By NASA MARIA ENTABAN and AMANDA NG YANN CHWEN
THEY may fiddle with their smartphones and gadgets throughout meals, spend hours online every day and adopt Western slang into their speech, but when Chinese New Year comes around, most young people adhere to traditional practices that date back centuries.
This festive season is a time for family, relatives and friends to get together, and while youths look forward to this time of fellowship and relaxation, most of them are mindful of the taboos and traditions that come along with it.
For example, under no circumstances are the family allowed to sweep or dust on the first and second days of Chinese New Year, as this will “sweep” away the good fortune – all cleaning must be done beforehand. Cleaning equipment must also be stored properly, and be out of sight.
Wearing black or white is unacceptable during this time, and everyone is encouraged to dress in bright red and gold. Also, foul language is prohibited, and so is shouting or raising your voice in anger.
Rules like these may be easier to follow than others like not washing your hair for the first few days of Chinese New Year, so we asked several young people which traditions they stick to, and why.
Carolyn Hai, 19
“I follow traditions like not sweeping the floor to avoid sweeping away luck and wealth. As for not washing hair, if I remember not to, then I won’t. But if I get caught in the rain I’ll wash my hair to avoid falling sick. My mum is very strict about wearing red on Chinese New Year, so I stick to that rule – one item of clothing must be in red.”
Cheah Wei Sheng, 18
“We don’t sweep the floor during Chinese New Year, because it’s believed to sweep out good luck. And if you drop something and break it, you have to say luo di kai hua (literally translated as ‘flower blooms when it drops’), to basically turn the bad luck into good luck. I try to respect it becuase it’s tradition, but I think it’s just being superstitious. My family does follow these superstitions, but not all of them, just the more well-known ones.”
Lee Xiao Pu, 18
“My mum does follow Chinese New Year traditions, but not me. There’s a superstition that says that you’re not allowed to wash your hair on the first day, and that’s enough to drive me insane! Oh well, I’ll just have to imagine that I went for some hair rebonding treatment when I cannot wash my hair. I don’t really believe in these superstitions, but like my mum says, it’s better to follow them than to have bad things happen to us.”
Angelyn Ho, 19
“At the reunion dinner, dishes like fish and chicken should be served whole because if they are served cut, it symbolises severing family ties. Food from the first day should be left for the next day – this means you will have an abundance of food through the entire year. I follow traditions like these because they make sense, everything we do has some meaning to it.”
Lee Wai Hong, 18
“During Chinese New Year, we don’t talk in loud tones and we avoid saying bad words. We are also extra careful and try not to break plates or cups because this may bring bad luck. These traditions have been around for a long time and passed down for generations. As young people if we don’t preserve them then they will disappear.