Many a faux-pas is committed on Valentine’s Day. But it’s 16th February when you should really be on your guard - unless you take perverse enjoyment in tempting fate.
16th February marks the start of the Chinese New Year. With that comes a fortnight of feasts, festivities and fireworks. But to start the year off correctly, there are numerous superstitions that must be carefully navigated. Otherwise you might just ruin your entire year before it’s even really begun. Here’s our short guide to making it through (Chinese) New Year’s Day without causing irredeemable offence to Lady Luck.
>> Everything you need to know about Chinese New Year 2018
Stay away from the porridge
The first thing on most people’s minds once they wake up is to salve that rumbling tummy. But whatever you do, don’t eat porridge. Don’t even think about porridge. You’re thinking about porridge right now, aren’t you? All gooey and creamy and yummy. Well, stop it. Porridge is traditionally considered a victual of the poor. And it’s thought to be bad luck to start the year off “poor”. Those oats can wait until tomorrow.
Don’t take your meds (but absolutely make sure you do)
Breakfast done, it’s time for those tablets. Or is it? Now let’s make one thing clear: we absolutely do NOT endorse this. But the Chinese believe that taking medicine on the first day of the year means you will get ill for the entire year.
Don’t wash your hair
Okay, tummy satiated. Let’s jump in the shower. But there’ll be no bonce-lathering for you, thank you very much. (Stay with us, this is a convoluted one.) In Chinese “hair” has the same pronunciation as “fa” in the word “facai”, which means “to become wealthy”. So the logical conclusion drawn in Chinese tradition is that to wash your hair on New Year’s Day is to wash your fortune away for the year.
Dress in your best
We’ve all got that one jumper with a hole in it. Or a coat with a button missing. But wearing damaged clothes on New Year’s Day is thought to bring bad luck for the year ahead. So it’s on with your good garms...
...as long as they’re not black or white
Black and white clothing is traditionally associated with mourning and should be avoided at all costs on New Year’s Day.
Don’t leave your house (unless you’re male)
Bad news if you’re a woman that likes to get out and about on New Year’s Day. Leaving the house will plague you with bad luck, according to Chinese tradition. And if you’re a married woman, under no circumstances should you visit your parents’ house. Doing so will bring them financial difficulties. That wouldn’t be very fair now, would it?
Stay away from the washing machine
If you know what’s good for you, you’ll leave your dirty washing until 18th February. Washing clothes is bad luck because the first two days of the fresh year celebrate the birthday of the Chinese god of water.
You can leave the broom alone too. Sweeping on New Year’s Day is considered symbolic of sweeping your wealth away.
Cook yourself lucky
It’s off to the kitchen for you, because a lack of culinary activity on New Year’s Day is seen as a bad omen...
...but be careful what you cook
You may want to think twice about using knives. And take extra effort not to burn yourself. Any accident on New Year’s Day is symbolic of losing wealth in the year ahead.
Keep your kids happy
It might be a struggle if you’re looking after a newborn, but try to make your house a tear-free zone. The cry of a child is thought to bring bad luck to the family for the year ahead, so keep those little faces smiling.
Avoid fiscal histrionics
In Chinese tradition, all debts should be paid by New Year’s Eve. But if someone owes you money and fails to pay, don’t be getting shirty with them on New Year’s Day. If you go to their home and demand payment, you can expect bad luck all year. It’s also bad luck to lend someone money on New Year’s Day. Basically, just avoid all money-related drama.
All creatures are sacrosanct
Spiders, flies, moths. They’re not exactly everybody’s cup of cocoa. But don’t go rolling up the newspaper for a swat fest, not on New Year’s Day. Shedding the blood of any creature may bring you grave misfortune in terms of physical injury in the year ahead.
Choose your gifts wisely
The exchange of small gifts between friends and family is common during the Chinese New Year. But there are many items that are considered taboo. Handkerchiefs, towels, chrysanthemums and anything coloured black or white is associated with funerals. Clocks or watches are associated with time running out. Sharp objects - such as knives - are out too because they symbolise cutting ties. Footwear is another no no because it has connotations of walking away from relationships. Even pears are frowned upon because the Chinese for pear sounds like the word for “separate”.
Confused? Stick to food or sweets.
Don’t get mugged
Now, it’s incredibly rare for someone to go out into the public world with the hope of getting mugged. But you’ll want to take extra measures to stay safe on New Year’s Day. Getting your pocket picked is believed to be symbolic of your entire wealth being stolen in the year ahead.
Consider yourself briefed...
Congratulations. Follow our guide to the letter and you’ve every chance of avoiding misfortune in the year ahead. Keen to soak up the fabulous festivities of the Chinese New Year for yourself? It’s something everyone should experience at least once. And for that you’ll need our cheap - but incredibly comprehensive - travel insurance. Enjoy!