Ah, 2020. How we love thee. Let us count the ways…
That should sum up how we all feel about 2020. Thankfully, we had a chance to bring in the New Year and put it all behind us. The Gregorian calendar clearly states it is now 2021, yet many can’t help but feel that 2020 is still in the shadows, sticking to our New Year’s shoes.
Luckily, there is another chance to throw 2020 into a potato launcher and send it into orbit. What better way to put distance between yourself and last year than celebrating a second New Year? That’s right, Lunar New Year 2021 is right around the corner and that means everyone can use this holiday to make sure 2020 is gone for good.
But first, let’s listen to a word of warning. There are some rules one should follow to ensure Chinese New Year 2021 brings you luck and joy, and gets off to a good start. That’s right, just like how Americans shouldn’t wear white after Labor Day, there are taboos everyone needs to steer clear of to make sure 2021 doesn’t end up 2020.1.
Study up on what not to do this Chinese New Year and you can put the Year of the Rat behind you.
- If your Chinese New Year animal is the ox, be sure to wear red.
A lot of people know that red is a lucky color in China and widely worn during the New Year celebration. But did you know that people who share the New Year animal are more prone to bad luck in that year? Since 2021 is the year of the ox, everyone born under the sign of the ox should be sure to throw on some lucky red underwear as an extra precaution!
- No luck club: Don’t buy or gift a book. I
While many children might love this rule, the bookworms out there better stock up before the holidays. While it may seem odd at first, the taboo makes sense with a little understanding of the Chinese language. The word “book” (书 / shū) is a homonym of “lose” (失去 / shīqù). If you don’t want to risk losing more than your page in 2021, just avoid them all together.
- No fears if the kids have no tears.
Let’s face it, crying isn’t very much fun to experience from either side. The crier gets puffy eyes and salt all over their cheeks, while the cry maker has to feel terrible for the whole ordeal. To add insult to injury, superstitions tell us that crying brings bad luck for all parties involved. Everyone is encouraged to be extra nice to avoid any tears on New Year ’s Day. And let’s face it, there were enough tears shed in 2020 to fill a lake.
- Put down that porridge!
In English, it’s easy enough to see the connection. Porridge = poor. While the language is different, the concept is the same in Chinese culture. Traditionally, rice porridge is seen as a food that will bring ill-omens in terms of wealth for the year. It is easier (and yummier) to sit down to a big plate of dumplings for the first meal of the year. The prevailing belief is that dumplings, as well as a few other foods, will help bring wealth and prosperity into the home. This sounds wonderful unless you also have a New Year’s resolution to lose weight. Truly a dilemma of the modern times.
- Don’t dread your dreadlocks: Don’t wash your hair
Many people will have spent countless hours cleaning their home from top to bottom in preparation for the Chinese New Year. When the first day of the year finally arrives, everyone dresses in clean clothes and tries their best to look fresh and dapper. But what if you notice you had some flour clinging to your hair from making dozen of dumplings the night before? Well, you better not wash it! In Chinese language, “hair” (发) has the same pronunciation (and the same character) as fa in “facai” (发财), which means ‘to become wealthy’. Don’t make the mistake of washing away potential new millions away at the start of the year. Just make sure to give your head a clean the night before and you’ll be fine.
And there you have it. This isn’t an extensive list of all the taboos and traditions that are associated with the Lunar New Year, but it should be enough to keep you from getting into trouble right out of the gate. China is steeped with a wondrously rich history that is filled to the brim with lore, tradition, and the aforementioned festival faux-pas. And while it may seem difficult to navigate all the rules and set 2021 on the right course, simply remember the biggest taboo of them all; Not having fun.
Delanie Honda has a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature and a Master’s degree in International Education Policy from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. While in Cambodia in 2014, she discovered she had a passion for helping students around the world achieve their academic, professional, and personal goals through language learning. During her Master’s studies, she researched interventions using technology to provide quality education to students around the world. She has been a tutor with ALO7 since April 2017 and lived in Southeast Asia, Ecuador and Colombia.
The digital nomad lifestyle has allowed her to pursue the two things she loves: travel and education. As a Chinese-Japanese American, Delanie is asked, “Where are you from?” a lot, but welcomes the opportunity to share her culture with the people she meets from around the world. Her favorite things to do while traveling are trying new foods, playing Ultimate Frisbee, and exploring on foot.