CNY Book of Survival The Do’s and the Donts

CNY Book of Survival: The Do’s and the Dont’s

Getting it right on the things you should and should not do this Chinese New Year

Back in the days, around the time our ma and pa were still children, Chinese New Year superstitions were heavily believed and its rituals were adhered to strictly and obediently without question. Where these beliefs originated from is still something we all ponder about.

However, in today’s age, and especially among this tech-savvy, boundary-pushing Millennial generation, customary Chinese New Year rituals takes on something more of a tradition rather than a supernatural belief. Still, we find ourselves being nagged by older relatives whenever we fail to obey the colour scheme or if we decide to sweep the floors during Chinese New Year.

Whether or not we truly believe in such things is a heavier topic for another time. But till then, it will probably bring more good than harm if we stuck to the traditions for the sake of avoiding conflict over the family table.

So if you’re planning to celebrate Chinese New Year this year, here’s a reminder of the Do’s and the Dont’s to abide to if you plan to escape the glaring gazes of superstitious relatives.


Do these 5 things

1 – Stay up late for Shou Sui

Family staying up late together to welcome the New Year   Photo by 10awesome

We know for a fact that kids would love this one.

‘Shou Sui’ means “after the New Year’s Eve dinner”, and the traditional Chinese belief is that relatives should continue to gather even after the reunion dinner to welcome the new year together. This includes young children as well. It was believed that children who stayed up late will also increase their parents’ longevity, hence granting them a longer life.

2 – Red is the way

Red lanterns light up the templePhoto by National Geographic

Red ang paos, red lanterns, red ribbons. Anybody who is knew to the festivities would probably catch on pretty quick that red is rather significant during Chinese New Year.

The colour symbolizes luck and prosperity, and is also believed to draw away bad fortune. The origin of this belief stems from the ancient Chinese mythology of the Nian beast. Long ago, a ferocious beast called ‘Nian’ use to terrorize villagers at the start of each year. Eventually, the villagers realized that the Nian beast was afraid of fire, noise, and the colour red. From then onwards, whenever the Nian beast approached, villagers would scare it away with the colour red while setting off fireworks.

And so the story goes, and that belief has carried on till today.

3 – Wear new clothes

Two girls posing in red Chinese New Year clothingTime to go extraaaaaa | Photo by Today Online

Get into the season by flaunting those new clothes you just bought!

Wearing new clothes on Chinese New Year symbolizes a year with new beginnings and fresh hopes. A time to move on from the past, and welcome the new energy. It’s also the best time to rock on something traditional like a samfu or a cheongsam.  

Interestingly, many also believe that your undergarments should also be new! This is probably something you wouldn’t want to flaunt too much (or not at all).

4 – Get your greetings in order

chinese family giving greetings during chinese new year

It’s best to brush up on your gong xi fa cai’s (wishing you a prosperous year) and xin nian kuai le’s (Happy New Year).

During Chinese New Year, relatives and friends greet by wishing one another with auspicious phrases, so knowing what to say is important to get in line with the festivities. Don’t be caught going ‘uhhhhhhh’ when your relatives hand you your ang pao!

The elders might get a little particular about this, so at least get the basics down right.

5 – Eat Nian Gao

Chinese New Year 'Nian Gao'Nian Gao cakes | Photo by What to cook Today

Nian Gao in English is literally translated as ‘Chinese New Year Cake’. It speaks for itself really.

It’s mostly made of glutinous rice flour and brown sugar, and is usually eaten steamed or fried. The cake takes on a round-ish shape which is said to represent completeness and togetherness. The Chinese pronunciation of the word is similar to saying ‘increasing prosperity year after year’, which is an auspicious wish for someone to attain wealth and make strides in his career.


Don’t do these 5 things

1 – Don’t sweep the floors

No sweeping floors on Chinese New Year!Photo from Quora

Leave the brooms and the dustpans in the storeroom during Chinese New Year. All the cleaning should be done BEFORE the festivities to rid the house of all the bad energy and old misfortunes. It should also be as uncluttered as possible in order for the prosperous energy to flow through easier.

Any cleaning during the course of Chinese New Year is said to be taboo because you will be sweeping away all the wealth and good energy that has entered the house!

2 – Don’t wash your clothes AND hair

Avoid doing the laundry or washing your hairPhoto from

Refraining from doing laundry should be abided particularly on the first 2 days of Chinese New Year as it is said to be the birthday of the Chinese Water God.

Washing hair, on the other hand also means to wash away one’s fortune. The stem of this belief derives itself from the pronunciation and the orthographic character of the word ‘hair’ in the Chinese language, which is similar to the saying ‘to become wealthy’. Hence by washing your hair, you are essentially washing away your wealth.

3 – Don’t break anything

many white broken plates on a wooden floor

Actually, we should try not to do this at any point in the year. But on Chinese New Year, take extra measures to avoid it at all cost.

Anything that breaks signals a grave misfortune of declining wealth and broken families. Yikes!

There is sort of a remedy if you accidentally cause something to break. Firstly, remember to say ‘Sui Sui Ping An’, which directly translates to “Peaceful Always.” This is a wish to ensure you get rid of all accidents and to ‘neutralize’ the bad luck in someway. Then, pick up the broken pieces and wrap them in red paper. Don’t throw them away just yet! Leave them for five days before you take them out. Throwing your broken pieces, despite it being spoilt, is still symbolic of throwing out your good fortune.

It’s quite a hassle, so by all means necessary, don’t break anything.

4 – Don’t borrow money from people, or lend anyone money

Man rejecting money to avoid misfortune on Chinese New Year

We know how generous you and your friends can be when it comes to money.

But for this season, try not to depend on each other too much. Lending money is thought to be an unlucky gesture that may bring about loss of wealth. Likewise, borrowing money from others means you may be asking for money for the entire year!

Similarly, you should clear any debts that is left unpaid at the beginning of the year as it is believed that starting the year in debt means you’ll be ending it the same way.

5 – Don’t wear black or white

Black clothes shouldn't be worn on Chinese New Year as it is associated with mourning

This is one tradition that is still widely practiced today.

White and black clothes are hugely associated with mourning and death, and so we tend not to bring this colours into joyous celebrations like Chinese New Year.

To be safe, throw on something that’s bright and colourful. Red, although very common during this period, is still the best. If red doesn’t quite fit your aesthetic, then yellow and green would do too. Yellow symbolizes royalty, while green symbolizes wealth.

Some of these traditions are still followed closely today, while others have noticeably died down or are taken less seriously. Even if we don’t subscribe to these beliefs, it is good to at least be aware of the symbolism behind the traditions for the sake of cultural preservation.

Are there any other rituals you follow during Chinese New Year? Let us know!

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I go by Timothy, Timmy, or Tim. Tryna get rich to see the world. The only thing that can make this awkward potato awkward-er is if you speak Chinese to me.

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