Thursday, January 27, 2011

Power of Superstitions: Chinese New Year's traditions & angsts

Vintage & Contemporary Lie See (Lucky Money)
& Lucky Candies 
Chinese Lunar New Year's Eve (Wed. February 2nd, 2011) is fast approaching. The time of uncertainty and stress associated with the Year of the Tiger should come to an end, and I should feel a state of calm come over me as the Year of the Rabbit kicks-off on Thurs. February 3rd, 2011. Well, I'm anxiously tackling items on my "Prep for Chinese New Year 2011" checklist while having angsts over traditions so steeped in superstitions passed on by my ancestors. The superstitions dictate the frenzy, I and likely many others within the Chinese community, are going through right now until New Year's Eve. My list has been amusing and bemusing anyone outside of the Chinese culture, as in the case of my hubby. He finds it hard to believe that this CBC (Canadian-born Chinese), raised in Toronto, could be tied to so many "silly" superstitions despite all that hi-tech!

Top 9 Chinese New Year Superstitions:

* Sweep kitchen floor & Wash kitchen floor
I've noted in my daytimer to sweep and wash the kitchen floor by Tues. February 1st. It would be bad luck if I did it on February 2nd, Chinese Lunar New Year's Eve! I'd be sweeping out the good luck from home! Likewise for dumping the dirty water! 

* Garbage/Recycle Days Taboos
We have alternating Garbage Collection and Recycle Day on Thursdays. This year Chinese New Year's Day falls on a Thursday Garbage Collection Day! Aye-Yah! You should have seen my hubby's look of sheer amazement (or horror?)  as I pointed out that on January 20th we needed to pitch whatever needs to go into the garbage collection, and that on February 3rd we must keep any garbage in the house! Guess what we're doing on Thurs. January 27th when it's Recycle Day? 

* Hair Cut Appointment before Chinese New Year's Eve 
This subject is always a huge bone of contention as one ponders over when is the ultimate last day you can slot your hair cut appointment into a packed agenda, as it's considered bad luck to have it done too close to Chinese New Year. You'll sever your good luck! Yes, there are chances of accidents, where you get snipped and not your hair! Keeping all this in mind, I set my hair appointment with my amazing stylist, Guy Krouse at Salon Vivace for this Fri. January 28th so I'd be ready for the Chinese New Year's prep tours and of course, the two banquets on February 2nd and 3rd.

* No Showering on Chinese New Year's Eve
 It's bad luck to wash your hair and have a shower! If you're active and go to the gym, this one can be a challenge as nobody wants to go to school or work stinking like a skunk! Apparently, in the good old days, most Chinese villages lacked plumbing, whereas in Toronto, we have great plumbing! Try telling your mom this one. Anyway, I and other Chinese friends just go to the gym and not inform mom about showering after that vigorous gym class! The other solution: not go to the gym just prior to New Year's Eve and be stressed out from skipping your workout! Hubby could barely contain his laughter when I informed him about this superstition and the angst behind it.

* Get Chef Knives Sharpened Before Chinese New Year's Eve 
I called before dropping off my chef's knife at Nella Cucina. They promised that I'll get it back within a week, before it's Chinese New Year's Eve! Whew! Superstition: knives severs good luck, so you'd want to sharpen before it's the new year and retain good luck in the new year! Aye-Yah!

* Bad Luck to Start with Broken Crockery
I must pitch any broken dishes, cups, plates and any other crockery as it's considered to be "bad luck" to start a new year with broken stuff. After my Sunday tour, I'll replace a few chipped cups while picking up Green Chopsticks for my banquets. Aye-Yah! So much to do, and so little time!

*  Replace Dead Houseplants with Fresh, Live Plants!
It's inauspicious having dead plants as you're carrying over the bad luck from one year to the next! So I better swing by one of those Chinatown shops on Sunday after my tour and replace one of the bamboo shoots in my planter to ensure a lucky Year of the Rabbit! Agghhh!

* Settling Debts in order to Start New Year with a Clean Slate
It's funny how Chinese New Year follows right after the holiday season of gift spending, as it make settling debts a tad challenging... Sigh, it got to be done, otherwise you hear your ancestors murmuring about the bad luck for the new year!

*  Exchange Old Bills for Crisp New Bills at the Bank 
Bank tellers in Toronto's Second Chinatown banks (Spadina Ave/Dundas St W) or other areas wouldn't blink an eye when an Asian patron request for crisp new $5, $10 and $20 bills. It's considered good luck having crisp new bills in the pair of Lie See (Lucky Money) you hand out to little kids and any unmarried adult siblings.  I must also buy more of those red/gold envelopes. Sigh!

Money Tree Decoration for Chinese New Year

Before it's "Curtains Up" for the Chinese Lunar New Year festival, here are a few more other items I'll try to tackle to ensure more even luck in the Year of the Rabbit ...

* Buy 3 Kumquats (fruits) with green twigs & tie with red string/ribbon for good luck!
* Buy a box of Lucky Pastries from Chinese bakery (re-fills of wallet-shaped pastries, fire cracker-shaped cookies; smiling face cookies)
* Buy more bags of Lucky Candies
* Pick-up 3 Sesame Balls from Kim Moon Bakery
* Find golden platter to place fruits, candies & Lie See as decoration on table in lobby for guests!

Happy New Year!

Gung Hey Fatt Choy in Cantonese or

Gong Xi Fa Cai in Mandarin or

Chuc Mung Nam Mui in Vietnamese! 


  1. Requesting Crisp New Bills at Bank NOT in Chinatown area:

    Finished this task on Friday January 28th after an interesting 10 minutes discussion with the bank teller regarding why it was necessary to have $80.00 of crisp new $10.00 bills. Teller was totally fascinated by when Chinese New Year takes place; why it is called "lunar" Chinese New Year; and why bills have to be crisp & new;why they have to be individually inserted into the Lie See packet. I was tempted to give her my business card and invite her to one of the behind-the-scenes tours or banquet as there was a super long line-up developing in the bank!

  2. Monday January 31st, 2011

    Just called Nella Cucina to check on the status of my chef knife & mom's cleaver. Both are sharpened and ready to be picked up today (one day earlier than promised; now that's what I call service)!

    Yipeee! I was so worried that they would not come back on time. I could hear my mom saying, "Aye-Yah! Bad luck coming in the new year thanks to this daughter!"

    Well, one Chinese New Year's prep angst resolved and I can now take it off my checklist! I can already feel the state of calmness associated with the Year of the Rabbit ...