During Chinese New Year, we’ve got tons of traditions (the dos and don’ts) that have been passed down from generations to generations. But do you know why we do them in the first place?
1. Handing Out Red Packets
The word ‘red’ is associated with ‘luck’. And you know lah how much Chinese believe in luck! With the whole superstition and fengshui and whatever else that is going on.
But the origins of the ‘ang pao’ is traced back to a dynasty so so long ago that even your great-grandma was not born yet. It’s the Qin Dynasty.
Back then there was no science – they had to rely on beliefs that sound macam yes which everyone practiced.
So, to protect the younger generation from illness and death, the elderly would thread coins on a red string.
This symbolised ‘warding off evil spirits’ and ang paos later only appeared when the coins are changed to pressed paper.
The Chinese were after all the first ones that invented paper money!
2. Tossing Oranges Into The Lake During Chap Goh Meh
While many of us thought that Chap Goh Meh originated from China, it’s actually not! In fact, it’s a modern twist from the Chinese Lanterns Day and comes from our very own little Penang island!
On the 15th day of the Chinese New Year, ladies who are single and available flock to the lake, pond and even longkang (okay maybe not longkang) to toss oranges in, hoping to find their one true love.
Of course, they need to make sure their white knight can contact them right? So these ladies would write their details (usually phone number) on the fruit.
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3. Hanging Red Lanterns
The red lantern is a symbol of ‘reunion’ and a representation of luck and prosperity. Again, good age ol’ Chinese beliefs.
How it came about is pretty unique. It’s said that the Kitchen God in every family will see the Jade Emperor during CNY to do a report. If the Kitchen God say something like “this family is good yo.” – then the Jade Emperor would grant them a good harvest and make more money.
After reporting, the Kitchen God needs to go back home and with the lanterns there, he won’t get lost and is able to find the door. Even some Gods have their own limitations one okay?
4. Lighting Up Firecrackers
Besides annoying your neighbours, firecrackers are used to ward off the Nian monster.
The Nian monster, just like all monsters in stories, would terrorise villages and devour any animal or human it sees. Worse, it’s kinda like a pedophile because it prefers children. But there’s one thing – it is sensitive to loud noises and the colour red. Why eating people (which will scream and gush out red blood) did not scare away the Nian monster is still a mystery.
So if you don’t want to be eaten this year, you better start lighting up some firecrackers!
5. Offering ‘Nian Gao’
The Jade Emperor aka the Sky God’s birthday falls on the 9th day of Chinese New Year. To celebrate one of the most imba gods, the Chinese would offer him Nian Gao instead of the birthday cake to honour his day.
Also, every family would have a Kitchen God, and in the legend, families would feed this Kitchen God ‘nian gao’ so his mouth will be stuck together from the stickiness. Now, he can’t badmouth the family when he reports to the Jade Emperor! That brings sugar-coating to a whole new level.
6. Buying New ClothesNew Year, new things right? Not only is it a reason for us to buy more stuff, it’s also to signify the start of another year on a clean slate. All the bad luck and bad mojo should be left behind in the previous year!
Hence, this is why weeks before Chinese New Year strikes, malls will be flocked with Chinese buying new clothes. Out with the old, in with the new as they say.
If you don’t believe then wait ’til you’re playing cards with your relatives and friends, see huat or not.
Plus, who doesn’t like dressing up in new clothes right?
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