Monday, 26 January 2009

Happy 牛 Year!!!

To all my Chinese friends, 新年快乐!

This year will be the year of the cow/ox (牛/niu) - the 2nd animal in the Chinese calendar. If you were born in 1973 and 1985, then you're an ox.

Legend has it that the ox was actually supposed to be the 1st animal who responded to Buddha's call. However, the rat had asked it for a ride, and when they approached Buddha, the rat jumped off the back of the ox and hence, became the 1st animal to reach Buddha's feet.

It is also said that the rat had lied to the cat about the actual calling day, and that is why the cat didn't make it in time to Buddha to have a year named after it. Because of this, up till today, the cat is always chasing the rat. This rat seems to be a very mischievious animal, huh ;o)?

Anyway, here are some superstitions that one must NOT do on the 1st day of the new year:

  • Avoid housework (I had cleaned the apartment a couple of days ago after too long).
    It is believed that you will "sweep the good luck away" if you do housework on the 1st day.

  • Avoid washing hair
    Same reason as avoiding housework.

  • No splashing of water out the house
    Water symbolises money, so you don't want to throw "money" out the house.

  • No handling of sharp objects
    They represent conflicts or not a good start of a new year.

  • No nail clipping or hair cutting
    As hairs and nails are inherited from parents and the cutting of hair or nail during the first few days may shorten the parents life or cause ill-health.

  • No anger or sour faces
    Be happy to ensure good fortune throughout the rest of the year. If you're a child/teenager, I guess you can get away with a lot of things on this day because your parents should not get angry at you ;o).

  • No negative words
    Arguments must be avoided at all costs. Also words related to death and sickness.

  • Avoid breaking anything
    Otherwise bad luck ahead will be inevitable.

  • Avoid wearing black and/or white clothes
    These colours are associated with death. Red on the other hand, is most welcome as it represents luck.

These are just some of the superstitions surrounding Chinese New Year. There are also the superstitions about what food to eat on the eve of Chinese New Year when the family gathers together for the reunion dinner. Things like, prawns for happiness because prawns in Cantonese (I think) is pronounced "ha", so it sounds like laughter, eggs because they are round so good luck all year round. Noodles for longevity (and hence, they should not be cut). Fish, because the word for fish, "Yu," sounds like the words both for wish and abundance.

And of course, tangerines and oranges are passed out freely during Chinese New Year (in pairs) as the words for tangerine and orange sound like luck and wealth, respectively. The Chinese are very particular about giving things out in pairs as they represent togetherness, and "double" (eg. double happiness).

Married people also give out money in red packets with gold letterings to single people (usually to children/teenagers only, but some do give it also to single adults). It is believed that the more money you give out, the more you will usher in during the year despite how generous it appears to be, there is a selfish intention. But traditions are traditions... .

Red packets

Anyway, there are so many other traditions during this festive period, and it also varies from region to region. The above are just some of the more commonly practiced beliefs.

I think what I'll be missing the most about not being able to celebrate Chinese New Year in Singapore is all the new year food goodies :o(. If any of my Singapore friends reading my blog is reading this, please be merciful and send me some pineapple tarts, ok ;o)?