A lot of people call it Chinese New Year. But in fact, people from countries such as Korea, Vietnam, Laos and Singapore all participate in the food and family-filled, superstition-fuelled, Lunar New Year.
However, thousands of years of tradition can be a struggle to reconcile with the realities of today. We rate what you should (and shouldn’t) look forward to when the Year of the Ox rolls around.
Why has your auntie turned up on your doorstep looking like the dancer emoji? Well, now is not the time to be a sartorial wallflower - red is considered a lucky colour that brings happiness, passion and prosperity by warding off evil spirits and bad luck. Black and white is a no go - being funeral colours, they’re considered bad luck. Once I dared to come over to my mum’s house on New Year’s Day in black jeans and a tee. She looked at me, and pouted, “Why all the black? You look so sad. Like death.” I got changed.
Verdict: 7/10. Fine for a flash of vibrancy, but not if your colour palette is more Metallica than Britney.
Pull on the rubber gloves - it’s time to do a deep clean of your house. Personally, I’d rather spend a perfectly good summer’s day outside with a book, than scrubbing a toilet fist-first. However, this is the best time to clean and exorcise your home of any bad luck that has accumulated over the past year. The vain part of me appreciates that the house will be proudly spotless once friends and family come roaring into the home come new year.
Verdict: 6/10. Definitely a pain, but at least you get a clean house at the end of it.
...But Not Everything
You can clean until dust is coming out of your pores all the way up to New Year’s Eve. But on New Year's Day, you shouldn’t so much as pick up a broom. Why? Because cleaning your house in the new year is seen to be sweeping away any of the good luck you’ve carefully cultivated in your home. It’s the one time of year you can wriggle out of wiping, shining, and drying for the sake of ‘prosperity’ - we’ll take it.
Verdict: 9/10. Perfect for the chore-adverse.
Especially Your Hair
The Chinese character for ‘hair’ is the same first character as the word for ‘prosper’. So, washing your hair is frowned upon because it is seen as washing your fortune away for the year. All sounds pretty logical in theory, right? But in reality, forgoing the shampoo and conditioner means a limp, oily mess during the one time you’re meant to be encouraging a ‘fresh start’. Thankfully, it’s only temporary.
Verdict: 4/10. Sometimes dry shampoo just won’t cut it.
The Red Envelope
Traditionally, gifts of small sums of money are offered from older to younger generations as blessings for the new year. In return, wishes for a year full of good fortune, health, and prosperity are exchanged. When I was a kid, I loved flapping around those little red envelopes, dreaming about where I was going to store my loot and what I was going to buy with it. Now that I’m the giver, the exchange has become much more of a weary exercise. The worst part? Having to go to the bank to withdraw a bunch of $5, $20 and $50 notes to tuck into the red packets (who carries cash anymore?).
Verdict: 8/10. Sharing is caring, despite the admin involved.
Paint a smile on your face - as a day of celebration, arguing and scolding (especially children) is to be avoided on the first day of the new year, or it’s said that you will otherwise argue for the rest of the year. Sounds sensible enough. However, when you throw a whole bunch of extended family together into a room, including a bunch of hyper children who’ve just received their red envelopes, it will quickly devolve into a torturous game of Patience. Pass us another moon cake.
Verdict: 7/10. You may keep the peace, but you might go red doing it (maybe that’s a good thing?).
Vivian Huynh is a writer and musician from Sydney. You can follow Vivian on Twitter @vivianhuynh_
Check out the new SBS Chinese site for LNY themed-content #LNY21
This article was edited by Candice Chung, and is part of a series by SBS Voices supporting the work of emerging young Asian-Australian writers. Want to be involved? Get in touch with Candice on Twitter @candicechung_