Unveil the Insider culture in Chinese New Year

The Spring Festival is a time for the provincial outsiders returning to their native land. They bring not only money but daily necessities after earning a certain amount in big cities. Of the people living in a metropolis, some choose to travel abroad. This is the reason why a large human migration happens during the Spring Festival. If you’re planning to travel to Hong Kong for the holiday, then you need to know some tips that will help you survive during that period. You need to know that most of the government departments, banks, offices, and stores are closed during the holidays. You may see a red paper placed as a notice at the gate, letting customers know when the business will be reopened after the festival. 

Nevertheless, most of the chain stores and restaurants open normally, but may add extra charges  (like 20 to 30 percent) for service. Theme parks and a handful of large shopping malls may extend their service hours and have various performances. Public transports normally extend their servicing period. As the hostels/hotels are usually fully booked, it is highly recommended to book flights and accommodations in advance. 

Taboos of the Chinese New Year Festival

The Spring Festival is deemed to be the start of the year; people believe a great start brings good fortune for the coming year. Any wrong behavior will affect you for the entire coming year. There are many taboos associated with the Spring Festival, and we list them here (you might need to apply this knowledge someday):

  • Do not take medicine or visit a hospital: if you visit a hospital, take medicine, or even cook up herbal medicine on the first day of the new year, you may get sick continuously in the coming year. 
  • Do not sweep or take out your garbage: brooms and dustpans are forbidden on the first two days of the Spring Festival; it is believed you’re sweeping away wealth and good fortune for the year. Taking out garbage symbolizes taking away wealth from the household, which is why people throw the accumulated garbage on the third day of the Spring Festival.
  • Do not wash clothes or hair: Chinese do not wash their clothes on the first two days of the Spring Festival because it is the birthday of the Water God. Hair must not be washed or cut in these two days, as well,  not only because the word “wash” (Chinese:洗, Cantonese: sai2) is the homophone of “dead” (Chinese :死, Cantonese: sei2), but also “hair” (Chinese:髮, Cantonese: faat3) is pronounced as “rich” (Chinese :發, Cantonese : faat3) in Cantonese. Washing or cutting away your hair symbolizes you driving away your earnings and luck.
  • Do not do needlework: sharp objects (i.e. knives, scissors, and needles) will be packed up on the first day of the Spring Festival because sharp things imply “breaking.” Chinese believe they will break one’s relationship.
  • Do not eat congree for breakfast: traditionally, eating congree as breakfast on the first day implies poverty. Chinese people believe eating porridge for breakfast is only for the pauper.
  • Do not say unlucky words and cry: no unlucky words will be heard during the Spring Festival. Chinese believe auspicious words and happiness may attract good luck to the person for the whole year, and vice versa.
  • No black or white clothes: in Chinese tradition, black and white clothes are usually worn only for funerals. 
  • Do not break dishes: breaking things (i.e. bowl, plate) may result in losses or family rifts in the future. If you accidentally break it, you can wrap it in a red paper, say, “Sui Sui Ping On” (Chinese: 歲歲平安, Cantonese: seui3  seui3  ping4  on1), and put it on the god table. Because the first two characters Sui (Chinese: 歲, Cantonese: seui3) sound like “smash” (Chinese: 碎, Cantonese: seui3), the breaking meaning is replaced by the homonym “age.” In other words, saying it twice and adding the words “peace and safe” at the end can offset the “breaking” meaning and change into living longer.
  • Do not lend or borrow money: if you want to live the year debt-free, then you should avoid borrowing money or lending anyone money on the first day of the Chinese New Year. 
  • Do not wake people up on the first day of the Chinese New Year: if you wake somebody up in the morning on that day, he/she will be chased for meeting deadlines in the coming year.