Thursday, February 07, 2008

Good and Bad Luck

A Chinese proverb states that all creations are reborn on New Year's Day. The Chinese New Year is a celebration of change.

But some traditions must be told in order to be respected and here a compilation of what could be useful if you want to follow the Chinese New Year ceremonies.

Red Envelopes

Traditionally red envelopes or red packets or Lee See (literally, the money used to suppress or put down the evil spirit) are passed out during the Chinese New Year's celebrations, from married couples or the elderly to unmarried juniors.

You have to get new bills from the bank and insert the new bills into the red envelopes on New Year Eve’s. After this ceremony the red envelope is called a Lee See or lucky money envelope, and only at that time. You also have to give two Lee See to each child because happiness comes always in two, do not just give one.

This is the way of passing good luck from the old generation to the next generation. It also a common habit to have business owners to give Lee See to employees and associates.

Red envelopes always contain money, usually varying from a couple of dollars to several hundred. The amount of money in the red packets should be of even numbers, as odd numbers are associated with cash given during funerals. Since the number 4 is also considered bad luck, (mean death), money in the red envelopes never adds up to 4. However, the number 8 is considered lucky (mean wealth) and 8 is commonly found in the red envelopes.

Odd and even numbers are determined by the first digit, rather than the last. Thirty and fifty, for example, are odd numbers, and are thus appropriate as funeral cash gifts. Rather than 20 and 40 are consider true even numbers and could be given at New Year Eve’s. However, it is common and quite acceptable to have cash gifts in a red packet using a single bank note - with ten or fifty bills used frequently.

A married person would not turn down such request as it would mean that he or she would be "out of luck" in the coming New Year.

Good Luck

  • Open every door and window in your home at midnight to let go of the old year that will also bring in the good luck of the New Year at the same time.

  • Switching on the lights for the night is considered to bring good luck to 'scare away' ghosts and spirits of misfortune that may compromise the luck and fortune of the New Year.

  • Sweets are eaten to ensure the consumer a "sweet" year.

  • Clean the entire home from top to bottom to get rid of all the things that are associated with the old year before New Year's Day.

  • Some believe that what happens on the first day of the New Year reflects the rest of the year to come. Asians will often gamble at the beginning of the year, hoping to get luck and prosperity.

  • Wearing a new pair of slippers that is bought before the New Year, because it means to step on the people who gossip about you.

  • The night before the New Year, some say that if you take a bath with pomelo leaves you will be healthy for the rest of the year.

  • You have to settle down and pay all your debts.

  • Resolving differences with family members, friends, neighbors and business associates is an act of good luck before New Year's Eve.

  • On New Year's Eve put a new set of clothes and shoes for children, preferably something red or orange.

  • Greet others with "Gung Hey Fat Choy" which means "Wishing You Prosperity and Wealth" and not “Happy New Lunar Year”

Bad Luck

  • Washing your hair is also considered to be washing away one's own luck.

  • After cleaning the house for your New Year Eve’s, put away all brooms and brushes to avoid sweeping the good luck that might enter your new life on the first day

  • Buying a pair of shoes is considered bad luck amongst some Chinese for New Year Eve’s. The word "shoes" is a homophone for the word for "rough" in Cantonese, or "evil" in Mandarin.

  • Don’t greet people who are in mourning.

  • Don’t say the number ‘four’ (Chinese homonym for death) or mention death.

  • Don’t borrow or lend money.

  • Talking about death is inappropriate for the first few days of Chinese New Year, as it is considered inauspicious as well.

  • Buying books is bad luck because the word for "book" is a homonym to the word "lose".
    Avoid clothes in black and white, as black is a symbol of bad luck, and white is a traditional funeral color.

  • Don’t drop your chopsticks.

It’s a bit complex, but after few years, I am sure that you can figure it out what should be done and not …

Gung Hey Fat Choy! or
Gong Xi Fa Cai! or
Gong Hai Fat Choi!