8 Things You Didn’t Know About Chinese New Year Superstitions

Chinese New YearImage credit: commons.wikimedia.org

It is that time of the year once more when practically everything you do is associated with luck and prosperity. But let’s face it. Do we really know the reasons behind all the Chinese New Year superstitions our parents or grandparents warned us about? Or are we just blindly following traditions?

Here’s a quick guide to the lesser known reasons behind some common Chinese New Year superstitions we know about. After all, it is always good to have a better idea of why we do the things we do this festive season right?


1. The night of Chinese New Year Eve symbolises the link between two years

ChinatownImage credit: wikipedia.org

We probably know by now that staying up late on the eve of Chinese New Year is to increase the chances of our parents living to a ripe old age. Yet few of us really know the reason why this is so.

In ancient folklore, the night of Chinese New Year’s Eve was viewed as a special night that provides the magical link between two years. It is no wonder that prolonging the connection between the two years has been believed to extend life.


2. Paying off all your debts before Chinese New Year is to ward off a curse

MoneyImage credit: commons.wikimedia.org

It has been believed that if you carry a debt into Chinese New Year, you will be cursed with owing people money for the rest of your life. Definitely not a superstition to be taken lightly if that is the case!


3. All things new on Chinese New Year = New beginnings

New ClothesImage credit: pixabay.com

Chinese New Year has always been synonymous with new things. New clothes, new shoes, new bags, new bed sheets, what have you. But why the obsession?

Ancient Chinese believed that marking a new year with all things new was the best way to signify new beginnings and also properly depose of bad experiences in the previous year. It can be said to be a metaphor for a brighter future without any baggage of the past.


4. Hanging the word 福 (“Fu”) upside down is to invite prosperity to the family

Upside Down FuImage credit: wikipedia.org

The Chinese word 福 (“Fu”) means prosperity. When the word is hung upside down, there is a Chinese saying called 福到来 (“Fu Dao Lai”) which basically means that prosperity will arrive.

This probably explains why so many of our relatives like to hang the word upside down in their homes. This particular superstition is quite contentious and frequently results in many friendly debates during Chinese New Year visitations.


5. It is inauspicious to 拜年 (“Bai Nian”) on the third day of Chinese New Year

Red PacketsImage credit: commons.wikimedia.org

Few know about this superstition and the reasons behind it, but it has been believed that the third day of Chinese New Year is an ominous one. According to traditional folklore, it is a day when socialising should be kept at a bare minimum as disagreements and resentments can easily fester.

It is also customarily known as a “Red Dog Day”. The Red Dog is said to be an irate god set out to punish anyone it meets. This is why older folks prefer to stay home on this day. The next time you wonder why your grandparents insist that you visit them on either the first or second day of Chinese New Year, you have an answer.


6. People toss 鱼生 (“Yu Sheng”) high up in the air as a symbol of good fortune

Yu ShengImage credit: wikipedia.org

Ever wonder why people make such a mess while eating 鱼生 (“Yu Sheng”)? This is because traditional Chinese believed that the higher you toss the fish, the more successful you will become in life.

It is synonymous with a Chinese idiom 步步高升 (“Bu Bu Gao Sheng”) which literally translates to rising higher with every step you take. Doesn’t this give you more incentive to be the one who tosses the fish the highest at your next Lo Hei session?


7. Wearing the colour black is an ill omen for mourning

Black ClothesImage credit: pixabay.com

There are reasons behind why our parents insist that we do not wear black during Chinese New Year visiting. It is not just because the elderly dislike that colour, but rather, it is due to the symbolism of it. Chinese New Year is an auspicious period, while black symbolises mourning. It is not difficult to see why traditional folk disapprove of the colour.


8. Doing away with personal grooming or house up keeping is for the sole purpose of luck

Cutting FingernailsImage credit: publicdomainpictures.net

Do not wash your hair, cut your nails, use the scissors or sweep the floor on the first day of Chinese New Year. We have probably heard this every year and they all have one thing in common, that is to prevent luck from “escaping”.

It has been believed that washing anything means luck will be washed away, cutting anything means luck will be cut off and sweeping the floor can only be done inwards to ensure that luck remains in our homes.


Whether we believe in these superstitions or not, perhaps it is always better to be safe than sorry!

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