Before You Ring in the Lunar New Year, Check Out Our Dos and Don’ts

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

Before You Ring in the Lunar New Year, Check Out Our Dos and Don’ts

Rituals to follow to make sure the months ahead are filled with good luck

In the video above, check out five top things to know as the world prepares to celebrate Lunar New Year, which this year runs from February 1 to 15. Video by Bill Politis

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You may have seen the red lanterns hanging all over Chinatown, worked out a lantern riddle at the GSU, or bought some exquisite handicrafts with animals carved on them. All these signs mean that the Lunar New Year is fast approaching. Culminating in the Lantern Festival, traditionally a day for family reunions and marked by events like moon-gazing, lion dances, riddles, and eating rice balls, the date for the holiday changes each year based on the cycles of the moon. 

This year’s Lunar New Year begins Tuesday, February 1. The most important holiday in China, it’s also celebrated in Korea, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Indonesia. Here in the United States, it’s mostly observed on the first day of the New Year, which is named for one of the 12 animals in the Chinese Zodiac: 2022 is the Year of the Tiger. 

As people across the globe prepare to celebrate the holiday, we’ve put together some tips on how to avoid bad luck in the year ahead and guarantee that the coming months will be filled with good fortune. 



A thorough housecleaning before Lunar New Year’s Eve helps ensure that your family gets rid of bad luck from last year and is ready for the good fortune to come. But it’s important to have all your cleaning done before the stroke of midnight on Lunar New Year’s Eve. (See below for more on this.)

Red paper couplets and window paper-cuts

The color red has long symbolized good luck in Chinese culture. It’s customary to write good wishes in couplets on red paper and paste them on doors. Tradition holds that the couplets will block bad things from coming your way in the new year and ensure that good wishes come true. People also paste red paper-cuts on windows for the same reason, so get your tiger paper-cuts now.

Set off firecrackers and fireworks (and when you can’t do that, pop a balloon)

Setting off firecrackers and fireworks is another Lunar New Year ritual. It’s believed that the noise scares away evil spirits. Because fireworks are illegal in many places, celebrants have taken to popping small balloons instead as a way of warding off bad luck.

Eat lucky foods

Food is as central to Lunar New Year celebrations as it is to any holiday. The most important meal of the year in China is the Spring Festival Dinner, held on Lunar New Year’s Eve, and dishes associated with good luck, such as dumplings, rice cakes, fish, dates, and Mandarin oranges, are served. In Korea, families ususally prepare tteokguk (rice cake soup), jeon (Korean pancakes), and many side dishes to celebrate the start of the new year. In Vietnam, in addition to sticky rice cake, Canh khổ qua dồn thịt (stuffed bitter melon soup) is considered  a signature Lunar New Year dish.

Hand out, and receive, red envelopes

Lunar New Year is beloved by children in China. In addition to the tantalizing food and fun activities, during the holiday senior family members hand out red envelopes containing money to younger members, representing good wishes for the year ahead. In some parts of China, married couples are supposed to send red envelopes to their single friends.


Don’t clean on the first  day of Lunar New Year

If you have a big Lunar New Year’s Eve family dinner, be sure to clean up before the clock strikes midnight. Good luck is believed to begin when the clock strikes 12, so you want to be sure not to wipe, sweep, or wash away any of that luck. In the past, tradition held that you left your house unswept for seven days in a row. Today, most families refrain from cleaning only on the first day of the Lunar New Year.

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

One of the most interesting Lunar New Year rituals is refraining from cutting your hair during the first lunar month. It was once believed that doing so during that time frame would bring harm to a person’s maternal uncles. Today, people in some Chinese provinces still observe the tradition.

Don’t buy books and don’t send them as gifts

If you have to purchase books, remember to do so before February 1. Otherwise, you may need to buy them again 15 days after Lunar New Year’s Day. The word “book” in Chinese is pronounced the same as the word “lose,” and buying books in the first days of the new year is thought to bring bad luck. Refrain from sending books to friends as a gift as well, as that’s also thought to bring bad luck.

Don’t curse, swear, or argue with people

It’s believed that whatever you do during the course of the Lunar New Year celebration will set the tone for the year ahead. Cursing, swearing, or arguing with anyone during the celebration of the holiday could mean a year of arguments and troubling relationships. Avoid using negative words in conversations to protect yourself from misfortune, especially words associated with death, poverty, sickness, or killing. Being polite and gentle is thought to bring one good luck and fortune.

Don’t borrow money during the Lunar New Year celebration

It’s considered important to pay off all debts before the first day of Lunar New Year. In addition, avoid borrowing or lending money during the weeks-long celebration because 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 plates, cups, and bowls is often associated with bad luck. In China, the character “Sui” means year, which is pronounced the same as the word “break.” That’s why, when Chinese people accidentally break things during Lunar New Year celebrations, they’ll say “Sui Sui Ping An,” which means “Safe and sound every year.”

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Before You Ring in the Lunar New Year, Check Out Our Dos and Don’ts

Comments & Discussion

Boston University moderates comments to facilitate an informed, substantive, civil conversation. Abusive, profane, self-promotional, misleading, incoherent or off-topic comments will be rejected. Moderators are staffed during regular business hours (EST) and can only accept comments written in English. Statistics or facts must include a citation or a link to the citation.

There are 10 comments on Before You Ring in the Lunar New Year, Check Out Our Dos and Don’ts

    1. Hey Krystal, you can still clean the house today, Jan 31st. However, if you want to greet people from Asia then you can already say ‘happy lunar new year!’

  1. So, Is the lunar new year only for Chinese? What about Japanese and Koreans ? They all follow diffrent traditions, non above the article discribed. for BU administration, it sounds like East Asian international students only refers Chinese. Racial and cultural ignorance are here.

    1. As indicated in the video, it is celebrated in Korea but not Japan. I don’t really understand the second half of your comment. This is on BU website and it is clearly saying that we should say “Lunar New Year” and not “Chinese New Year.”

      1. Thanks for pointing out Lily G. To explain clearer what I meant for you, I meant what the article described about the traditions was Chinese centered. Red color as a fortune, no haircut within the first month, not buying books, no breaking objects, not cleaning at the firstday, those traditions are irrelevant (though a few might overlapped) to other countries’ tradition but from Chinese tradition. On top of that, Japan used to traditionally celebrate lunar new year, and still in some regions, they do celebrate with festivals. Like you mentioned, it clearly said Lunar new year is not only for China, but I was wondered then why the traditions they researched are mostly relevant to Chinese one. If I’m wrong, please correct me by each elements that mentioned above from which centuries, and also curious if any of them above are not from china.

  2. I was introduced to my (future) wife on Lunar New Year’s eve in Seoul Korea, 1973. She fed me for over 4 hours (I love Korean food) even pricking my thumbs with a needle when I became full. I belched, was hungry again and ate more. I was being transferred to Ft. Huachuca, Arizona and she was waiting for her final visa processing to join her family in the US. Long story short, we were married less than a year later and had a 38-year-long honeymoon ending only when my lovely bride didn’t survive heart surgery. It was only after we were married that I found out that the Korean tradition is that the more you eat, the better your luck.

  3. As an Asian person who celebrates the Lunar New Year, it is very heart-warming that the University prepared an article like this. However, most of these customs seem to come from one specific Asian culture. There are multiple others who celebrate the Lunar New Year with different customs and Dos and Donts. So, hopefully, we’ll be seeing a more inclusive message next year :)

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