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12 Taiwanese taboos to heed on Lunar New Year's Day

Don't spank kids, sweep, eat porridge, take naps, or break anything on Lunar New Year's Day

Family celebrating Lunar New Year. (PhotoAC image)

Family celebrating Lunar New Year. (PhotoAC image)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — With the Lunar New Year rapidly approaching, a Taiwanese numerologist has suggested 12 traditional taboos to avoid to ensure a prosperous and fortunate Year of the Dragon.

Based on the lunisolar calendar, Saturday (Feb. 10) is the first day of the Lunar New Year, which is celebrated for 15 days, with many cultural customs to be observed on each day. Yang Teng-kei (楊登嵙), a folk custom expert and the founding chairman of the Taichung Numerology Education Association, listed 12 major prohibitions that are traditionally obeyed on Lunar New Year's Day.

1. Don't scold or spank children

Parents should not scold or spank their children on this day because it will lead to more behavioral issues throughout the year.

2. Don't wash, sweep floor, or dispose of garbage

The first day of the Lunar New Year is considered the water god's birthday, and therefore doing any form of washing with water is thought to be offensive to the deity. Any sweeping or throwing out of trash is thought to signify discarding one's fortune from the home.

3. Don't eat porridge

In the past, porridge was associated with impoverished households. Therefore, eating porridge during the Lunar New Year is thought to bring bad luck and symbolizes financial obstacles in the coming year.

4. Don't slaughter animals

If one slaughters livestock during the Lunar New Year, it will lead to bankruptcy and injury. The exception is those whose livelihood depends on it, such as butchers.

5. Don't try to collect debts

One should not press for the payment of debts on this day. Otherwise, it will have negative consequences for the finances of both parties in the coming year.

6. Don't leave outstanding debts

If one owes money to others, it is best to pay it off before the end of the year, enabling oneself to enter the new year debt-free and unburdened.

7. Don't take a nap

As the saying goes: "If a man naps in the field, his crops will fail; if a woman sleeps in the kitchen, her meals will spoil." Taking a nap is a considered symbol of laziness and will affect one's career fortunes.

8. Don't break anything

Breaking things on New Year's Day may result in losses or family rifts in the future. If something is broken, the remedy is to wrap the fragments with a piece of red paper or cloth and place them under the household's altar.

While doing so, one must say "歲歲平安" (suìsuìpíng'ān). The first character sounds like the sound to "break" (碎), but in this case, it is replaced with a homonym that means "age" (歲) and said twice means to live a long life and adds the words "peace" and "safety" (平安) at the end.

9. Married women can't visit their parents' home

A married woman customarily does not return to her parents' home on the first day of the Lunar New Year. It is considered better to visit on the second or third day, as returning on the first day may affect her parents' fortunes.

10. Don't turn off all the lights

It is advisable not to turn off all the lights on the evening of the Lunar New Year's Day, especially in households where deities are worshipped. Keeping the lights on symbolizes welcoming the new year with brightness, hope, and light throughout the entire year.

Turning off all the lights may symbolize a dim outlook for the coming year.

11. Don't say unlucky words

Certain words that are generally considered inauspicious should be avoided during the Lunar New Year. Words such as "death" and "deceased" should be refrained from during the Lunar New Year period to avoid negative influences.

12. Don't place odd amounts in red envelopes

Red envelopes and gifts should not have odd amounts. Good gifts come in pairs, so during the Lunar New Year, red envelopes should always contain an even sum, such as NT$200, NT$600, NT$800.

Similarly, when giving gifts, it is preferable to have an even number, like a box of pineapple cakes or fruits with two, six, eight, or 12 items. Odd amounts and the number four are considered unlucky according to traditional beliefs.