Did you know that there are taboos being observed during Chinese New Year?
A taboo is an activity that is forbidden or sacred based on religious beliefs or morals.
Last February 16, our Light Group (LG) had a post-Valentines’ celebration that coincided the first day of the Chinese Lunar year.
We traveled all the way from South Luzon and went to North Manila for a sumptuous feast of Chinese cuisine and a special heart’s day gift-giving.
We would like to thank Bro. Fred & Sis. Jane Pagala for hosting the fellowship.
After the fellowship, we visited the business warehouse of our host. They are one of the big suppliers of plastic wares in the country. Some of our sisters enjoyed some shopping spree at very reasonable prices.
We ended the day with a delicious sticky tikoy and a flavorful drink of black gulaman.
What’s the secret of cooking tikoy? According to Sis. Jane, use a lumpia wrapper for a less oily tikoy.
Back on the taboos, according to chinesenewyear2018.com, here they are:
1. Do not say negative words
All words with negative connotations are forbidden! These include: death, sick, empty, pain, ghost, poor, break, kill and more.
The reason behind this should be obvious. You wouldn’t want to jinx yourself or bring those misfortunes onto you and your loved ones.
2. Do not break ceramics or glass
Breaking things will break your connection to prosperity and fortune. If a plate or bowl is dropped, immediately wrap it with red paper. After the New Year, throw the wrapped up shards into a lake or river.
3. Do not clean or sweep
Before the Spring Festival, there is a day of cleaning. That is to sweep away the bad luck. But during the actual celebration, it becomes a taboo. Cleaning or throwing out garbage may sweep away good luck instead.
4. Do not use scissors, knives or other sharp objects
There are 2 reasons behind this rule. Scissors and needles shouldn’t be used. In olden times, this was to give women a well-deserved break.
Sharp objects in general will cut your stream of wealth and success. This is why 99% of hair salons are closed during the holidays.
5. Do not visit the wife’s family
Traditionally, multiple generations live together. The bride moves into the groom’s home after marriage. And, of course, she will celebrate Chinese New Year with her in-laws.
Returning to her parents on New Year’s Day means that there are marriage problems and may also bring bad luck to the entire family. The couple should visit the wife’s family on the 2nd day.
6. Do not demand debt repayment
This custom is a show of understanding. It allows everyone a chance to celebrate without worry. If you knock on someone’s door, demanding repayment, you’ll bring bad luck to both parties. However, it’s fair game after the 5th day. Borrowing money is also taboo. You could end up having to borrow the entire year.
7. Avoid fighting and crying
Unless there is a special circumstance, try not to cry. But if a child cries, do not reprimand them. All issues should be solved peacefully. In the past, neighbors would come over to play peacemaker for any arguments that occurred. This is all to ensure a smooth path in the new year.
8. Avoid taking medicine
Try not to take medicine during the Spring Festival to avoid being sick the entire year. Of course, if you are chronically ill or contract a sudden serious disease, immediate health should still come first.
Some related taboos:
- Don’t visit the doctor
- Don’t perform/undergo surgery
- Don’t get shots
9. Do not give New Year blessings to someone still in bed
You are supposed to give New Year blessings (拜年—bài nián). But let the recipient get up from bed first. Otherwise, they’ll be bed-ridden for the entire year. You also shouldn’t tell someone to wake up. You don’t want them to be rushed around and bossed around for the year. Take advantage of this and sleep in!
10. Chinese gift-giving taboos
It was mentioned above that you should bring gifts when paying visits. It’s the thought that counts, but some gifts are forbidden.
Clocks are the worst gifts. Gifting clocks (送钟—sòng zhōng) is a homophone of paying one’s last respects (送终). Splitting pears (分梨—fèn lí) is also a homophone of separation (分离).
Some regions have their own local taboos too. For example, in Mandarin, “apple” (苹果) is pronounced píng guǒ. But in Shanghainese, it is bing1 gu, which sounds like “passed away from sickness.”
These don’t just apply to the Spring Festival, so keep it in the back of your mind!
For the Spring Festival, these rules may seem excessive. Especially when you add in the cultural norms, customs and manners. But like a parent would say, they are all for your own good. Formed over thousands of years, these taboos embody the beliefs, wishes and worries of the Chinese people.