You have probably heard enough of Spring Festival traditions and customs, but what about taboos? People do not usually tell you of such things until you break a cultural rule and cause headaches. For example, if someone has his hair cut anytime during the first lunar month, bad luck is supposed to fall upon his maternal uncles.
Believe it or not, it’s better to show some respect to these taboos; for Chinese people, it’s how we try to keep the tradition alive. On the other hand, if you are an uncle living in China you may want to send the message to your nieces and nephews too.
Taboo No.1: No Cursing
There should be no cursing or inauspicious words spoken during the CNY celebration. Also, you should not mention anything associated with death or "termination". So, I guess in case you finish your food on your plate prematurely you should not loudly announce, “I’m done!”
Taboo No.2: No medicine
Nobody is supposed to take medicine on the first day of the lunar New Year. Chinese believe that whatever is done on the first day of the year will then continue to last for the remainder of the year. It is also a taboo to greet people in bed; even sick people should attempt to get out of bed and talk to guests in the living room as an alternative.
Taboo No.3: No Work
Similar to medicine, if you do any kind of work on the first day of the new year, you will be exhausted thereafter for the rest of the year.
Taboo No.4: Do Not Completely Eat a fish
There is a Chinese idiom 年年有余 (Nián nián yǒuyú) which means “having more than enough each and every year”. The character 余 (Yú, meaning "surplus") has the exact same pronunciation to 鱼(Yú, meaning "fish"); for this reason, preparing a fish dish for every new year’s dinner and also leaving behind some of it on the plate after the meal symbolizes prosperity and abundance in the year ahead.
Taboo No.5: No Haircuts
Absolutely no haircuts allowed during the first lunar month (the spring festival month)! It is believed that having your hair cut during the first month will bring bad luck to your maternal uncles. We are not sure whether it works but Chinese people do take it very seriously. Ask the barbers!
Oh, one more thing! In case you break anything, like a plate, make sure you say aloud 岁岁平安 (Suì suì píng’ān), meaning “peace all year round”; this is because the character 岁 (meaning "year") sounds the same to 碎 (break). By saying these words, an unpleasant situation can be turned into a blessing.
This post first appeared on theBeijinger website on January 20.