New Year and old rules — things to do and not to do during
the Chinese New Year.
Last year we celebrated the Chinese New Year on the 8th February and this year we are going to celebrate it on the 28th January! Why does it fall on a completely different date?
The reason is that the Chinese follow the lunar calendar and New Year is on the first new moon of the year which in 2017 is the 28th January.
The Chinese zodiac has 12-year cycles, each “characterised” by a certain animal, and this year will be the turn of the Rooster. Furthermore, the Chinese believe that each zodiac year correlates with one of five elements: Gold, Wood, Water, Fire or Earth. If you are good with mathematics you can calculate that for example the Fire Rooster comes once every 60 years!
Some people, including me, are confused why Chinese New Year is referred to as the Spring Festival. It’s nothing to do with spring if you celebrate it in the first and coldest month of the year — January! But then the Chinese believe the end of coldest part of the year is behind them and they can start looking forward to the beginning of spring. I think this view comes from the villages when impatient farmers couldn’t wait to get back in their fields and start working on their crops. Celebrating the Spring Festival in January gives them encouragement and hope that the long, cold winter days are drawing to an end.
The end of the Chinese New Year is marked by the Lantern Festival which is 14 days from the Chinese New Year itself and so this year will fall on the 11th February 2017. This day in China is equivalent to Valentine’s Day too.
The Chinese are very superstitious and here are a few things you should not do during Chinese New Year:
- Do not wash your hair or clothes — you may wash away good luck
- Do not eat porridge as it may bring poverty
- Do not take any medications or visit hospitals — it my bring ill health throughout the year
- The rice jar must be full to symbolise prosperity
- Do not wear black or white as these colours represent mortality
- Do not steal, borrow money or kill
Instead of all the above you should do the following:
- Give red envelopes filled with money, but avoid amounts such as 40 yuan or 400 yuan. The number ‘4’ in Chinese sounds like ‘death’.
- If possible put crisp, new banknotes inside. Giving creased banknotes is in bad taste.
- Eat fish, dumplings, rice cakes for wealth and prosperity, and don’t forget to eat Longevity noodles!
- Hang red lanterns to drive away bad luck.
- Paste slogans on your door such as Best Wishes for the Coming Year
- See the old year out and the new one in by setting off firecrackers. The tradition is to set off small ones first to see the old year out then the big ones for the new year — the louder the noise the better the year will be.
And the list could go on and on…. But if you forget one of “do’s” and “dont’s” don’t worry!
Xin Nian Kuai Le! (pronounced ‘sheen nian kwai luh’)