Chinese New Year is a relatively huge affair in Singapore. It is a two-day holiday when most other cultural or religious holidays usually get a day. It probably has to do with the fact that Chinese Singaporeans make up the majority of the population—about 76 per cent.
If you are a local here for long enough, you will come to discover that there are many fun activities that families can do in the lead up to the official holiday. On the first (and second) day of the Lunar New Year, however, the usually fast-paced island life comes to a halt, with most shops and restaurants in the country closed for business.
Many would spend the two days visiting families and friends, attending gatherings and celebrations at people’s homes, take a mini staycation or a plan a short getaway to a nearby country.
But if you are planning to stay put and wholeheartedly experience the Lunar New Year with all its traditions, then you also need to know what NOT to do—how the rest of the year goes is at stake!
Put Your Broom Away
I never thought I would say this, but do not clean the house. And more importantly, do not sweep the floors! The Chinese are very serious about not cleaning the home on the first day of the Lunar New Year. Sweeping the floor is akin to sweeping away all your good fortune.
That doesn’t mean you have a filthy home. On the contrary, spring-cleaning is an important task in the lead up to the main event. Your home should be decluttered, tidied and cleaned from top to bottom so that your home is spic-and-span by the time it is open for visitors. Just don’t do it on the day!
How to invite good fortune into your life? Put up the word “Fu”, which means prosperity. You need to hang the word upside down to represent “Fu Dao Lai”, which translates to the arrival of prosperity; you see, the Chinese word for arrive is a homonym for upside down.
This no cleaning rule applies to your hair, too. Plan to get your hair done at the salon the day before; washing your hair on the first day will mean washing all your luck away!
No Visiting on Red Dog Day
Don’t make any surprise visits to your friends’ homes on day three of the Lunar New Year, otherwise known as “Red Dog Day”. It seems that Red Dog is the God of Anger’s name and it is believed to bring bad luck. So this is the day when people keep to their own homes so as to avoid getting angry and to avoid getting into arguments and fights with others.
Of course, day number three is also customarily the day after people are exhausted from 24 hours of eating, partying and playing mahjong into the wee hours, so Red Dog Day really may just be the perfect excuse to get some much-needed rest and relaxation!
Avoid Wearing Black or White
Black and white are terribly inauspicious to wear when you go visiting during CNY. These colours symbolise death and mourning and wearing these colours would be both disrespectful and unlucky.
So what colours should you wear instead? Traditionally, red and gold are favoured as they symbolise prosperity and vitality, but these days, anything bright or colourful would be welcome (it is spring, after all).
And CNY is also an excellent excuse for some retail therapy. It is believed that wearing a brand new outfit on the day will increase the chances of more new clothes (i.e., more money) the rest of the year.
We’re not talking about the shampoo. It is bad luck to cry on Day One of the New Year, as it will mean a lot of tears for the rest of the year. So avoid watching any tearjerkers and don’t focus on things that make you sad. This is a day reserved for smiles and laughter.
No tears is really good news for the little ones; they are more likely to get away with a whole bunch of things. It’s just for a day, mommies!
Don’t Break Anything
It’s believed that bad luck will arrive at your home if you break something. Unfortunately, when you have many guests in your house, the risk of breaking a dish or a glass rises significantly. Thankfully, you can diffuse the negative energy by storing all the broken pieces inside a round container and tossing them out only on the day after.
Actually, you mustn’t take out the trash on the first day, period, as that would equate to tossing out your good fortunes for the coming year.
No Cutting, Please
If you need anything cut for the following day, make sure it’s done the day before; not only does it symbolise anger and danger, cutting with a knife or scissors also means you are cutting away your good luck. This applies to trimming your nails too!
This is why people didn’t traditionally cook food on the day itself, it’d be hard to prepare food without slicing and cutting with a sharp object of some kind.
Do Not Owe Any Money
If you owe someone money, it is best to return it before the New Year arrives. If you don’t pay off your debts before then, you will end up owing others money for the rest of your life. Yikes.
But what if someone owes you money? Well, do not go to their homes demanding your money back on this day; it will mean a poor fortune for the remainder of the year.
Save the Arguments for Later
If you haven’t yet figured it out, arguing on the first day will only lead to more arguments throughout the year. So don’t sweat the small stuff, relax and have a great time; set aside those arguments for another day.
I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a great idea, superstition or not!
Read about more dos and don’t of the CNY traditions here.