Time To Revamp Your CNY Routine
You’ve probably done the same thing every year — spring clean, abstain from sweeping up a fallen potato chip etc etc.
All these customs you know since young, but we’ve scoured the earth for a few other wacky, wonderful and downright dangerous traditions from times long past.
This is one custom you’ll be glad doesn’t exist anymore. It’s plain cruel, and probably violates labour laws everywhere.
Wei-ya is held on the 16th day of the 12th lunar month, in preparation for the New Year.
Bosses hold grand banquet dinners to show their appreciation towards their employees, as well as to usher out any bad luck in the company.
Employees gather around a banquet table with a roast duck as centerpiece. The duck is spun and whoever the beak points to when the bird comes to a rest is fired.
This unfortunate person is believed to take the company’s negative energy with them when he or she leaves.
Nothing like taking one for the team.
2. Catching fire — if you don’t get guohuoqun (过火群) right
Katniss Everdeen and her incendiary habits ain’t got nothing on the folks in the Shandong province of China.
On New Year’s Eve, every family will conduct a ritual known as 过火群, or jumping over fire. A bonfire is made out of branches and twigs from potato, yam, and jicama. The men of the family then take turns to jump across the conflagration in increasing seniority.
As the men make their jumps, they recite well wishes of prosperity, health, and happiness for the family.
The bonfire is believe to cleanse the family of the bad luck from the previous year.
After the fire has died down, some of the ashes is collected for storage to ensure prosperity throughout the new year.
3. Wearing red on the year of your zodiac sign (本命年)
Monkey babies, listen up.
Contrary to popular belief, being in the year of your birth sign is a bad thing.
People in their benmingnian (year of your zodiac sign) have unknowingly incurred the wrath of the “God of Age” star –and there will be naught but chaos and catastrophe for the rest of the year.
As a result, it becomes essential for those in their benmingnian to wear red compared to people of other zodiac signs. The colour is believed to be able to fend off the bad luck from offending taisui.
Red’s not your colour? Don’t worry, you can wear red where nobody can see them — donning red underwear and red socks work just as well.
4. Kowtowing for your angbaos
“恭喜发财， 红包拿来!” (May you prosper, now give me my red packets)
We’re sure you have heard this cheeky rhyme from one of your nephews ever year. Elders in the past will have none of that — to earn their angbaos, children will need to first show respect to their elders by kowtowing.
In Chinese culture, the act of kowtowing is a sign of the deepest respect. To kowtow, people prostrate themselves such that their foreheads touch the ground.
Now, people only kowtow when they are in prayer.
Imagine doing that for every angbao you receive. Seems a little extreme, doesn’t it?
5. Not washing your hair
The character for hair in Chinese (发) is the one used in 发财, which means “to prosper”. To wash out your hair would mean to “wash away” your chances of wealth this year.
This tradition is upheld for the first four days of the New Year.
For hygiene reasons, most people these days don’t practice this custom. No amount of money is worth walking around for days looking like an oil spill.
6. Not visiting the doctor
Visiting the doctor on New Year’s day is viewed as a bad omen for the year to come. It is also customary for sick people to smash their medicine boxes to ward off illness in the coming year.
We suggest that you do not practice this.
First, medicine is expensive these days.
Second, it is your duty as a socially responsible citizen to get yourself to the doctor when afflicted with any infectious diseases.
7. Not visiting your parents (for married women)
Another archaic remnant of a patriarchal society long gone.
In the past, married Chinese women stayed with their in-laws. Visits to their birth family were few and far between, even during Chinese New Year. This lack of filial piety extended to the New Year.
Instead, women were expected to pay their respects to their in-laws for the entirety of New Year’s Day.
They only got to see their parents on Day Two of the New Year.
As you would imagine, this is a huge event. The husband brings around mountains of gifts, and the parents prepare a massive feast to welcome their daughter’s return.
Now, most families visit both sets of parents in a day, leaving Day Two free for the customary Jack Neo movie marathon.
8. Staying house bound on Day Three
Day Three of CNY is known in Chinese as 赤口日, or “Red Mouth Day”. People believe that it is more likely that they are more likely to be involved in quarrels and fights if they socialize on this day.
The day is also known as 赤狗日，or “Red Dog Day”.
Red Dog is the God of Blazing Wrath. Chinese prefer not to go outside as bad luck will befall them if they meet this God on the road.
Instead, they go to the cemeteries to pay respects to their ancestors.
9. Going all #yolo and stuff on Day Five
Day five of CNY is known as 破五, translated as “Broken Five”.
This is the day when all previous taboos may be broken. Yes, you can finally cut your nails. Or see the doctor about that gangrenous foot (see #4).
On a more cheerful note, families eating dumplings aplenty on this day too. The dumplings, shaped like gold ingots, are supposed to bring in wealth for the new year.
10. Growing one year older on day seven
Day seven is known as 人日, or day of the human. It commemorates the creation of humankind by the female goddess 女娲. Everyone grows one year older on this day, no matter when your birthday.
Everybody’s supposed to eat an auspicious dish made of 7 vegetables, each with a hidden lucky meaning.
Here’s what each vegetable is supposed to signify:
人日coincides with the birth of the Buddhist god Sakra. Chinese Buddhists avoid meat on this day to celebrate.
11. Making sugarcane offerings on Day Nine
Day Nine is the birthday of the Jade Emperor. This day is especially important to the Hokkiens.
According to folklore, Hokkiens were spared from the Japanese massacre during World War II by hiding in a sugarcane forest during the eighth and ninth days of CNY that year.
Ever since then, sugarcane has been a prerequisite when making offerings to the Jade Emperor on his birthday.
12. Detoxing on day thirteen
A healthy CNY? That seems like a oxymoron.
But you haven’t read that wrong.
Traditionally, there is a day set aside specifically for a veggie cleanse due to an over-consumption of rich food in the days prior. On this day, people eat vegetarian meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
We don’t know about you, but we’re glad that we don’t do this kind of stuff any more.
Have a very happy Chinese New Year!
Featured image from kommersant.ru.