I love January. There's a whole month (+/-) between the Western and Lunar New Year. It's the perfect time to recover from the previous year, from the holidays, and to really have time to reset. Chinese traditions getting ready for the New Year are full of superstition, mainly to usher in wealth and good fortune into the upcoming year. These were drilled into me when growing up, I find it fun to go through the motions nowadays—after all, it doesn't hurt to start the year on the right foot!
This year is the Year of the Dragon which begins on February 10th. The first three days of the festival are the most significant where what you DO or DON'T DO can forecast the year ahead. Here's how you can bring in some good luck and fortune before and during Lunar New Year.
Before Lunar New Year
DO CLEAN UP: In the days leading up to the New Year, clean your home to sweep out any negative energy from the previous year to make room for all the good luck to come rushing in on the first day of the Lunar New Year.
DO DECORATE: Also known as the Spring Festival, families decorate their homes with flowers and red couplets flanking the front door and/or the character for good fortune, ‘fook’ 福 on the door, which is hung upside down (which sounds like ‘arrived’) symbolizing good fortune arriving at your house. Married couples prepare laisee, or lucky red envelopes, filled with crisp dollar bills–in even numbers, but never with the number 4. The number sounds similar to the word for death. The envelopes are given to children and younger single adults after exchanging Lunar New Year greetings.
DO CUT AND WASH YOUR HAIR: One thing to do before the festivities include getting a haircut. The Chinese word for hair (faat) sounds like the word for "prosperity" and you don't want to cut away the year's good luck until well after the new year. The same goes with washing your hair. Make sure to shampoo the night before Lunar New Year's Day.
DO TIE UP LOOSE ENDS: Pay off debts, mend clothes, finish projects, and chop and prepare foods to enjoy during the new year. Sewing, scissors, and knives are superstitiously avoided to avoid "a laborious year", arguments, accidents, respectively.
On Lunar New Year's Day
DO WEAR RED: The color red represents happiness, good luck, and good fortune. For anyone born in the Year of the Dragon (1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012), contrary to logic, it does not mean this year is a going to be a good one and wearing red underpants is believed to ward off bad luck. Black or white clothing are considered to be unlucky.
DO EAT LUCKY FOODS: There are "lucky" foods that are traditionally eaten during the new year to bring in good fortune, wealth and other well wishes. These ingredients are a play on words, or homonymns, sounding similar to auspicious well wishes. Eat dumplings for prosperity, noodles for long life, and nian gou, or rice cake, for growth are a few of these symbolic foods. Don't eat fresh beancurd as it is white and signifies death and misfortune.
DON'T BE NEGATIVE: Don't cry, argue, say unlucky words, or break anything on New Year's Day. How you spend the first few days of new year is a supposed to be a reflection of your year to come.
DON'T GIVE UNLUCKY GIFTS: Lunar New Year is a time for visiting family and gift giving. Cut flowers, handkerchiefs, and sharp objects signify funerals, farewell, and cutting off relationships; while hats, umbrellas, and clocks are bad luck; and mirrors are said to attract ghosts.
If you get the chance to see the lion dance performances blessing Chinatown's restaurants and small businesses, it's always a fun atmosphere (I love it!). The loud drums and symbols are said to scare away evil spirits. If this isn't possible, here is an epic walk with 50 lions and a dragon across the Brooklyn Bridge to Chinatown celebrating the 50th anniversary of Wan Chi Ming Lion Dance Troupe last autumn. And no matter where you are, if you are going to an Asian restaurant to celebrate your Lunar New Year, please be mindful that it is their holiday too, and they are working! It's one of the busiest days because everybody wants to celebrate. Be patient and understanding.
心想事成 May your heart's desires come true this Year of the Dragon! 🧧🐲✨ Cx