The Chinese Lunar New Year also known as the “Spring festival” (chunjie (春节)) starts the first day of the first month of the Chinese Lunar Calendar. In 2019, the Year of the Pig, the New Year begins on February 5th and is celebrated for a full 15 days. Just as in many cultures in Asia that celebrate on a lunar calendar, there are many taboos associated with the Chinese Lunar New Year. Some taboos are ignored to a certain extent, especially among the modern urban populations in larger cities, and among the younger generation. However, many people still take these superstitions seriously. It’s fascinating to discover different traditions. Consider these top 10 taboos during our 2019 New Year festivities:
- Saying A Name to Wake Someone : On New Year’s Day morning, avoid using a person’s name to wake them or encourage them to arise. Otherwise, you’ll have to urge them to do tasks and projects all year.
- Awakening A Sleeping Person with “Happy New Year!”: On New Year’s Day, avoid awakening a sleeping individual with a New Year greetings. Wait until they arise or they will be sick in bed for 2019.
- Washing Hair: In Mandarin, the word hair (发) has the same pronunciation and is the same character, as fa in facai (发财), which means ‘to become wealthy.’ So it’s best to wait until after New Year’s to avoid ‘washing one’s fortune away.’
- Eating Congee, Meat, or Fish for Breakfast: You don’t want to start the year “poor,” by eating congee or Chinese porridge – it’s a bad omen. Enjoy cooked rice for the first meal of 2019 to welcome prosperity. Meat is taboo at this breakfast out of respect for Buddhist gods, who are believed to disfavor animal slaughter.
- Wearing Damaged Clothing: Buy new clothing and avoid clothes with tears, rips, and damage. Children are especially susceptible to this bad luck in the first lunar month.
- Doing Laundry on 1st or 2nd Day: Water is conserved on these special days, which are celebrated as the birthday of Shuishen (水神, the Water God).
- Moving the Financial Needle: Avoid financial and budgetary discussions on New Year’s Day: “If you move the needle on New Year’s Day, watch out, you may prick the dragon which will make you grow a stye.” This is a play on words, because the character for stye and needle sound the same. “Moving the needle” refers to changing or making progress.
- Borrowing Cash: Avoid starting the New Year with someone else’s money, or legend says loans will be required all year. If you start the year lending money, you will suffer loss all of 2019. Pay all debts by New Year’s Eve.
- Napping During New Year Celebrations: Avoid napping on New Year’s Day or laziness may result all year. It’s rude since the alternative is receiving many guests.
- Married Woman Leaving Her Home or Visiting Family: On New Year’s Day, a woman should not leave her home or she will risk bad fortune for 2019. Instead, as a wife, she entertains visitors in her home. She avoids visits on New Year’s Day, as this brings bad luck to parents, causing economic hardship, and poverty.
Sharon Schweitzer and Sophie Echeverry co-wrote this post. Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural trainer, modern manners expert, and the founder of Access to Culture. In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management from the HOFSTEDE Centre and the Intercultural Communication Institute, she serves as a Chinese Ceremonial Dining Etiquette Specialist in the documentary series Confucius was a Foodie, on Nat Geo People. She is the resident etiquette expert on two popular lifestyle shows: ABC Tampa Bay’s Morning Blend and CBS Austin’s We Are Austin. She is regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, and Fortune. Her Amazon #1 Best Selling book in International Business, Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, now in its third printing, was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015. She’s a winner of the British Airways International Trade Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards and the 2017 New York City Big Book Award for Multicultural Nonfiction.
Sophie Echeverry is the Corporate Marketing Manager and Event Coordinator at Access to Culture. Born and raised in Colombia, she’s a 2018 graduate with a B.B.A. in International Business and Marketing from Hult International Business School in San Francisco, CA. Sophie has co-written more than 30 blogs since graduation. She’s a passionate foodie, and an avid e-scooter rider. Follow her foodie Instagram account or Connect with her on LinkedIn.