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Chinese New Year
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The Chinese New Year traditions you need to take note of in Hong Kong

With Lunar New Year just around the corner, it's time to reacquaint yourself with all the customs like a true local

Written by
Time Out Hong Kong

Chinese New Year is one of Hong Kong's biggest celebrations. It's the time for family gatherings, enormous feasts, and bustling flower markets. This year, however, it will probably be a little more low-key, what with the social distancing restrictions, but we'll be celebrating (safely) in our own way all the same. But before we start, there are a lot of CNY customs to get the hang of first. From the rules of etiquette to getting the right type of flowers and fruit, everything is loaded with symbolic meaning. So, if you want to maximise your luck this Year of Ox, make sure to pay attention to these top 10 traditions and superstitions.

RECOMMENDED: For those looking to shop for CNY, check out these limited edition items to collect.

Hong Kong’s Chinese New Year traditions

No broken things
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1. No broken things

Don’t start the Year of the Ox on the wrong hoof by keeping old, broken, or old-and-broken items in your home or office. Chipped crockery, damaged shoes and even worn-out, musty old socks should be replaced (or placed very much out of sight) with new things, so these limited edition CNY items might help! 

No sharp points
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2. No sharp points

You could say that sharp items should be avoided at most times of the year. But they definitely need to be avoided during the Chinese New Year holiday period. In fact, they must be placed out of sight for they are seen as a sign of bad luck. So make sure you book in your hair appointment before CNY, otherwise, you'll cut off all your good luck.

Lucky red
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3. Lucky red

In Chinese culture, red is a lucky colour and represents happiness, good luck, success, and good fortune, especially if you have a lucky red packet coming your way. The Nian, a mythical beast who apparently terrorised villages by eating their livestock, crop,s and even children every year on Lunar Year’s Eve, was said to have been afraid of this colour. Since then, many red adornments, such as lanterns, fai chun, and firecrackers, have been adopted to ward off the creature at CNY.

Clean up your act
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4. Clean up your act

The Lunar New Year is the perfect occasion to clear out the old and bring in the new – but make sure you time it correctly. Do it earlier, rather than later, because according to superstition it has to be done before the evening of Chinese New Year. Also, once completed, the equipment should be put out of sight or you’ll sweep away your good luck!

No new shoes or books
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5. No new shoes or books

In Cantonese, shoes are a homonym for ‘rough’ while books are a homonym for ‘lose’ – two words you really don’t want to mess around with when it comes to new beginnings. So, stock up on your books and shoes before the new year kicks in. For those who are not superstitious and fancy picking up a bargain, though, there may be some top deals since business is set to be slow over the CNY period...

Settle your debts
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6. Settle your debts

It’s time to clear the red out of the ledger. Superstition cites that if you begin the new year in debt, you will probably end the year in debt. So, make sure you pay off and settle any outstanding accounts or money owed to family, friends, or business associates before the CNY break to ensure you get all the fortune, and well, get rich this year. Sounds easy enough, right?

Mandarin and kumquats
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7. Mandarin and kumquats

These tasty, round citrus fruits symbolise prosperity and fortune in Chinese tradition – so CNY is the most auspicious time of the year to stock up. Their vibrance is closely tied to the colour red, according to tradition. And placing them around the house serves to bring in the wealth. They’re also healthy and taste good, so it's a win-win if you ask us. Also, don’t share pears at CNY because it sounds like ‘separation’ in Chinese. Sad times.

Do not enter other people's bedrooms
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8. Do not enter other people's bedrooms

Any visiting guests should be greeted away from bedrooms as it is considered unlucky to wake someone up and greet them in there. Better yet, let people get up from bed before you pay them a visit. As the superstition goes, the one who is woken up will then work themselves to exhaustion, or be bed-ridden for the entire year. No thank you! Stay in the living room, or maybe even the kitchen, and take the chance to catch up in a more spacious area, which is much nicer anyway.


Open your windows
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9. Open your windows

Another one to do prior to the holiday is to open your windows. It sounds simple enough, but it is a custom that allows you to air out the house and by doing so, let the old year out and welcome the new one in. Not only will this provide a veritable path of fortune into your house, but it’ll also be great to get some fresh air into your lungs. Well, as fresh as we can actually get in the fragrant harbour.

Clean thyself
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10. Clean thyself

Here's one for anyone who doesn’t value hygiene as much as the rest of us do: an excuse to be a little rough around the edges. Yes, that's right, one does not simply wash their hair or take a shower around Chinese New Year. Though a thorough scrub of the hair and body is encouraged prior to Lunar New Year, to rinse off any bad luck, cleaning yourself on the day can also wash away good fortune. But make sure you clean up good and proper after CNY is over!

Don't forget to check out our guide for more Chinese New Year inspiration

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