We could all do with some good omens this year. Usher in the Year of the Ox on 12 February 2021 the right way by following these eight fortuitous Lunar New Year traditions.
Between the firecrackers and dragon dances, feasting and giving, it’s easy to get swept up in Lunar New Year. Chinese New Year – better known as Lunar New Year or Spring Festival to represent the many Asian countries that celebrate it – marks the start of 15 joyous days of family, friends and food. For those in the know, Lunar New Year is also a chance to set yourself up for an auspicious future. Bring about good fortune in 2021, the Year of the Ox, with these Lunar New Year traditions.
1. Get colourful
If you’re seeing red at Lunar New Year, you’re onto a good thing. Red is generally considered a fortuitous, joyful shade in countries like China, Korea and Vietnam, and during Spring Festival this takes on new dimensions with everything from decorations to clothes turning scarlet. For extra good juju, accent with jade and gold accessories. It’s best to leave the neutrals in the cupboard – white and black are associated with mourning.
2. Treat yourself to a feast
Food is central to Lunar New Year traditions – from dumplings (which resemble gold ingots) to mandarins (a sign of wealth) and whole steamed fish (meaning surplus). Other traditional Lunar New Year dishes include the prosperity toss, a raw fish salad that diners mix together (the higher you toss, the more your wealth will grow); and longevity noodles, made up of uncut noodles to signify a long, unbroken life. Whatever you order, a full table is itself a good omen – a wealth of food during Spring Festival means wealth for the year to come. So don’t be shy: load up the lazy Susan.
3. Share the wealth
Good fortune means nothing if it’s not shared, right? Those little red envelopes you see everywhere at Lunar New Year (known as hóng bāo in Mandarin, lai see in Cantonese and lì xì in Vietnam) are handed from elders to younger friends and family to symbolise the handing down of wealth. If you’re single, rejoice – no matter your age, unmarried people are also on the receiving end from married and older peers.
4. Spend time with loved ones
Lunar New Year is for celebrating with everyone from your nan to workmates and crushes. Spring Festival formally begins with the reunion dinner on Lunar New Year’s Eve (11 February in 2021) – a family affair that leads to the largest human migration on the planet each year. Spring Festival ends with the Lantern Festival (26 February), which doubles as China’s Valentine’s Day, with approved activities for lovers including moon gazing and walks beneath the lanterns. The days in between are for catching up with everyone else in your circle – this is no time for an empty social calendar.
5. Give yourself a makeover
How you strut into the Lunar New Year is how you emerge into the year beyond – so make an entrance. A new hairdo in the lead-up is welcome (but don’t cut or wash your hair on the day itself, or you’ll be trimming and washing away your fortunes). Shabby clothes are a no-no during Spring Festival and buying new threads is downright encouraged, if you need an incentive to splurge on a new outfit or two (in red, of course).
6. Let the chores wait
Although it’s tradition to give the house a deep clean in the lead up to Spring Festival, when the new year rolls around its time to down the tools. Needlework, washing clothes, taking out the rubbish and sweeping are all forbidden on the first day of the Lunar New Year, so take the opportunity to put off the housework. Even better, leave the cleaning up to someone else and dine out or spend as much time with family as much as possible.
7. Dance with dragons
There might be 12 signs of the Chinese zodiac, but dragons are the spirit animals of Lunar New Year. Dragons have been considered bringers of long life, prosperity and power in China for thousands of years and dragon dances are a highlight of Chinese New Year – meant to scare away evil spirits and bad omens. It takes great coordination to bring a dragon dance to life and troupes prepare all year.
8. Don’t worry, be happy
During the Spring Festival, a positive mindset is seen as a smart investment in the year ahead. Arguing, negativity and crying are taboo and paying back old debts ahead of the Lunar New Year is smiled upon, as is forgiving grudges.
Images courtesy of The Star, Will Salkeld and iStock.