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Lucky symbols abound for New Year

(China Daily) Updated: 2015-01-30 13:25

What to give

Children are especially fond of Spring Festival for the gifts of red envelopes stuffed with lucky money from parents, grandparents and other relatives.

The custom is intended to convey greetings and protect children from bad luck during the New Year. The amount given can range from 50 yuan ($8) to several thousand yuan, but the money must be given in an amount that ends with an even number.

It can be given in exchange for a New Year greeting, or be stuck under the child's pillow during the night.

What to avoid

There is a long list of things that Chinese avoid during Spring Festival, though the specific items vary from one region to another.

Households carry out a full clean before New Year's Eve, partially to usher in a clean new year. But also because doing it after the start of the Chinese New Year is believed to clear away good luck.

Quarrels, crying and cursing are forbidden as people fear that bad behavior on New Year's Eve will continue throughout the coming year.

Housewives must be extremely careful in the kitchen to avoid breaking bowls, plates or glasses throughout the first lunar month, as doing so might forecast economic losses for her family during the new year. If a person breaks something, he or she must immediately say, Sui sui ping an, which means "Let's be safe during the new year", as sui in Chinese translates into "year" as well as "be broken".

Many superstitious northern Chinese also believe that if a person has a haircut during the first month of the lunar year, his maternal uncle will die.

As a result, some barbershops are open nearly 18 hours a day for a pre-holiday rush, which lasts for at least two weeks before New Year's Eve.

While women like to spruce up for the holiday, even men with short hair like to get an extra trim before the new year, in case their hair grows too long in one month before their next haircut, which is often scheduled for the second day of the second lunar month.

The tradition can be traced back to an ancient story about a barber who could not afford a decent New Year gift for his maternal uncle, choosing instead to give his uncle a haircut that made him look many years younger.

After his uncle passed away, the barber missed him very much, crying with the coming of each new year. The Chinese phrase for "missing one's maternal uncle", si jiu, is very close in pronunciation to the phrase for "death of one's maternal uncle".

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