Since I come from an Asian family, Lunar New Year (or Chinese New Year) is always a pretty big deal for me.
(Cue image of red lucky money packets.)
This year, the Lunar New Year falls on today, Monday, February 8, 2016.
Now, we bid farewell to the Year of the Goat (or Sheep) and celebrate the Year of the Monkey.
This time is meant to be spent engaging in familial activities, partaking in festivities and feasting to your heart’s content.
It’s also a time when I become insanely superstitious (thanks, Mom) because it’s been ingrained in me from an early age that the day of Lunar New Year will dictate how the rest of my year will pan out.
(No pressure or anything.)
Every new year, I make a conscious effort to wake up early, exercise, eat healthy and not be in a bad mood.
This is the ideal routine I would like to follow for the rest of the year (whether or not this actually happens is totally beside the point).
This all sounds pretty harmless, right?
It’s basically the Asian version of setting New Year’s resolutions.
You want to start the year with the right intentions, and then you inevitably end up failing miserably.
However, there are a few superstitions that I stubbornly adhere to that both confuse and bemuse my Caucasian and very non-superstitious significant other.
Here are eight rules to follow if you want to banish the negative energy of the previous year and ensure a lucky and prosperous Year of the Monkey to come:
1. Don't sweep the house.
Do not — I repeat, do not — sweep your house during New Year festivities.
In doing so, you are essentially sweeping away all of your good fortune for the year.
And here you thought you were just being hygienic!
But really, all of the cleaning, sweeping and scrubbing should have been done prior to the New Year, so that your house looks sparkling new and ready to receive a parade of visitors.
2. Settle all debts.
It’s considered bad luck to start off the year in debt, so ensure that anything outstanding is settled beforehand.
Sure, you might not be able to pay off even a fraction of your massive college debt, but at least try to pay off a few of those mounting speeding tickets.
3. Don't get your hair cut on Lunar New Year's Eve.
Similar to the no-sweeping rule, cutting off your hair too close to the New Year is akin to severing your luck.
Make sure you book that hair appointment a couple of weeks in advance so you’ll still have a lovely new hairdo to show off when the festivities start.
4. Don't wash your hair.
Following the previous point, there’s also a "no hair washing" rule on New Year’s because — you guessed it — you’re washing away all of your fortune.
According to superstition, it seems that hair is not auspicious generally, so it might be best to go bald to avoid risking any bad luck infiltrating though the hair roots.
However, if the going bald option is too extreme, perhaps just invest in some good dry shampoo.
5. Wear lots of red and avoid black and white.
Replace your usual monochrome outfit with a fiery red number in order to attract luck and fortune and to ward off bad spirits.
Black and white is traditionally associated with mourning, so these colors should be avoided at all costs.
6. Don't talk about anything morbid.
Only saccharine subjects are to be discussed on New Year’s.
Do not mention anyone’s illness, ghosts and certainly don't even remotely broach the subject of death.
Basically, to be safe, avoid talking about any topic that may potentially induce tears because it’s also extremely bad luck to cry.
This is why a lot of parents are more lenient towards their children on New Year’s because they want to prevent the risk of any tantrums being thrown.
7. Don't buy any books.
It’s not often said that buying books is bad, but the word "book" in Cantonese is a homonym for "lose."
It may sound like a questionable association, but traditionally bookstores in China don’t open during New Year celebrations.
I’m not sure if this superstition extends to eBooks though. The jury is still out on this one.
8. Give lucky money.
Giving out shiny red packets of money is akin to handing out fortune and prosperity to the recipient, and packets are typically given out by the married to younger generations.
It’s also luckier to have an even-numbered amount of money in the envelopes, except, of course, for amounts containing the number four.
"Four" sounds a lot like "death" in Cantonese.
According to tradition, carrying out these steps will ensure an auspicious year ahead and, really, who am I to argue with tradition?
Now, excuse me. I have a house to clean!