2016-02-06elementary

Chinese New Year Do's And Don'ts

Chinese New Year, also known as 春节 [chūn jié](Spring Festival), is the most important festival in China.

The Chinese New Year is especially important because the Chinese believe that a good start affects the entire year. There are therefore some things you should do during New Year's to bring good fortune, and some taboos that you must avoid. The do's and don'ts may differ a bit depending on where in China you are located, so ask your friends to make sure. Let's have a look at some of them.

Things to do

Hover over any word to show translation
zhōng guó rén
中国人
中國人
Chinese person
xǐ huan
喜欢
喜歡
to like
zài
(to be) in
chūn jié
春节
春節
Spring Festival (Chinese New Year)
qián
front, before
tiē
to stick, to paste
 
good fortune, happiness
 
character
 
xǐ huan
喜欢
喜歡
to like
zài
(to be) in
chú xī
除夕
除夕
lunar New Year's Eve
chī
to eat
jiǎo zi
饺子
餃子
dumpling
 
fàng
to put, to set off (fireworks)
biān pào
鞭炮
鞭炮
firecrackers
 
hái
yet, even more
xǐ huan
喜欢
喜歡
to like
zài
(to be) in
xīn nián
新年
新年
New Year
chuān
穿
穿
to wear, to put on
hóng sè
红色
紅色
red
nèi yī
内衣
內衣
underwear
 
to send out, to show (one's feeling), to issue, to develop, classifier for gunshots (rounds)
hóng bāo
红包
紅包
lit. money wrapped in red as a gift, a bonus payment, a kickback, a bribe
 

Before Spring Festival, Chinese people like to put up the character for “Happiness”. On Lunar New Year's Eve they like to eat dumplings. And on New Year's they like to put on red underwear and hand out red envelopes.

Character set
Pinyin

Stick the “Happiness” character 贴“福”字[tiē fú zì]

“福” means good fortune, or happiness. The Chinese like to stick the “福” character written on red paper on their door or wall, and doing this means that you will have good fortune in the coming year. But pay attention when you put up the “福” character, because you should put the “福” upside down.
Why? The word for upside down in Chinese is “倒 [dào]”, and if you take the characters “福[fú]” and “倒[dào]” and read them together, you get “福倒 [fú dào]”. The character “倒 [dào](reverse)” is pronounced just like the character for arrival, “到[dào]”. So “happiness reversed” sound just like “happiness arrives”, and thus putting the “happiness” character upside down means that happiness will arrive.

Eating dumplings 吃饺子 [chī jiǎo zi]

The day before New Year’s is called 除夕 [chú xī]. On this Lunar New Year’s Eve, it is tradition for the entire family to make dumplings together. Because a dumpling is shaped like the coins of ancient China, eating dumplings symbolizes that you will earn a lot of money that year.
Some families also put a real coin inside one of the dumplings, and the person who gets the dumpling with the coin inside will have the most luck that year.

Setting Off Fire Crackers 放鞭炮 [fàng biān pào]

And old lies behind the Chinese tradition of setting off firecrackers when the clock strikes New Year. The tale goes that a long time ago, a monster called “Nian” went out to destroy crops on New Year’s Eve. In order to threaten and put an end to this monster, people would set off fire crackers, and the loud noise from the fire crackers scared away the monster.

Wearing Red Underwear 穿红色内衣 [chuān hóng sè nèi yī]

Red is believed to ward off bad luck and misfortune, and the Chinese therefore like to wear red clothes during New Year's. If it is also your Zodiac Year, you must wear red underwear on the first day of the year. So for people out there born in the Year of the Monkey, red underwear is a must for 2016!

Handing Over Red Envelopes 发红包 [fā hóng bāo]

红包 [hóng bāo] refers to an envelope made of red paper containing money. At New Year's, members of the older generation often give 红包 to their children, to protect the person of the younger generation from sickness or death. Nowadays giving 红包 to friends has also gotten popular, and with the rise of the internet, this traditional has also reached online. You can now give 电子红包[diàn zǐ hóng bāo], or Electronic Red envelopes, to your friends and family using Alipay and Wechat Payment. This has quickly become popular among young consumers.
You can read more about these Electronic Red Envelopes using the Du Chinese app.

Next, let’s learn about some of the taboos that you should avoid during the New Year festivities.

Things not to do

Hover over any word to show translation
chūn jié
春节
春節
Spring Festival (Chinese New Year)
qī jiān
期间
期間
time, period
zhōng guó rén
中国人
中國人
Chinese person
bù néng
不能
不能
must not, should not
zuò
to do
de
(used after an attribute)
shì qing
事情
事情
matter, thing
hěn
very
duō
many, much
 
bù néng
不能
不能
must not, should not
sǎo dì
扫地
掃地
to sweep the floor
 
bù néng
不能
不能
must not, should not
to wash
dōng xi
东西
東西
thing, stuff
 
bù néng
不能
不能
must not, should not
to cry
 
bù néng
不能
不能
must not, should not
dǎ suì
打碎
打碎
to shatter, to break into pieces
wǎn
bowl
hái
even more, in addition
bù néng
不能
不能
must not, should not
jiè qián
借钱
借錢
to lend money, to borrow money
 

During the Spring Festival period, there are a lot of things Chinese people should not do. You should not sweep the floor, wash things, cry or break bowls, and you should not lend or borrow money.

Character set
Pinyin

No Cleaning 不能扫地 [bù néng sǎo dì]

On the first and second day of the new year, you should not clean your house or take out the garbage, as it means cleaning away fortune and good luck. Chinese people clean their house before New Year, and take out the garbage just before the clock strikes midnight.

No Washing 不能洗东西 [bù néng xǐ dōng xi]

Just as with the cleaning, washing means washing away good luck, and the Chinese will not wash on the first day of the new year. No doing dishes, washing your hair, or washing your clothes.

No Crying 不能哭 [bù néng kū]

Crying will bring bad luck, so you can’t cry during the New Year's period, which is the first fifteen days of the new year. It is difficult to stop children from crying however, so some families stick a red paper saying 童言无忌 [tóng yán wú jì](Take no offense from children's talk)on the wall to avoid this problem.

No breaking bowls 不能打碎碗 [bù néng dǎ suì wǎn]

Breaking a bowl means breaking good luck, so you have to be very careful, especially on the first day of the year. If you accidentally break a bowl, you can immediately say 碎碎平安 [suì suì píng ān] (breaking, safe and sound) to avoid bad luck, because 碎碎 [suì suì] has the same pronunciation as 岁岁[suì suì],and 岁岁平安 [suì suì píng ān] means peace all year round.

No lending or borrowing 不能借钱

If you ask a Chinese people to lend you some money during New Year's, I doubt they will, because doing so means they will lose money the entire coming year.

At last, let’s learn how to say ”Happy New year” in Chinese to end today’s lesson.

Hover over any word to show translation
xīn nián
新年
新年
New Year
kuài lè
快乐
快樂
happy, merry
 
hóu nián
猴年
猴年
Year of the Monkey
jí xiáng
吉祥
吉祥
lucky, auspicious
 

Happy New Year! Prosperous Year of the Monkey!

Character set
Pinyin

“猴年吉祥” can be used this year because it is the year of Monkey. You can use “zodiac animal of the year +年+吉祥” for other years. For example, next year is the year of rooster, so next year you can say ”鸡年吉祥![jī nián jí xiáng]”. You can read more about the Chinese animal zodiac in a previous blog post.

Happy New Year!