Around the globe, about 19% of the world’s population celebrate Chinese New Year, also known as Lunar New Year. 2016 is the year of the monkey and depending on your zodiac sign, you may either come across good or bad fortune in various aspects of your life.
While the Chinese continue to uphold the tradition of wearing new clothes on Chinese New Year and serving up a homemade feast for family and friends, the rest of us are just happy to celebrate with them in spirit. But, how do you celebrate Chinese New Year if you’re not Chinese?
This year marks my fifth Chinese New Year in Hong Kong. Over the years I’ve learned few ways I can take part in the traditions of this season. Here are a few ways you can too!
Prepare dishes with special meaning attached to them. Not that you need to master traditional Chinese recipes because you don’t, but you can prepare dishes such as noodles (make sure they are uncut to symbolise long life), chicken for family unity, fish for abundance and dumplings for prosperity.
Head down to your local Chinatown and watch a dragon and lion dance. Watching the lion and dragon dance performers move to the sounds of drums and cymbals will definitely put you in the spirit. These animals symbolise strength, ferocity, and dignity and are said to drive away bad spirits.
Have some oranges around your home for an easy dessert or snack. Oranges symbolise good luck, good fortune, and abundance, so they are considered a must-have during Chinese New Year. Pick up some mandarin oranges, tangerines, or clementines at your local market and snack on them during the day or plate some already peeled and serve after meals.
Wear something with a touch of red and gold. Red and gold are considered lucky colors by the Chinese because they represent happiness and prosperity. So, put on that red Christmas sweater or scarf you have, or other apparel or accessory with a touch of red and gold and invite positive vibes into your life this year. If you think you don’t have anything red or gold, don’t forget about your underwear drawer. During this season in Hong Kong, even Calvin Klein gets into the spirit by offering a variety of red undies!
Declutter your home. Not that you need specific occasions to get organised around the house, but doing so during Chinese New Year is said to drive away bad luck and negative spirits and to make way for everything good and positive. So go ahead and give your home a good cleaning. Also, a few years after living in Hong Kong, my housekeeper informed me I needed to replace all cleaning supplies, including the broom and mop. Throwing out perfectly good cleaners may not be very environmentally friendly, but replacing the broom and mop each year is a pretty good thing!
Avoid getting your haircut. It’s considered bad luck to get your hair cut immediately before or after Chinese New Year. And for you men out there, this includes shaving. No need to snip away your good fortune!
Get your knives sharpened. Knives sever bad luck, so you’d want to sharpen them before the eve of Chinese New Year and retain good luck in the new year!
Get rid of dead or dying house plants. Starting the new year off with healthy plants around your home will bring good energy, not to mention fresh air.
I know what you might be thinking right about now. All of this is nothing more than a bunch of fear based superstitions. And you may be right. But, don’t we all fall prey to a few superstitions from time to time? I’m not Irish, but that doesn’t keep me from wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day. Growing up, my mom always made a pot of black-eyed peas on New Year’s eve for good luck. And let’s not forget about the marketing campaigns most home retailers put behind annual Spring Cleaning sales or the suggestion we should replace our bedding and towels each year with the help of a White sale. Whether you believe in superstitions or not, annual reminders to get stuff done around our homes can’t hurt.
So, kung hey fat choi!