Cut your hair, kill your uncle – and other fascinating Lunar New Year superstitions

Lion Dance

Tomorrow (16 Feb) is Chinese New Year, or Lunar New Year. But if you were thinking that this will be a great excuse to watch a parade or eat dumplings for dinner, think again. Did you know that Lunar New Year is associated with a host of taboos designed to safeguard your well-being (or your uncle’s) for the year? Read on!

Let’s start with the history

According to legends, Chinese New Year began with a mythical beast called the Nian who liked to eat villagers, especially children. One year, the villagers decided to hide from the Nian. However. an old man bravely declared that he was going to stay out and scare away the beast with red papers and firecrackers. The plan was considered utter madness until the other villagers saw that it worked. From then on, firecrackers and the colour red were used every New Year to scare of the Nian, who never visited the village again.

Red Lantern

Superstitions

I hate learning about superstitions. Not because I don’t believe in them. Quite the opposite. I believe in them too much, and learning about more of them is bound to make me even more paranoid. I’m still awaiting a grisly death from that last chain email I forgot to pass on in 2005.

But just for you, dear readers, I shall gallantly risk death, doom and most realistically of all, psychological well-being, to bring you a list of DON’Ts for Lunar New Year.

On New Year’s Day (16 Feb), do NOT:

  • Eat porridge – it brings poverty.
  • Wash your hair or clothes – it washes away good luck.
  • Use unlucky words – e.g. “death” will bring death.
  • Take medicine – or else ill health will follow for the rest of the year.
  • Go to work – or else you’ll be exhausted the rest of the year (well that explains a lot).
  • Sweep – it sweeps away wealth.

During Spring Festival season (15-21 Feb), do NOT:

  • Break dishes – it brings bad luck.
  • Use scissors or knives – they cut wealth.
  • Let children cry – it brings bad luck (yikes).
  • Wear black or white clothes – they are unlucky colours (time to crack open those Hawaiian shirts).

By the way, this is not a comprehensive list. I was too scared to investigate further, but for the brave (or foolish), you can find a more detailed list here as well as other sources.

Night

One of the quirkier superstitions is to avoid getting a haircut during the first month of Lunar New Year, or else a maternal uncle will die. This idea was thought to originate from a legend about a poor, orphaned barber who loved his uncle but could not afford a good New Year’s gift for him, so he gave him a haircut instead. The uncle declared it the best gift he’d ever received and asked his nephew to give him a haircut every year.

After his uncle died, the barber missed him so much and mourned every New Year. This “thinking of uncle” (si jiu) became synonymous with “death of uncle” as their pronunciations are very similar.

Learning about this particular taboo is a bit awkward for me as I was planning to get my son’s hair cut over the next week or two. Now I’m faced with some rather unpleasant options:

1) Rush in a hair appointment either today or tomorrow afternoon (even though I’m so busyyyy);

2) Let his hair grow to Cousin It proportions;

3) Cut my son’s hair next week anyway and sign my brother’s death warrant;

4) Get the trusty bowl and cut his hair myself, thereby signing my own death warrant.

Year of the Dog

Birth years: 2018, 2006, 1994, 1982, 1970, 1958, 1946, 1934 (Note: You will need to check Lunar New Year dates for these years to see if you truly fall within the Year of the Dog).

Famous Dogs: Michael Jackson, Mother Teresa, Donald Trump, Justin Bieber.

Personalty traits: Loyal, honest, cautious.

Those born in 2018 will be Earth Dogs – communicative, serious and responsible in work. So no need to dog (hehe) these kids to do their homework. Alternatively, being dogs, they can eat their own homework.

Know a dog?

Know a bub who will be born during the upcoming Year of the Dog? Commemorate the little pup’s birth with some gorgeous goods from our new doggy design range.

For some of us, every year is the Year of the Dog, so this range will please dog lovers out there.

Lunar New Year