09 Feb CHINESE NEW YEAR TABOOS
Penang is a renown place which embraces the richness of heritage, culture and tradition. Since a century ago, Chinese New Year etiquettes have been solemnly respected and practiced amongst the locals of Penang. However, the elapse of time surpassing generations to generations has significantly omitted, or for the worst, forsaken the value of these customs that define our folkways and origins.
Similar to a Cinderella story, homes are swept, mopped, scrubbed, dusted and vacuumed before the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve. The conviction of overhauling before the new year represents the elimination of back luck accumulated throughout the year, whereas the dogma of cleaning on the first day of New Year is to expel the prospective good luck throughout the year.
Despite the temptation of attaining clean, fluffy and nice-smelling locks to welcome the new year, it is strongly discouraged on the first day of this occasion. As the Chinese enunciation for hair inflects prosper, the exploitation of washing tresses indicates the disregard of fortune while the means of getting a haircut signifies the outflow of cash.
Family members who are pronounced married ought to handout red envelopes to children before bedtime on New Year’s Eve. Red envelopes in Mandarin is a symbolisation of suppressing the works of evil spirits, which also aspires good wishes over the children’s life the year ahead.
Additionally, gifts such as oranges, cakes, biscuits, chocolates and candies are commonly given upon during new year visitations. However, there are certain tabooed items that shouldn’t offered due to their juxtaposition with negative elements. For example, handkerchiefs, towels and chrysanthemums — association with funerals; scissors and knives — analogy of cutting ties; and clock, pear, book and umbrella which intonate with funeral ritual, separation, lost, and detachment.
Even during mealtime, Chinese New Year rules and regulations still apply. The most fundamental custom is the utterance of auspicious phrases and avoidance of unfortunate mentions before consuming lavish dishes. Subsequently, the accidental occurrence of breaking any tablewares and cutleries requires the proclamation “everlasting peace” to discard future unfavourable happenings. Ultimately, the act of rejecting hospitality offered by hosts signifies impoliteness and disrespectfulness.
Even though Chinese NewYear customs in general are complex, and at times, overwhelming to comply with, but it has been wholeheartedly descended from our ancestors who held dear to this belief. Their doctrines has contingently and unknowingly, more or less, construct our philosophy and line of thoughts. Let’s treasure the beauty of this decorum and make this not just a legacy, but vitality.