Friday, February 7, 2014


Chinese New Year Protocol  - Do's & Don'ts

Don't know much about the upcoming season? What about your knowledge of the holidays — is it getting a bit rusty? Avoid embarrassing or awkward situations with our quick round-up of Chinese New Year habits and customs.

Do… remove your shoes
When visiting a friend, remove your shoes at the entrance as you would in most Asian homes. Shoes may bring in dirt and dust. Remember that homeowners aren't allowed to sweep their houses on the first day of the festival — it's considered bad luck.
Do… bring a gift
It is customary to exchange a pair of mandarin oranges with your host, a gesture that wishes him or her an auspicious and prosperous New Year. This practice dates back to ancient China, where public officials, mandarins, will pass the delectable fruits around as gifts during the festive season. It was no coincidence the fruit matched their bright orange court robes. Hosts will also welcome any additional gifts of fruits, food and alcohol.
Do… give red packets
It is also customary for married individuals to distribute red packets to single unmarried individuals as a token. Prepare the red packets with crisp new notes, and make sure the sum is an even number — giving an odd sum is considered bad luck. You will not want to mess with a centuries-old tradition which predates to a small village in the Song Dynasty period. According to legend, a young orphan helped to slay a huge demon which was plaguing the village - and in gratitude, the village elders presented him a red envelop filled with money for his courage in saving them.
Do… say positive things
You want to start off on a good note. By only talking about pleasant things and wishing your friends and family well, you ensure a smooth and auspicious transition to the year ahead.
Do… wear red
It is the best colour to wear during this season not only because it is considered lucky, but because its vibrant hue is considered appropriate for festive celebrations.
Don't… wear black or white
Associated with death, these colours are considered unlucky and a fashion faux pas during the lunar festival.
Don't… finish everything on your plate
Most Chinese mothers want their children to finish up every grain of rice on their plate during mealtimes, the opposite holds true for reunion dinners. You should always leave some food- especially fish- on your plate, so that symbolically some of the money you've earned from the previous year will be carried over to the New Year.
Don't… cut your hair
By cutting your hair within the first 15 days of the New Year, you could be 'snipping' your wealth away.
Don't… handle books, pears or clocks
All these objects have negative connotations attached to them, so try not to touch or use them during the festive season. Try not to read books in the presence of mahjong players, serve pears to your friends and family, or prepare clocks as gifts during this period.
There are so many traditions and customs to follow during Chinese New Year, but do remember that it's a time to relax with your friends and family. The season is about being with them, after all.   --  by Desiree Pakiam YAHOO! Singapore

The Do's and Don’t of Chinese New Year

1. Don’t buy shoes, clocks or books as gifts.
The pronunciation of shoes (鞋) in Mandarin is the same as something unlucky and inauspicious, whereas its Cantonese pronunciation is similar to the sound of sighing, therefore they are a big no-no in terms of what to buy as gifts for your Chinese friends or business associates. Giving a clock is also very bad, as this action (送鐘) would imply burying a parent (送終), because of its pronunciation in several Chinese dialects.
As for the word book (書), it has the same pronunciation as the word “lose” (輸) in both Mandarin and Cantonese. Books are especially not welcomed by people who like to play Mahjong or gamble during CNY. You may want to avoid umbrellas (傘) as well, as it is similar to the sound of “separation” (散) (with your loved ones).
2. Clothing matters
The significance of colour in clothing (for example, the old mantra ‘never wear white after labour day’) may not matter as much as it used to, but if you have Chinese clients or friends who you consider more traditional, or you are meeting for the first time, you may want to avoid causing any potential discomfort by what you are wearing.
Try to avoid combinations of only black and white, as those are traditionally the colours of mourning. Though wearing red is not a must, it is surely welcomed during CNY. Anything from a red sweater to a red jacket would be enough to show that you also share the festive spirit.
3. Avoid treating or visiting Chinese people during the third day of CNY 
The third day of the CNY is traditionally known as Chikou (赤口), which can be directly translated as “red mouth.” This is considered a day that one could easily get into arguments, and therefore it is best to decline social calls on February 2 this year.
On Chinese New Year Greetings
The most common CNY greeting I have heard from non-Chinese is “Kung Hei Fat Choy(恭喜發財),” yet there are far too many people who say it without knowing the actual meaning. It is NOT equivalent to Happy New Year.
“Kung Hei” in fact means “congratulations” where “Fat Choy” simply means “get rich” or “be prosperous.” So the whole greeting translates to “congratulations and I wish you prosperity.”
Another item worth noting is, “Kung Hei Fat Choy” is Cantonese and it is only used in Hong Kong and Guangdong Province of China, where Cantonese is the dialect. If you want to greet a Mandarin speaking friend from China or Taiwan, then you say “Gong Xi Fa Cai” instead.
Some suggested Chinese New Year greetings in Mandarin:
1. Ma Dao Cheng Gong (馬到成功)
Literally, “Ma Dao Cheng Gong” means to “succeed right upon arrival, with a horse.” It is a greeting commonly used to wish people immediate success in what they are trying to achieve. This will be especially popular this year, the Year of the Horse.
2. Xin Nian Hao (新年好) or Xin Nian Kuai Le (新年快樂)
This is one of the first greetings you would say to your friends during Chinese New Year, which means Happy New Year.
Tip: If you don’t know how to pronounce Mandarin, simply copy the whole Chinese phrase, paste it on Google Translate and click on the “listen” button.
On Family Expenditures during CNY
To prepare for Chinese New Year, households spend more than usual to buy decorations and food for visiting family and friends. Home visits are common during CNY, with people bringing along their good wishes. Households need to buy gift boxes in advance, as it is embarrassing to visit someone empty handed, and you just don’t do that.
If you go to any of the T & T Supermarkets in town, you will see columns of gift boxes of snacks, cookies and chocolates. These are typical gifts that you would both receive and give to others.
One week into CNY, families could end up with a dozen of gift boxes at home, and they may have to give out some of those again (yes Chinese “regift” also!) as they simply cannot finish them all. Thus the gift box you originally bought could change hands several times before CNY is over.
Another major expenditure during CNY are red envelopes. In the culture in which I grew up, there is an unwritten rule that once you are married, you have to give red envelopes to a junior who greets you. And since you are a married couple, you usually give out two red envelopes at one time. Normally in Canada, the amount of money in a red envelope could vary from five to 100 dollars, so this tradition can be costly. Though people would happily accept your red envelopes and greetings, no matter how much it is inside, you are advised not to put coins into a red envelope, as everybody would know that a loonie is all you are giving!
Red envelopes could be a financial burden to some families during CNY, though some parents might try to “recover” their “losses” by taking all or a portion of the money their children collected from their red envelopes.
I can still remember that exciting moment, when I poured out all the red envelopes I had collected onto my bed, and started counting how much I had “earned” at the end of New Year (most kids aren’t allowed to open them before CNY ends). Do not underestimate the spending power of Chinese kids after CNY, as they could be allowed to spend some of the money on themselves.
-- by Sunny Chiu for DUNN PR

No comments:

Post a Comment