, I foresee that not having rice in stock is a pantang just to get us prepared for the incoming reunion dinners. Either way, stock up on rice!
2. Do NOT eat porridge for breakfast (on the morning of CNY day 1).
Why: Similar to the logic of not having rice storage, porridge is being seen as a non-atas dish due to the past perception that poor people could only afford rice porridge.
What say me: An irony after reading the first pantang. I’ve heard that some people do not consume meat on the first day as well due to the idea that it is unlucky to serve dead animals.
3. NO sweeping / cleaning on CNY day 1.
Why: This has to be one of the core pantangs of all and the reason behind it is simple – to avoid sweeping all the luck away. You know how you pour the dirty water away from rinsing the dirty cloth? You’re pouring the money away!
What say me: It is kind of a no-brainer ritual to perform your cleaning duties before the new year (part of the idea is to also shoo the evil spirits away). Keep it real clean so you will not have the need to grab anything out of the cleaning closet.
4. Number 4, literally
Why: The number ‘4’ directly translates to ‘die’ in Cantonese, and holds a similar sound to the word ‘death’. Try to avoid associating anything with the number on that day I guess, e.g. 4 people going in a 4-sided lift to the 4th floor of the 4th building on the 4th row.
What say me: The number has already been a taboo throughout everywhere anyway. If you really need to address something with that number, I’d suggest using 3A like how they label floors in buildings. LOL
5. Pantang words
Why: Avoid using words that indicate negative implications such as: death, kill, sickness, pain, lose, poor, no money etc. The more superstitious people hearing this would dismiss it with a loud “CHOY!” (the equivalence to ‘touchwood’).
What say me: I shouldn’t question the authority and power of the spiritual world, but the mouth does seem like a very powerful tool seeing how it could potentially jinx the next 365 days of your life.
6. CANNOT wear black!
Why: Black helps to visually shed some of that tummy from your relatives during reunions but it is PURE bad luck in the eyes of your uncles and aunties! Black is rather the colour of choice for funerals so opt for some red ‘ang ang’ or the ‘ong’ yellow.
What say me: If you do have family members who are particular of this, don’t wear black or they’d make a funeral out of you. Just saying.
7. NO sharp objects!
Why: One reason our ancestors have passed down is that the presence of sharp objects may create some sort of escalation in unnecessary arguments and possibly cause harm. This would lead to inauspicious things like the depletion of wealth. No needle work, no scissors and no knives.
What say me: Conflicts a little with kitchen duties, considering how you’d need a knife to at least cut ingredients down to size. Maybe I could cut everything beforehand and stick them in the fridge.
8. Mind your gifts!
At any point during the 15 days of Chinese New Year you find yourself having to gift someone something during a special occasion (e.g. customary house-visiting gifts or a birthday), avoid the following:
- Shoes: In Mandarin, ‘shoes’ (鞋 xié /syeah/) sound similar to bad luck (邪 xié).
- Handkerchiefs: An eternal goodbye. It is widely used to wipe the tears at the end of a funeral.
- Clocks: Gives off a ‘your time is up’ message. The act of ‘gifting a clock’ (送钟 sòng zhōng) sounded similar to ‘attending a funeral’ (送终 sòng zhōng)
- Mirrors: Mostly it is believed to attract ghosts and it breaks easily. Remember that ‘7 years of bad luck’ taboo? That applies here too.
I’m seeing a pattern now on these customaries though: one must embrace and create the positive opportunities to feel rich, in order to usher luck and prosperity. Want to put your luck into a test?