You have probably heard plenty about Spring Festival traditions and customs, but what about taboos? People usually don’t tell you about them until you break a cultural taboo or step on someone’s toes, often totally inadvertently. Did you know that if you get your hair cut anytime during the first lunar month, bad luck will befall upon your maternal uncles? You didn’t? You terrible child.
Whether or not you believe in these superstition, it pays to show respect for them; for Chinese people, it’s how we try to keep traditions alive.
There should be no cursing or inauspicious words spoken during the Chinese New Year celebration. Also, you should not mention anything associated with death or “termination.” If, for example, you finish your food on your plate before everybody else, avoid loudly announcing, “I’m done!”.
Nobody is supposed to take medicine on the first day of the lunar New Year. Chinese people believe that whatever is done on the first day of the year will then continue to last for the remainder of the year, so you’ll be condemning yourself to a year of pill popping. 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. Lucky them.
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. If anybody at your company, especially your boss, tries to tell you otherwise, be very, very suspicious.
Do Not Finish 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.
Absolutely no haircuts are allowed during the first lunar month (the month of Spring Festival)! It is believed that having your hair cut during the first month will bring bad luck to your maternal uncles. This is one taboo that Chinese people do take it very seriously. Ask the barbers!
Oh, and one more thing. In case you break anything, like a plate, make sure you say 岁岁平安 (suì suì píng’ān) out aloud, meaning “peace all year round”; this is because the character 岁 (suì, meaning “year”) sounds the same as 碎 (suì, break). By saying these words, an unpleasant situation can be turned into a blessing.
Happy New Year!