As descendants of Chinese ancestors living in Indonesia, us Chinese-Indonesians have long adapted with the Indonesian way of living. Though some well-rooted traditions and superstitions that are passed down from our grandparents, or even great great grandparents, still stuck with us even when we get older. However, it is quite sad to see that as generations pass, the traditions are slowly fading. So in light of the upcoming Chinese New Year, I suppose it would be fun to bring back those traditions and superstitions and have a little trip back to the past. Let’s see how much you still know or believe in!
1. DO NOT take medicine
Taking medicine on the first day of the lunar year is something you should avoid. It is believed that if you take one, then you will get ill for the whole year ahead.
2. Clean, clean, clean!
Cleaning your place and getting rid of old, unwanted stuff should be done before the new year, as it is believed to clear the house of bad luck and to welcome the new year with good fortune. But remember, always do the cleaning before the new year! If you do it on the day of the CNY, (especially sweeping!) then it’s the same as you throwing out your luck and wealth for the upcoming year. So just sit back, and enjoy the time with your family.
3. Lion and dragon dance
The lion and dragon dance is something that is never absent during the New Year. It’s usually even performed weeks before. The lion dance is usually performed by two acrobats inside the lion costume, while the dragon is like a longer version containing more people. Watching the lion and dragon dance can be quite thrilling, as they are usually up on poles, jumping and dancing in the air.
4. New clothes? Yes, please!
This is probably the only time people will encourage (or even force) you to buy more clothes. Yes, Chinese believe that having and wearing new clothes will help you have a fresh start in the new year. So go out and shop till you drop! Just kidding. But really, you should buy at least 1 or 2 articles of clothing. Just remember to buy bright colors and not black or white, as they are usually worn during funerals.
5. Pay your debts
I guess the ability to pay debts are sometimes out of your control. However, if you can afford to, then you definitely should. It is said that all debts should be paid by New Year’s Eve and you should not borrow or lend money on New Year’s Day. One thing you also shouldn’t do is to ask or demand someone who owes you money to pay you back; it will bring bad luck. Some also believe that if you start the new year in debt, then you will also end the same way.
6. Don’t wash your hair
Now this belief is one that is still commonly known amongst people. The reason behind this is because the Chinese word for hair (fa) and a part of the phrase ‘to become wealthy’ (fa cai) has the same pronunciation and character. Therefore people believe that if you wash your hair, then you will also wash your fortune away.
Some people might think that it’s silly that many believe in these superstitions and traditions, and that some are too far-fetched to be true. However traditions are traditions, and in my opinion, it’s important to keep traditions going as they somewhat define us.
One last thing that I wanted to share before we finish are the prominent colors of the new year. Like you have probably noticed, the ones that are most mainly used are red and gold as they symbolize wealth and prosperity. However other than wealth, the decorations are mainly red due to the tale of Nian, a demon-like creature that was said to have the body of a bull and the head of the lion. Legend says that the Nian would come upon the village on the first day of the year and take wandering children.
To ward off the Nian, the villagers cover their village with the color red, set of firecrackers and play loud music with the drums. When they discovered that the method works, they keep passing the tradition down their generations. And so that’s how we ended up with extravagant firecrackers and red in pretty much every Chinese New Year decoration.
Words by: Joanne J.
Header image credited to: 嗨 陶笑艺 from behance.com