Chinese New Year Taboos

Spring Festival is a time of celebration. There are a lot of traditions of festivities for this special occasion, stemming from ancient times, as well as rules and restrictions. Many people today may not believe the taboos attached to the festival, but these customs are still kept, with the hope for a happy and lucky new year.

Before New Year:

1. All debts have to be paid back before New Year.

2. Everyone in the family helps to clean the house from top to bottom before the New Year fun begins to sweep away the bad luck.

3. All the lucky decorations should be hung over doors and around rooms on New Year’s Eve, including Spring Festival couplets, paper-cuts and pictures of the Door Gods.

4. The color black and white are carefully kept away, as these colors signify death and misfortune.

On New Year's Day

5. No sweeping! Housekeepers are careful not to clean or throw out rubbish, in case all the wealth that the gods have brought for New Year will be swept away.

6. No washing of clothes! The first day of the lunar New Year is the birthday of the water god, so don’t wash clothes in the first two days or it may wash away the luck and good fortune.

7. No breaking of anything! It is considered a bad omen if you break anything, especially plates or dishes. It means you are breaking your connection to prosperity and good luck.

  • But in modern society, it doesn’t matter if children accidently break dishes, as long as their parents immediately say “岁岁平安” (suì suì píng ān = may you have peace, year after year). 岁 (suì) is a homophone of 碎 in Chinese, which means “broken” or “shattered”.

8. No unlucky words! Unlucky words such as ‘death’, ‘poverty’, ‘running out’ and any other words with negative meaning are not allowed to be spoken out.

9. No porridge and no meat! It is believed that only poor people eat porridge in the morning, and therefore doing so will prevent you from getting prosperous in the coming new year. Besides, it is said that the morning is the New Year Festival for all gods who arrive to greet the new year, so try not to eat meat in the morning, in order to show respect for them.

10. No medicine! You had better not take any medicine unless you are chronically ill.

During Spring Festival:

11. No crying and fighting! Everything should be solved peacefully during New Year time. Try not to cry and not to argue with others to ensure a smooth new year..

12. No killing! Any killing during the festival should be avoided, as blood will bring disaster to the family.

13. No lending or borrowing! During the festival nothing should be lent out or borrowed from others, because anyone who does so will be lending or borrowing throughout the year.

14. No scissors or knives! Try to avoid the use of knives and scissors during this time, as it may lead to misfortune. Cutting hair is a taboo as well until the festival is over.

15. No hospital visits! Just like medicine-taking, don’t visit the hospital unless there is a serious emergency, for the reason that it will bring illness for the coming year.

Other Facts:

1. It is impolite when guests pay a New Year’s visit to you but you are sleeping in you room.

2. Married daughters should not visit their parents on the first day of the lunar New Year.

3. Flowers are a symbol of plenty at New Year.

4. Red is the perfect color for New Year.

5. Clocks are the worst presents for Chinese people, because gifting clocks (送钟—sòng zhōng) is a homophone of 送终 in Chinese, which means “paying one’s last respects”!