Chinese superstitions to take note of as you ring in the Lunar year

February 04, 2019 – Vinz Lamorena—There are a lot of things that we borrow from Chinese culture and tradition, and it comes as no surprise knowing that the Chinese were one of the earliest traders and settlers in the archipelago. More than two million people living in the Philippines come from Chinese ancestry, and even though they are widely known as Chinoys, we still call them as our own.

Traces of their influence are integrated everywhere we go. It isn’t just in the businesses. It’s in the clothes we sometimes wear, the local culinary scene, and even the games we played as kids. What we encounter daily are the Chinese superstitions that have made its way to mainstream consciousness, and a handful of them are concerned with luring in luck.

Superstitious beliefs are often represented and guided by symbols—how things are shaped or colored, and how things are put into use. What’s curious is how anything that is a homonym to any Chinese words that connote bad luck is immediately banned. In whatever Chinese dialect, be it Mandarin, Cantonese, or Hokkien, English-named things that sound the same as the local tongue for “rough,” “death,” “lose,” or “broken” are often prohibited during Chinese celebrations.

Although there’s no way of proving them to be true, Filipinos still look to the Chinese community as they aspire for wealth, prosperity, and success. So if following their superstitious beliefs is one way to enjoy luck throughout the year, we ask: Why not?

We rounded up the popular superstitions for the celebration of the Chinese New Year:

Leave your hair alone

They say you shouldn’t wash your hair on the first day of the Lunar New Year as it strips away luck. The hair has long been a symbol of wealth for the Chinese, as “hair” or “fa” is said to have the same first letter in “facai,” which means to grow wealthy. There’s also a belief that it’s bad to get a haircut because the use of sharp objects during this day is believed to be an act of cutting away from wealth and prosperity.

Sweeping up the auspiciousness

The act of sweeping symbolizes two different things for the Chinese. When done before the Lunar New Year, bad luck is swept away. During the holiday itself, doing so means you’re turning the luck away. They also say dust and garbage leaving your front door could lead to the loss of or estrangement from a family member.

Skip the bookstore

Sorry bookworms, you’d have to buy yourself new books on some other day. But don’t you worry, reading is still very much allowed. The word “book” in Cantonese means to “lose.” For the Chinese, that word carries a lot of meanings—it could translate to death, bankruptcy, the loss of opportunities, and loss of luck.

The early bird

They say the first person you greet also determines your luck in the coming year. Make sure you turn to someone you respect. Generous and successful individuals are also a good choice.  The Chinese also believe that welcoming a boy or a man as their first guest of the year also brings in good luck to the entire household.

Cautionary words

Chinese New Year is when you should be most careful of your words. Whatever you say would attract what is to come in the next months, that’s why negative remarks and topics are considered a taboo. To avoid attracting misfortune, it would be best to bite your tongue tomorrow.

Sharp objects

Knives, needles, scissors, or anything sharp for that matter, are to be all kept all throughout the Lunar New Year celebration. Since no knife should be on sight, a feast is prepared before hand or families choose to dine out during the first two days of the Lunar year.

Lucky in red

Red is often associated with fire, war, and blood. But for the Chinese, red is a lucky color, a shade that reminds people of happy moments. On the first day of the Lunar year, they say you should skip on your favorite black and white clothing as these are considered as colors for mourning.

Money matters

Chinese New Year may be the only holiday when it pays to be single. If you’re not yet married, you don’t have to give those red envelopes around. The ang pao symbolizes the sharing of blessings, and it is said that money received in these envelopes should either be kept or invested. This form of gratuities should never be spent, otherwise that just means money comes into your pocket to be used up.

Theft and debt

The Chinese warn people to be wary of theft during the next two days. Losing things during this short period entails a possibility of you getting robbed of your wealth in the coming year. You should also refrain from loaning money during the start of the Lunar year, as it symbolizes a bad beginning for finances. People who are owed money also don’t demand payment on these days to show a custom of understanding, letting everyone peacefully and joyfully celebrate.

Orange is the old gold

If you’ve ever wondered why there are so many mandarins across the table during this holiday, it’s because the Chinese word equivalent of the fruit (or kam) means gold. So, yes, it’s another sign harboring prosperity. 

Dumplings on dumplings on dumplings

This holiday is one where you can eat dumplings to your heart’s content. It’s a traditional must-eat as it symbolizes long life, longevity in business, and wealth. Interestingly, most Chinese superstitions are birthed from an object’s pronunciation or appearance, and dumplings are said to look like an old form of Chinese currency, the gold shoe-shaped ingots.

Art by Pearl Antoinette Sevilla