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Lunar New Year Rituals: Dos and Don’ts

How to keep bad luck away and ensure the year ahead is filled with good fortune

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The Lunar New Year is celebrated across the globe, and its annual weeks-long festivities culminate with the Lantern Festival, traditionally a day for family reunions, marked by activities like moon-gazing, lighting lanterns, riddles, lion dances, and eating rice balls. This year Lunar New Year began on Tuesday, February 5, and will run through February 19. The dates for the annual festival change each year, based on the cycles of the moon.

Considered the most important holiday of the year in China, Lunar New Year is also celebrated in Korea, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Indonesia. In the United States, it’s mostly celebrated on the first day of the New Year, which is named for one of the 12 animals in the Chinese Zodiac, determined by the lunar calendar: 2019 is the Year of the Pig. There are a number of rituals to follow to guarantee good luck and keep bad luck away in the coming year.

We’ve put together a list of Lunar New Year dos and don’ts so your year is filled with good luck. Take a look.

Dos:

Eat lucky foods

Food is an integral part of Lunar New Year celebrations. The most important meal of the year is the Spring Festival Dinner, where families gather to celebrate Lunar New Year’s Eve. The table is laden with dishes associated with good luck, including dumplings, rice cakes, fish, dates, and Mandarin oranges.

Set off firecrackers and fireworks (or pop a balloon)

Tradition holds that the noise from firecrackers and fireworks scares away evil spirits. Because fireworks are now illegal in many places, including several US states, many people celebrate by popping small balloons to ward off bad luck.

Wear bright-color clothes

Wear bright colors the first day of Lunar New Year and at any Lunar New Year celebration you attend. It’s also customary on the first day for people, especially children, to wear new clothes: they symbolize a brand-new start.

Hand out and receive red envelopes

The most popular gift for Lunar New Year is a red envelope containing cash. The family’s senior members traditionally hand out the red envelopes to younger members. In Hong Kong, married couples are supposed to give red envelopes to friends who are single. With the development of technology, many now choose to send red envelopes digitally—via social networks such as WeChat.

Don’ts:

Don’t curse, swear, or argue with people during the celebration of Lunar New Year

It’s believed that whatever you do during the course of the Lunar New Year celebration will set the tone for the year ahead. Big no-nos: cursing, swearing, or arguing with anyone, because it can mean a year of troubling relationships. Avoid using negative words in conversations as well, especially those associated with death, poverty, sickness, or killing, to protect yourself from misfortune.

Don’t cut your hair during the first month of Lunar New Year

In some provinces of China, people avoid having their hair cut during the first lunar month. They believe that cutting your hair during that time brings harm and bad luck to your maternal uncles.

Don’t borrow money during Lunar New Year

It’s considered important to pay off all debts before the first day of Lunar New Year and to refrain from borrowing or lending money throughout the weeks-long celebration. Doing either is believed to lead to struggles with money in the year ahead.

Avoid breaking objects

In some Asian countries, breaking objects such as bowls, plates, and cups is often associated with bad luck. In China, the character “Sui” means year, which is pronounced the same as the word “break.” Thus, when Chinese people accidentally break things during the celebration of Lunar New Year, as a remedy, they’ll say “Sui Sui Ping An,” which means “Safe and sound every year.”

Celebrate the Year of the Pig at the 2019 Spring Festival Party hosted by the BU Chinese Students and Scholars Association on Saturday, February 9, at 7 pm, at BU Academy, One University Road. The event will feature over a dozen traditional Chinese foods from local Chinese restaurants. Guest can also participate in traditional Lunar New Year games, such as lantern riddles and musical chairs. Tickets are $8 and the event is open to all BU students with a valid ID.

Carol Duan can be reached at duanr@bu.edu.

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