From The Straits Times Archives: 8 Chinese New Year taboos to observe

This story was first published on Jan 23, 2014. 

1. Shout for joy, students, as it is considered bad luck to study or read during CNY. The Mandarin word for books, shu, sounds the same as the word for "lose".

2. "You're sweeping all the good luck away!" Many will exclaim upon seeing their domestic helper pick up the broom on the first day of Chinese New Year. This is why spring cleaning is usually done before CNY day.

3. Wearing black during CNY is a huge taboo, as black clothes are worn at funerals. If red is not your colour, opt for other bright colours like orange or yellow.

4. It is believed that the New Year sets the precedent for the rest of the year, so you'll get a disapproving look if you mention anything remotely negative. This includes using foul language, telling ghost stories or mentioning death.

5. When visiting relatives, always bring along mandarin oranges, as they symbolise abundance and good fortune. Make sure that you bring two, because "good things come in pairs".

6. Sharp objects like scissors and knives are avoided on the first day of CNY as it resembles cutting away your good luck. Guess you have to find another way to open that bag of chips.

7. Children can run amok during CNY. Parents will avoid spanking them in order to avoid making them cry. Some believe that if you cry in the New Year, you will cry throughout the year.

8. Washing your hair signifies washing away fortune. Some go to the extreme of skipping a shower altogether to retain their luck. If you smell something weird, it's not you, it might be your superstitious relative.