February 19 of this year is the Lunar New Year ushering in the Year of the Sheep (also known as a goat or ram). For those born in 1919, 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, and 2013, this is your year!
The Lunar new year is an auspicious time for those who celebrate. The days and weeks leading up to the lunar new year are filled with traditions all geared towards bringing the most luck and prosperity to those celebrating. It’s a time for families to reunite, eat well, and exchange gifts and well wishes for the new year.
The Chinese New Year celebrations last for 15 days with specific activities and rituals for each day of the celebration. Many of these traditions are based on word play. The tonal Chinese language has a number of homophones which results in good and bad associations depending on what the word sounds like. For example, traditionally bookstores are typically not open during the Chinese new year festivities because the word for “book” (shū書) sounds the same as the word for “to lose” (shū輸) and is bad luck.
In today’s modern world, not all traditions are followed by all families, especially those who have immigrated to other parts of the world. Regardless of whether or not you believe in these superstitions, they are fun rituals and who knows? Maybe they do bring you good luck.
Here are some fun superstitions to bring you luck and prosperity in the Year of the Sheep:
Decorate your house
Messages of good luck and prosperity are hung around the house, typically using red and gold colored banners. Red lanterns are popular as well. Like clothing, decoration items should be red in color. It brightens up the mood and brings happiness and joy.
Cleaning the house
In the weeks leading up to the new year, houses are scrubbed clean. This cleaning process rids the house of any bad fortune from the past year and makes room for good fortune to come in during the new year. This includes taking out the trash. Nothing gets thrown out during the new year.
Avoid washing hair on the first day of the new year as it is believed to wash away one’s wealth. The Chinese word for “hair” is a homonym for the Chinese world for “wealth” and so to insure a prosperous new year, it’s best to keep your hair unwashed.
Wearing something new and ideally red
Starting the year off with new clothing means having a fresh start. Wearing new clothes also symbolizes having an abundance of clothing bringing you even more wealth in the new year. Red is encouraged because the color was believed to be able to scare away evil spirits and bad fortune, bringing you luck. Also, avoid black or white as those colors are associated with death and mourning.
No sharp objects
During the first few days of the new year, it’s best to avoid the use of sharp objects like knives or scissors as they may cut away luck. Many will get haircuts before the new year as a way to avoid using scissors. Vegetables for meals are chopped the day before.
Pay off debts
If you are in debt, it’s time to pay it off before the start of the new year. The belief is that if you start the year off owing people money, then it is likely you’ll end the year in debt as well. The same idea with lending money. By starting the year off lending money to others, it’s believed that you’ll be doing the same the rest of the year.
Enjoy spring rolls
Spring rolls get their name because they are traditionally eaten during the spring festival, an alternative name for the Lunar New Year celebrations. The golden rolls look like bars of gold and are said to bring prosperity to those who eat them, so make sure you pick up a pack of Sum-m! Spring Rolls.
Wishing you all a Happy Lunar New Year and a prosperous Year of the Sheep! Gung hay fat choy!
Do you follow any of these Chinese New Year traditions?