As The Lunar New Year is here: Sheung Wan is already packed full of locals loading up on dried seafood and cured ham; chinese crazy-frog-like cheerful music is on loop at all the supermarkets; the red-banners are up and your path from the lift to the lobby is an obstacle-course of tangerine bushes. However, there is so much more to this vibrantly red, historic festival than saying ‘Kung-Hei-Fat-Choi’ to everyone you meet. So since we are in Hong Kong for the CNY, why not try and do things like a local? When in Rome… This guide to Chinese New Year will give you some insight into the dos and don’ts during Chinese New Year and how you can prepare to get fortune wheeling your way.
Where to start? Follow the lunar calendar – CNY may just look like a long weekend and three days of public holiday to you – but there are traditionally almost two weeks to the lunar new year – and each day has either a meaning or a traditional function:
The 10 days of Chinese New Year
The 28th day (FEB 5,2016): is all about cleaning, getting your hair cut and decorating your household
The 29th day (FEB 6): preparing for the family dinner, hanging red fai chuns (poetic red couplets with good wishes and lucky messages) and all kinds of fruit displays at home.
The 30th day (FEB 7): this is the day when families, grandparents, uncles, aunts and children will get together for a family reunion dinner.
The 1st day (FEB 8): is all about donning your new (brightly colored) clothes, visiting and celebrating with senior family members. Some people will opt for vegetarian meals to avoid bringing misfortune (for you and presumably for the animals you would have eaten!)
The 2nd day (FEB 9): visiting close friends and families and celebrating with fireworks (or in safety-conscious HK – watching them on TV or by the harbor front)
The 3rd day (FEB 10): people stay in and rest on the 3rd day, (chec hau) as it is believed on this day, people will easily quarrel and argue (think boxing day – maybe this is not a bad idea – and an excuse to laze about with some take out!)
The 4th day (FEB 11): welcoming the Kitchen God, preparing fresh fruits and tasty food
The 5th day (FEB 12): is all about welcoming the God of Wealth (and he is very welcome in my house)
The 6th day (FEB 13): send away the ghost of poverty and resume some of the cleaning and garbage disposal to send away poverty (yup – some people really don’t clean up for 5 days)
The 7th day (FEB 14): everyone’s birthday! So go celebrate and wish everyone a happy birthday!
The 15th day (FEB 22): Spring Lantern festival, also known as the Chinese Valentine’s Day. Colorful lanterns are hung in various parks. Whether you are taken or tinder-holic, enjoy some tong yuan (round sweet glutinous dumplings) and solve some lantern riddles.
Before the New Year
1 | Conduct a spring clean
Clean out your wardrobe, bleach out the bathroom tiles and throw away any old food. Clean on the 28th of the last month according to the chinese lunar calendar, to remove illness, bad luck, misfortune that have been accumulated in your household the past year and let the new year start afresh and make room for the coming prosperity. In with the good out with the bad!
2 | License to shop
Now that you have done your spring clean and throw away all the old and out-of-trend crocs, go get yourself some new clothes before the first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year. It’s believed that wearing new clothes symbolizes good luck and wealth, as long as you don’t wear black or white (sorry Emos – maybe try blood red?), which are the colors for mourning traditionally. So feel free to paint your wardrobe rainbow colors!
3 | Settle your bills
If you have borrowed money from friends or families in the past year, make sure you pay them now before the New Year arrives. Any bills that are overdue should be handled soon. Don’t bring debts or loans into the New Year.
4 | Decorate your home with flowers
Blooming flowers symbolize rebirth, growth, fertility. So take home some fresh plum blossom or water lily and place them in your sitting room will bring good luck and blossoming success to the next chapter in your life. A little feng shui tip: You can also display those cute small tangerine trees in the household as the color orange represents happiness and abundance of joy (unless you try and eat them – tip: don’t!)
5 | Stock up your fridge and kitchen
Welcoming your Chinese New Year with a house full of food represents a coming year full of supplies, which means you will never go hungry or poor in the following year. Usually, families also place a candy box, called a ‘tray of togetherness’, full of different sweets and treats to welcome guests and the New Year. Candies represent sweetness in life while seeds represents fertility and harvest.
6 | Prepare red packets with new notes
Lai see, little red packets with money, are given to each other pass on good luck and fortune. Make sure you don’t put coins and use brand new bank notes.
During Chinese New Year
7 | No washing or dirty laundry or pots
Any dirty laundry or dishes should be done before the New Year. No mopping or sweeping or you will sweep away your fortune. It’s also said that if you wash your hair during the first few days of Chinese New Year, you will wash away the luck for the coming year. (Not sure if I can go without washing my hair for that long! Any ageing grungers or rockers? You finally have an excuse!)
8 | Don’t buy shoes
Because of the pronunciation of shoes sounds like sighing, locals will not buy shoes during Chinese New Year to avoid sighing for the rest of the year. So I guess no visiting shoe shops for the final mark-down sale!
9 | Don’t chop off your luck
No visiting barbers, hair salons appointments or DIY haircuts as chopping your locks will cut away your wealth.
10 | Play nice
Last but not least, during Chinese New Year, people avoid swearing, using bad words or the words ‘death’ or ‘four’ (which resonates with death in Chinese). Greet people with bright smiles and warm welcoming wishes. Be civilized and nice and prosperity will come your way, naturally. On behalf of the entire foodpanda HK team, we wish you a prosperous year of the monkey, everyone. Kung Hei Fat Choi and Bo Bo Go Sing!