Red envelopes and oranges for Chinese New Year

12 Ways to Get Lucky this Lunar New Year

We could all use more luck in our lives. And with the Lunar New Year right around the corner, now’s the perfect time to up the good fortune ante. Here are 12 dos and don'ts to get you started.

DO: Clean the house

But before New Year’s Day. Any cleaning done on New Year’s Day washes away good luck. Until then clean to your heart’s content. Doing so will rid your house of any huiqi, or inauspicious breaths, collected over the year.

DO: Deck the halls

After you’re done ridding your pad of dirt and demons, spruce it up with some good luck decor. A fu sign is a no brainer. The character for luck is often hung on doors upside down since the word for upside down, dao, sounds like the word for “to arrive.”

You may also consider some banners of spring couplets, short poems which often accompany well wishes. The poems generally celebrate the beauty of nature or express “wishes for a happy and prosperous future.”

Flowers are also a must have around the house. Orchids stand for fertility and abundance, peach blossoms for prosperity and growth, plum blossoms for endurance and courage, and peonies for richness and peace.

DO: Wear red

Red is a good luck color in general in Chinese culture, and you’ll see it a lot of it during the New Year. In addition to luck, it symbolizes happiness, vitality, and long life.

If you were born in the Year of the Ox, you may want to consider investing in some red underwear. Benming nian is the year the Chinese zodiac lands on your birth animal, during which you’re susceptible to more bad luck than usual. Hence, donning lucky red skivvies.

How do you know you're an ox? Just count down from 2021 in multiples of 12.

DO: Give out (or receive) red envelopes

Called lai see in Cantonese and hong bao in Mandarin, red envelopes full of crisp bills are a big part of Chinese New Year.

How much to give? An even-numbered amount since those numbers are considered lucky while odd numbers aren’t. Also stay away from anything with “four” since in Chinese the number is a homonym for “death.”

As for who gets them, it depends. Some regions in China say married people give them to unmarried folks. Some say only children are the recipients. Others claim single adults but only if they’re unemployed. However you might get one, count yourself lucky if you do.

DO: Eat lucky food

What better way to up your luck than to ingest it? Lots of tasty eats are considered lucky, whether because of their names, appearance, or nature. The Chinese word for fish, yu, also sounds like the word for “abundance.” Tangerine sounds like “luck” while orange sounds like “wealth.”

Long noodles symbolize a long life while dumplings are made to resemble gold or silver ingots, a unit of currency in ancient China. Seeds represent fertility. Sweets signify a sweet year.

We’ll be talking more about what lucky Chinese New Year foods mean. Keep your eyes — and stomachs — open for the next post.

Now for some New Year don'ts.

DON’T: Eat unlucky food

Namely porridge for breakfast as it symbolizes poverty. Whether that means oatmeal or savory rice gruel is open to interpretation. Be safe and opt for some toast.

DON’T: Bathe

And especially don’t wash your hair. "Hair" in Chinese, fa, is the same word in the phrase fa cai, meaning “to become wealthy.” Shampoo on New Year’s Day and you’ll be washing that luck right out of your hair.

DON’T: Sweep

Sweep the floor and you’ll be sweeping away possible wealth. Don’t take the garbage out either. You’ll only be dumping good luck.

DON’T: Run with scissors

Of course you should never do so, but an accident involving a sharp object on New Year’s Day is said to bring bad luck for the year.

DON’T: Use unlucky words

Such as death, dying, ghost, or the deadly number four.

DON’T: Cry

There's no crying on New Year’s Day. Tears on the first day of the spring festival mean tears for the whole year.

DON’T: Give unlucky gifts

Invited to a New Year dinner? Great! But be sure not to bring:

  • Sharp objects. Forget about that set of Ginsu knives. Sharp items imply the cutting of ties.
  • Handkerchiefs. Another symbol of “goodbye forever” since they’re typically given out at funerals.
  • Anything to do with the number four. Have we mentioned that four sounds like “death”?
  • Shoes. The word for shoes (xie) is a homonym for "evil." Besides, what a weird gift.
  • Clocks. The phrase “give a clock” sounds a lot like “attend a funeral rite.” Clocks are also a reminder that we’re all running out of time, and no one needs that.

You're better off with oranges, uncut flowers, or trusty hong bao.

Visit our site for even more good luck and gift ideas.

[Photo: "Good health and good fortune," by Kenny Louie via Flickr, CC BY 2.0]

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