LIKE a second New Year’s Day (with specific traditions), Chinese New Year is a big deal for Tsinoys and non-Chinese-Filipinos alike. A day of celebration and so much fun, here are a few tidbits that people unfamiliar to Chinese superstitious culture and traditions might enjoy knowing. Below is a list of three things to eat and two things to do this Chinese New Year season.
What to eat:
1. Longevity Noodles. You might be wondering why eating noodles is such a big deal for the Chinese—not just for the new year, but for birthdays too. That’s because, unsurprisingly, longevity noodles symbolize a wish for long life. Longer than normal noodles, they are usually prepared and served uncut (either fried, boiled, or with broth)—their length also symbolizes the lives of those who eat them.
2. Fish. Served whole—head and tail included, fish is usually on the Chinese New Year menu because it symbolizes prosperity and, in Chinese, sounds like the word “surplus.” Who wouldn’t want to have a surplus of fortune during the year? Traditionally, the fish has to be the last dish left with leftovers. Other practices in Chinese culture also require the head and tail to be left on the plate to symbolize starting the year with surplus and ending it with surplus. Some rules include particulars in the position of the fish, like how the head should face distinguished guests and elders to symbolize respect and that the position of the fish must not be changed.
3. Tikoy. Glutinous rice cakes, also known as Tikoy, have their regard in Chinese culture because of how the word sounds like translated in a Chinese—which basically sounds like it means “getting higher year-by-year.” In thought, the higher you are, the more prosperous you will be. Sometimes “getting higher” could imply an improvement in career, income, business, studies, and even children’s height.
What to do:
1. Get a haircut. Getting a haircut before Chinese New Year symbolizes letting go or cutting off the bad luck the previous year or years one has brought. Usually this is best done on certain “auspicious” or lucky days that help usher in better luck for the new year. It is said that if one comes into the new year without getting a haircut, the bad luck follows them in the year to come. That being said, there’s something a little tricky about the haircuts because people believe that if someone cuts their hair on Chinese New Year’s Day then they are cutting away the fortune that the new year brings. So, if you didn’t get the chance to cut your hair before Chinese New Year’s Day or the auspicious dates, it is best to wait until a few days after the New Year instead.
2. Wear or have something red. The color red has always been a signature occurrence in all aspects of Chinese culture. Associated with good fortune and prosperity, red is a color that doesn’t only manifest during the new year, it also comes along during birthdays and other holidays. Red is a color that symbolizes fire, warmth, celebration, vitality, and joy as well. So it is believed that wearing red, giving money away in red envelopes, hanging red ornaments around—even having a red wallet—will not only ward evil away but also help the bearer attract all the positive things there are to attract in terms of prosperity, fortune and overall happiness.