Washing laundry (or your hair)
The Chinese avoid washing their clothes on the first two days of the Spring Festival – considered the birthday of the Water God.
But many people these days forego this ritual completely and go about their laundry duties as per regular.
They’ll even wash their hair (once considered a no-no) for personal hygiene reasons and the fact that, you know, they want to look good on the first day of the Lunar New Year.
Sweeping the floors
Relatives and friends come visiting during CNY, so it’ll be rude not to have my house in tip-top shape for me guests right?
That’s the reason many families ignore the tradition of not sweeping their houses on new year’s day in favour of having spic and span floors that will impress their visitors.
Traditionally, sweeping the floor, taking out the trash and splashing water outside during this period all signify tossing out incoming good luck and wealth for the new year.
Getting married on a specific date
In the past, couples used to consult an almanac or feng shui expert when it came to choosing their marriage date. It was considered very unusual to get married during CNY, as it is the most important festival for Chinese families and many people would not have time for a wedding.
But in modern-day Singapore, more and more couples are choosing to hold their wedding banquets during the CNY period because they have more free time and taboo dates aren’t really a concern.
Beware the dog
According to folklore, the God of Anger, also known as the Scarlet Dog, would roam on the third day of Chinese New Year, presumably barking mad.
Whoever ran into him would have bad luck, so many Chinese chose to stay at home all day – neither visiting others nor receiving guests.
Given how this tradition is hardly heeded now, I guess you could say the dog days are over.
Setting off firecrackers
Traditionally each household strive to be first to set off firecrackers at 12:00 AM, on the first day of Chinese New Year.
But seeing as how firecrackers are banned in Singapore and many other cosmopolitan cities, this tradition has all but fizzled out except in very rural ‘kampungs’.
Appeasing the Kitchen Stove God with treats
Arguably the most important deity during the new year, the Kitchen Stove God would swing by each household and report what each has done in the past year to the Jade Emperor.
Many families would display couplets at their kitchen entrance and offer him sweet delicacies such as sugar cakes, deep-fried pancakes and beancurd soup during the 12th month of the lunar year so that he would say sweet things about them.
We’re betting the Kitchen Stove God is pretty hungry these days since hardly anyone carries out this particular ritual anymore.
Welcoming the Kitchen Stove God back
On the fourth day of the Lunar New Year, households would then welcome him back from heaven with incense, paper money, meat, fruits and even firecrackers.
Seeing that they didn’t offer him sweet treats in the first place, how many households you think would bother with these niceties when welcoming the Kitchen Stove God back?
Families are more likely to go traipsing around town, on holiday or back to work on the fourth day.
Preparing flour for the first day of CNY
While each household normally gets busy preparing food for the first day of CNY, in the past people used to only ferment their flour for steamed buns up to two days early because dough with yeast in it often went rancid quickly.
This custom is rarely seen now because of the availability of baking powder, refrigerators, and bakeries.
It used to be considered unlucky by folks to steam buns and cook dishes from the first to the fifth day of the 1st month of the Lunar New Year.
But these days, people cook what they want, when they want. Plus, it’s pretty easy to get access to steamed buns from shops and bakeries anyway so this custom is all but void.
Using sharp utensils or obejcts
Items like knives, scissors and needles were deemed ominous and inauspicious as they could lead to squabbles with others during the CNY period.
While tempers do tend to flare when lots of relatives get together during the festivities, who’s going to cut that yummy cake if you stash away all your sharp kitchen utensils?