Spring Festival Taboos


The Chinese New Year, also known as the spring festival, will fall this Sunday, 22 January. The zodiac animal for this year is the water rabbit. People born in the year of the rabbit (1999, 2011) are believed to be vigilant, witty and ingenious.

We know that there are many celebrations for the Chinese New Year: fireworks, red decorations and red envelopes (Check here for more information about the Chinese New Year), do you know there are also many New Year taboos? Traditionally, Chinese people believe that a good or bad start to a year will affect the whole year. Therefore, people are cautious about their words and behaviours to avoid bringing bad luck. Below are some folk taboos during the Spring Festival. Some of these taboos last only for the first few days of the festival, while others run until the Lantern Festival on the 15th day of the first lunar month (Sunday, 5th February):


  • Don’t say unlucky words like “death” and “loss”. If you use these words during the festival, they will follow you the whole year.
  • Don’t cut or wash your hair on the first day of the new year. The Chinese character for hair(发) is the first character in the word for prosper (发财). If you wash your hair or cut it off, your fortune will be washed away.
  • No porridge during the festival. For the Chinese, porridge for breakfast is a bad omen as it is associated with poverty. People don’t want to start the year “poor”.
  • Don’t break porcelain or glass. Breaking symbolises incompleteness and bad luck. Breaking a bowl, a plate or a mirror during the festival is considered a bringer of bad fortune, monetary loss, or family breakup.
  • No sweeping during the first three days, as you don’t want to sweep out the upcoming good luck.
  • Don’t use scissors or knives; otherwise, you are cutting away your wealth.
  • Don’t borrow money. It is considered essential to pay off all debts before the first day of the New Year; otherwise, your chance to get wealth will be dramatically reduced.

Happy Spring Festival!