Chinese superstitions & taboos

From shouting auspicious phrases during lo hei and giving out angbaos and even numbers, it’s no surprise that Chinese New Year comes with lots of practices to follow. If you want to be extra careful this year, here are Chinese superstitions and taboos to keep in mind this CNY so you don’t start the year with bad luck.

1. Do: Keep a jar full of sugar & rice

chinese superstitions - jar full of rice and sugar
Image credit: Eatbook

Hands up if you’re #teamrice. Here’s another reason why you should love this grainy carb – rice symbolises prosperity and abundance, so keeping a jar full of rice is said to ensure a tonne of huat all year round. 

Alternatively, you can replace the rice with sugar – they represent the same things. Go one step further and place dollar bills or coins inside the jar. This helps with kickstarting the positive wealth juju, so don’t be surprised if your boss recommends you for a promotion soon.

2. Do: Deposit money on Li Chun

chinese superstitions - deposit money on li chun
POV: You basking in wealth after depositing money at your auspicious timing.

If you’ve ever been to the bank around CNY, you might have noticed lines longer than usual – your parents might even have urged you to bank in your moolah during the season. And the best day to deposit your money is on Li Chun.

Li Chun usually takes place on the 3rd or 4th day of CNY and is the 1st day on the Chinese solar calendar, signifying the beginning of spring. It’s considered an auspicious day and depositing money into your bank account is seen as a form of welcoming good fortune, thus becoming a tradition here in Singapore. 

Tip: Search up auspicious timings according to your zodiac sign to get that maximum huat.

3. Don’t: Greet anyone if they’re still in bed

chinese superstitions - don't greet anyone in bed

The bedroom is one of the most private spaces in anyone’s home, so it’s no surprise that having anyone intrude is considered impolite. You also shouldn’t announce your CNY greetings to family members while they’re still in bed.

In doing so, you’re basically jinxing them to be bedridden for the rest of the year. You also shouldn’t rush them to get out of bed because this could lead to them always being in a rush for the rest of the year.

4. Don’t: Eat meat on the 1st day of CNY

chinese superstitions - don't eat meat

Though CNY is all about feasting, it’s said that avoiding meat on the 1st and 15th day will ensure you a long and happy life. A big belief is that Buddhist gods arrive on Earth on the 1st day to greet each other and thus, meat should not be eaten to show them some respect.

We can’t say for sure what’ll happen if you do end up eating meat, but if you don’t want to take your chances, try going vegetarian for a day instead.

5. Do: Place 9 oranges in your kitchen

chinese superstitions - place 9 oranges in kitchen
Image credit: Pexels

Chinese culture loves associating food items with different meanings based on what the words sound like, and this superstition is no exception. 

This might sound oddly specific, but placing 9 oranges in the kitchen where meals are prepared is said to bring you everlasting luck and prosperity. “9” (jiu) in Mandarin is a homonym for “everlasting” and the Cantonese word for orange, “kam”, sounds similar to the word for “gold”.

Plus, it’s also said that evil spirits and ghosts are scared of citrus fruits so you’ll be able to chase them away while raking in good fortune.

6. Don’t: Buy new shoes during the new year

chinese superstitions - don't buy new shoes

Shopping for new clothes and shoes is one of the highlights of celebrating CNY apart from the yummy goodies and angbaos – but avoid getting new shoes during the first few days of CNY.

The Teochew word for shoes, “hoi, sounds similar to sighing – a sign of suffering. So just remember that your new pair of sneakers could just end up bringing about bad luck, no matter how sick they look.

7. Don’t: Use sharp utensils like scissors & knives

chinese superstitions - don't use sharp utensils

We probably wouldn’t think too much about using utensils like knives while whipping up a CNY feast, but it’s actually encouraged that these sharp kitchen tools be avoided as much as possible. 

Scissors are an omen for fights and their blades are thought to be like lips spouting hurtful words during a quarrel. Plus, using sharp objects like knives is akin to cutting out good luck from your life. 

Using these sharp kitchen tools is usually only discouraged on the 1st day of CNY, so you won’t have to worry too much about not being able to prepare meals the entire time. To avoid using knives or scissors on the 1st day, keep some leftovers from your reunion dinner or chop and prep your ingredients beforehand.

8. Do: Open your doors & windows on CNY eve

chinese superstitions - open windows
Image credit:
@thewoodyhome via Instagram

Staying up as late as possible on CNY eve so your parents can have a long life is one of the more common Chinese superstitions, but don’t forget to leave the windows and doors open while you’re at it. This symbolises getting rid of the old and making way for the new, while also inviting the God of Fortune into your home. 

Don’t forget to leave the lights switched on throughout the night to scare away Nian, the mythical creature who was said to kill and eat villagers in the past.

9. Don’t: Wash the clothes or sweep the floor

chinese superstitions - don't wash clothes

With spring cleaning as the #1 thing on our to-do lists at the moment, you’re likely to find yourself doing chores like sweeping the floors and chucking your dirty clothes in the washer. 

While all of this can put a smile on mum’s face, washing and sweeping should be avoided as it is believed to get rid of good luck and wealth. If you die die must sweep the floor, do it in an outside-in motion, signifying one collecting money into the home instead.

10. Don’t: Go visiting on the 3rd day

chinese superstitions - don't visit on third day
Image credit:
@thesmartlocalsg via Instagram

Going visiting is discouraged on the 3rd day of CNY, also referred to as Chi Kou Ri or the Day of Red Mouth. Even stepping out of the house should be avoided as it’s believed that fights and quarrels can easily happen on this day so it’s considered ominous and unlucky.

Some also believe that it’s also the day where evil spirits roam the earth – stay at home if you don’t want to risk it.

11. Don’t: Eat porridge

chinese superstitions - don't eat porridge

Porridge might seem like an easy and common meal to prepare for breakfast, but on CNY, it’s considered a taboo. This is because in the olden days, porridge was viewed as “poor people’s” food. 

And with how highly Chinese culture regards wealth and prosperity, eating porridge is akin to starting your year off “poor”. So try not to eat porridge during CNY, and maybe replace it with eggs and toast.

Chinese superstitions to start CNY right

Even outside of Chinese New Year, these “rituals” are highly regarded and many are still practised here in Singapore today. So if you want to rake in all that wealth and prosperity and get that extra huat this year, it might be useful to keep some of these Chinese superstitions in mind.

More CNY related articles:

Cover image adapted from: @thesmartlocalsg via Instagram
Article originally published by Priscilla Tan on 31st January 2022. Last updated by Joycelyn Yeow on 24th January 2024.

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