Chinese New Year taboos

With the first day of Chinese New Year only a few days away now is a good time to reflect on what might be waiting for you just around the corner.

If you want to have a truly auspicious year – with wealth, fortune and everything else that this might entail – then you might want to avoid those things that, according to Chinese tradition and culture, bring bad luck upon a household.

Chinese New Year’s Day falls on February 5 this year.

Photo by Beatrice Carroli

Washing hair

Avoid washing your hair (or even your clothes) on New Year’s Day itself, since this is symbolic of washing away one’s wealth.

However, it is fine – and indeed encouraged – to wash your hair or clothes just before the start of the year; this signifies scrubbing away the bad luck of the previous year.

The Chinese character that represents ‘hair’ (发) also appears in the term ‘to become wealthy’ (发财).

Sweeping the floor

A similar taboo exist for sweeping the floor on the first day of the Chinese New Year, since this also represents sweeping one’s fortune away. Also avoid taking out the rubbish, for a similar reason.

Eating porridge

The Cantonese variety of porridge, known congee, is associated with being poor, since historically this would have formed the staple diet of farm workers and peasants.

Therefore you should not eat it during the first day of the New Year if you want to enjoy prosperity in the months ahead.

Meat at breakfast should also be avoided because is believed to be disrespectful towards the gods.

Cutting your hair

According to Chinese tradition everyone should refrain from cutting their hair for the whole of the first month of the lunar New Year, as it is believed that to do so could bring death to a maternal uncle.

This is why many hairdressers are closed during the month of February, or else offer large promotions for those that do want to risk cutting their hair during this month. It also explains why there are such long queues during the run-up to Chinese New Year.


The use of scissors, knives or other sharp objects – including needles – can lead to a depletion of wealth. Think of this as cutting away your money.


Pay special attention to what you wear.

In particular do not wear any ragged and scruffy clothes as this is believed to bring poverty and misfortune.

Similarly dressing in black should be avoided since this represents death – unless of course you are in mourning.

Most people will wear new clothes during the first month of Chinese New Year. Red is considered a lucky colour and so many people will dress in this way during Chinese New Year.


Avoid taking medicines if you can.

The idea behind this tradition is that if you take medicines during the first day of the Chinese New Year then you may very will bring more illness upon you and be sick the whole year.

Of course, do take medicines if you really need to!


Try not to break any crockery or mirrors during Chinese New Year such as bowl, since this may result in a loss of money or a family split in the future.

If, despite your best efforts, something does break, tradition says that all the fragments should be collected and wrapped in a red paper or a red cloth – for good luck – and thrown away only on or after the fifth day of the New Year.

There is another remedy, too. Say ‘sui sui ping an’, which translates as ‘safe and sound every year’. The pronunciation of the Chinese character ‘year’ (岁 sui) and ‘broken’ (碎 sui) are the same, so people use these homophones to take away any bad luck.

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