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5 Chinese New Year traditions for attracting wealth

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Many Chinese New Year traditions have a financial bent

Sun nin fai lok! 

On Friday, China rang in the New Year. It’s officially the Year of the Horse.

Across many cultures, a new year represents the possibility of building wealth, health and prosperity. While the Western world makes New Year’s resolutions, Eastern tradition is focused on what most Westerners would call, well, crazy superstition.

As a second generation Chinese American, I grew up witnessing Eastern tradition against the backdrop of Western logic. Which means I thought most of it was insane. Once, a harmless little black kitten walked into our home, for example. My mom went bananas.

Going by the textbook definition, I think superstition can hold us back. It prevents us from doing the logical thing, the thing that just makes sense. Like cuddling an adorable kitten.

Tradition, religion and superstition often meld. For example, in many states, you can’t buy alcohol on Sundays because Jesus. I’m not knocking religion — I just think Westerners and Easterners are more similar than we think. Sunday has a religious and spiritual significance in the Western world; most Chinese traditions have similar roots.

At any rate, one thing that Americans and Chinese have in common is a desire for prosperity. Here are a few fun Chinese New Year traditions meant to attract wealth.

1. Giving Hong Pao

My favorite Chinese New Year tradition is Hong Pao, or the red envelope. It involves giving money to family members in a red envelope for good luck. Traditionally, married people give the envelopes to children and unmarried family members.

“Do I get anything if I’m cohabiting?” I asked my mom.

“I don’t know. Maybe you should get half the money,” she joked.

Still, a pretty good deal.

2. Eating a whole fish

In addition to balancing your portfolio, you might consider chowing down on some mackerel to achieve financial independence.

In Chinese culture, a cooked whole fish, head to tail, is a lucky food, symbolic of abundance. Eating one during the New Year is supposed to bring lots of money and luck. And if you have a guest, offer them the eyeball. It’s just the polite thing to do.

3. Not sweeping

According to Chinese tradition, you’re not supposed to sweep on the first day of the New Year. Doing so could mean sweeping away all the good fortune you’ve got coming.

Looking forward to a promotion? Sweeping your house could repel it, according to Chinese custom.

4. Firecrackers

Setting off firecrackers during the New Year is supposed to scare away any lingering evil spirits and bad luck.

Plus, it’s fun.

5. Cultivating your money corner

Some call feng shui superstitious; others insist it’s an ancient science. According to feng shui, the Southeast area of your home is your “money corner.” If you plan it right, this corner can attract much scrilla. Practitioners believe that putting a goldfish or plant in this corner will bring prosperity. If your money corner happens to be in a bathroom, you’re supposed to keep the toilet lid down.

You should probably do that for non-feng shui purposes, too.

On Chinese New Year, you’ll hear this a lot: “Gung Hay Fat Choy.” Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t mean “Happy New Year.” It’s actually a blessing of prosperity.

Whether it’s black-eyed pea soup or red envelopes, most of us have a New Year’s tradition. When you think about it, it’s all completely arbitrary and slightly superstitious by nature.  But that’s not really the point. The point is, across cultures, a New Year is a symbol of change and hope. We all hope for the same thing: prosperity, health and longevity.

So–Gung Hay Fat Choy, readers.

Photo by Lydia/ CC BY

(GIF: USA Today)

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5 Responses to “5 Chinese New Year traditions for attracting wealth”

  1. Wilma says:

    In Amish Country here in Lancaster County, PA we are supposed to eat pork and sauerkraut over mashed potatoes on New Years Day for good luck. Can’t stand Sauerkraut so I’m without a lot of luck but I can do the plant thing in the southeast area of my house.

    • Kristin Wong says:

      Interesting! I’ve heard of the black eyed pea soup thing, but not pork and sauerkraut.
      Good luck with the plant! If anything, it gives you something nice to look at.

  2. Mark Ross says:

    We give Hang Pao to the kids in our family. It’s all because the adults in our family before used to give us red envelopes too when we were like 9 years old and below.

    • Kristin Wong says:

      Nice that you’re paying it forward! Yeah, I should probably do that now that I’m like, a grown up. Ha!

      Ah, red envelope memories. It’s considered rude to open the envelope in front of the giver, so I remember my little brother and I would joke, “Oh, suddenly I have to use the restroom.” Then we’d run to the bathroom, shut the door and check out the loot. What brats we were.

  3. Marie @ 4HWD says:

    During Chinese New Year we prepared fish, fruits that are circles forms, because they said that it will bring luck. And also we put the red envelopes with money inside and put it in our tree.


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