Everyone knows the basics to Chinese New Year like having a reunion dinner, going house visiting to see your relatives and friends, and engaging in general festivities. But did you know, the traditional 15 days of Chinese New Year that ends with the Lantern Festival each have their own customs and practises?
I guarantee most, if not all, of our Chinese readers know this. Here’s the meaning, and what you’re supposed to do according to tradition below, so you can go and show off your newfound knowledge of Chinese New Year to your friends.
初一 is the first day of Chinese New Year. This is the first day after our reunion dinners, and usually the first day most families go out and visit friends and relatives. That is pretty much what most people know of the first day, but actually there are some ‘don’ts’ on this day as well.
For example, being the first day of the new year means we are not supposed to sweep the floor, or throw away trash, or even pour away water, as those actions symbolise throwing away good fortune. Also, we have to be careful not to break anything, as that symbolises bankruptcy! So basically, spend the whole day out and you’ll be pretty safe from all these bad luck dangers.
There are even some customs for house visiting on this day. It is said we should visit the more senior members of our extended families first, to wish them good fortune (in exchange for ang pows!).
On the second day of Chinese New Year, 初二, there is the tradition of welcoming sons-in-law. In Chinese culture, the wife is married to the husband’s family, and on this day the wife will bring her husband back to her parental home. According to customs, the couple must have lunch in their parents’ home, but return before dinner.
This provides a chance for sisters to get together, and for the younger generations of the family to receive gifts. Families usually take photos together on this day.
Some will also pray to the God of Fortune on this day, to wish for good luck and prosperity throughout the year.
初三 is known as 赤口/赤狗, which means the day of red mouths, or red dogs. Traditionally, people will not leave their homes, as the red mouths mean that it will be very easy to get into fights and quarrels with others. The red dogs refer to the God of Blazing Wrath (this is less cool than it sounds), which means the day is entirely inauspicious and therefore not suitable for house visiting.
Some would also take the opportunity to clear their homes of trash collected from the past couple of days, as a ritual to throw away the bad luck. This is also related to staying home, as people didn’t want to be confused with the spirits of bad luck if they leave their homes.
Presumably, the ang pows are not worth the year-long misfortune that can befall you if you go for house visiting on this day.
初四 is the official day of praying to the God of Fortune, as it is his birthday. People will set up feasts and offerings to welcome the God to their homes. Traditional offerings include abundant fruits, goat’s heads, and carp. It is also the day to give thanks to the Kitchen God, and wish for this new year to be better than the last.