On February 1, 2022, we bid farewell to the Year of the Ox and welcome the Year of the Tiger. Though the epidemic continues to overshadow the event, with public celebrations reduced or cancelled in many places, millions of families throughout the world will still celebrate at home.
Here’s a brief overview of the most traditional Lunar New Year rituals and superstitions, as well as predictions from some of Hong Kong’s most seasoned geomancers for the Year of the Tiger.
Lunar New Year 101
The Lunar New Year celebrations can typically extend up to 15 days, with many activities and events taking place throughout that time. (In China, it is also known as the Spring Festival.) Though the proliferation of Omicron has had an influence on how people are celebrating this year, don’t despair and remember the unofficial number one rule from the Lunar New Year rule book: Concentrate on the good and use only optimistic language.
So, how do people traditionally celebrate the Lunar New Year? It all starts approximately a week before the new year.
Festive cakes and puddings are created on the 26th day of the final lunar month, which is January 28 this year. Cakes and puddings are called “gao” in Mandarin or “go” in Cantonese, which sounds the same as the term for “tall,” and eating them is said to bring about advancements and development in the following year.
Then, on the 28th day, which was January 30 this year, a large cleanup is performed in residences. The goal here is to cleanse your home of any bad luck that has gathered during the previous year.
On Lunar New Year’s Eve, which occurs on January 31 this year, a large family reunion supper is generally hosted.
The menu is meticulously curated to include items linked with good fortune, such as fish (the Chinese term for it sounds like the word for “surplus”), puddings (symbolises progress), and delicacies that resemble gold ingots (like dumplings).
Though many Western countries refer to the Lunar New Year/Spring Festival celebration as Chinese New Year, keep in mind that it is also observed in other Asian countries, like Vietnam and South Korea. Countries that celebrate Lunar New Year usually have three to seven days of public holidays, but the festivities aren’t over until the 15th day of the first lunar month, commonly known as the Lantern Festival.
Except on the third day of the month, people are supposed to visit family and friends in the early days of the new year. The Lunar New Year‘s third day (February 3 this year) is known as “chi kou,” or red mouth. On this day, it is considered that fights are more likely to occur, thus people would attend temples and avoid social engagements.
There are several additional rules and superstitions associated with the Lunar New Year. Don’t, for example, wash or trim your hair on the first day of the new year. Why? The first character in the Chinese word for thriving is the character for hair. As a result, washing or chopping it off is interpreted as washing your prosperity away. You should also avoid buying shoes for the whole lunar month since the Cantonese word for shoes (haai) sounds like loss and sighing.
During the 15-day event, hosts typically provide candy boxes and snacks for their visitors. To wish children and unmarried individuals luck, married couples are required to present them crimson packets packed with money.
The seventh day (February 7) is thought to be the day when the Chinese mother goddess Nuwa created mankind and is consequently known as renri (the people’s birthday).
On that day, different Asian groups would serve different birthday meals. Malaysians, for example, consume yee sang, or a “Prosperity Toss” of raw fish and shredded veggies, whilst Cantonese folks prefer sweet rice balls.
The highlight occurs on the final day (February 15). It was the only day in ancient Chinese culture when young females could go out to admire lanterns and meet boys. As a result, it’s also known as Chinese Valentine’s Day. On the last day of the festival, towns throughout the world still put on spectacular lantern displays and festivals. Everybody rejoices on the last day of the festival and the celebrations carry on late in the night.