arcana imperii :: the book of j


taboos and superstitions of the chinese new year

  • the entire house should be cleaned before new year's day. on new year's eve, all brooms, brushes, dusters, dust pans and other cleaning equipment are put away. sweeping or dusting should not be done on new year's day for fear that good fortune will be swept away. after new year's day, the floors may be swept. beginning at the door, the dust and rubbish are swept to the middle of the parlour, then placed in the corners and not taken or thrown out until the fifth day. at no time should the rubbish in the corners be trampled upon. in sweeping, there is a superstition that if you sweep the dirt out over the threshold, you will sweep one of the family away. also, to sweep the dust and dirt out of your house by the front entrance is to sweep away the good fortune of the family; it must always be swept inwards and then carried out, then no harm will follow. all dirt and rubbish must be taken out the back door.

  • shooting off firecrackers on new year's eve is the chinese way of sending out the old year and welcoming in the new year. at midnight on new year's eve, every door and window in the house must be open to allow the old year to leave.

  • all debts must be paid by this time. nothing should be lent on this day, as anyone who does so will be lending all the year. back when tinder and flint were prized possessions, no one would lend them on this day or give a light to others.

  • the use of foul language and bad or unlucky words are not to be pronounced today. negative terms and the word «four» (ssu), which sounds like the word for death, are not to be uttered. death and dying are never mentioned and ghost stories are absolutely taboo. references to the past year must be avoided as everything should be turned toward the new year and a new beginning.

    crying on new year's day, could mean you'll cry all year. the impish behaviour of children is hence toleratd and they don't get spanked today!

  • one is not supposed to wash one's hair on new year's day because it would mean washing away good fortune for the new year. red clothing is preferred during this festive occasion as it's considered a bright, happy colour, sure to bring the wearer a sunny and bright future. it is believed that appearance and attitude during new year's sets the tone for the rest of the year. children and unmarried friends, as well as close relatives are given lai see, little red envelopes with crisp one dollar bills inserted, for good fortune.