The celebration of Lunar New Year is steeped in customs and traditions. With the Year of the Rat just around the corner, here are a few pointers to avoid any faux pas and to maximize your good fortune.
1. This year, the Lunar New Year begins on Jan 25
Lunar New Year falls on a different day every year, and determining the date is a complicated process. Generally, it falls on the second new moon after the winter solstice, which is why sometimes it takes place in late January, or not even until mid-February.
2. We are about to embark on a new 12-year cycle for the Chinese horoscope
Each lunar year is represented by a different animal, and the Year of the Rat is an important one because it is the first sign of the Chinese zodiac and is often considered to be a year of new beginnings and renewal.
3. It is the most important shopping season
The impending new year is your best excuse to shop, for it is considered good luck to don new clothes, redecorate the home, and stock up on food and other provisions. “Abundance” is the operative word: people will even put a sticker with the words “always full” on their rice pot.
4. When in doubt, wear red
The colour red symbolizes luck, joy and happiness in Chinese culture. It is also believed that it wards off evil. Try to incorporate some red into your outfit or accessories to channel good fortune. Avoid black, white and blue, as these colours are traditionally associated with mourning.
5. A note about shoes
While your new year’s wardrobe should definitely include new shoes, be sure to buy them before the new year arrives. The word for “shoes” rhymes with “sighs” in Cantonese, and it is customary to avoid buying them in the first week of new year.
6. Now is the time for spring cleaning
The revered God of Fortune is said to favour cleanliness and orderliness and will bypass a messy home. This is why a major cleaning should be done before the new year arrives. You need to rid the old before you have room to accept the new.
Also, purging old stuff promotes better “qi” for better health and energy flow. Be careful though: do not sweep the floor on New Year’s Day, lest you sweep away your good fortune.
7. Be social
Friends and family gather over sumptuous meals to celebrate the new year and bring each other good greetings. It is customary to exchange sweets to symbolize happiness and to give young children red pockets with money for luck.
8. “8” is a lucky number
You probably already knew that the number “8” is considered lucky by Chinese people because it rhymes with prosperity. “3” is also beloved as it rhymes with “growth” and “vitality”.
Remember: Lunar New Year is all about bringing in good luck, so be generous in your well-wishing. For the same reason, watch your tongue and avoid cursing or saying unlucky words like “death”.
Here are my picks to prepare you and your home for the most auspicious new year yet.