The Health Guru

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Chinese New Year Traditions

Posted on | February 3, 2010 | No Comments

As a westerner living in an asian country experiencing CNY for the first time is full of traditions and well… just really cool stuff.  2010 is the year of the Tiger!!

Most of the city is decorated in red lanterns, cherry blossom flowers and everywhere you look there are Ang Pows (red packets).  You give and receive the Ang Pows with money in them, the red colour symbolises good luck and is also to ward off evil spirits. Importantly, the money inside the Ang Pows must be even numbers and odd numbers are only given at funerals and ’8′ is considered the luckiest amount.  CNY is also not complete without eating, eating, eating.


Yee Sang Prosperity Dish

Yee Sang Prosperity Dish

Families and friends will meet and share meals such as steam boat, exchange gifts such as oranges and sweets and will complete a ceremony tossing the yee sang.  Yee Sang translates to ‘raw fish’ and also when it’s pronounced it also means ‘increasing’ – therefore this is a properity  and good luck dish.  It comes with different types of stripped vegetables (papaya, carrot, ginger), crackers, drizzled with sauce, oil and sprinkled with strips of raw fish and five spice powder.  As it’s prepared they bless the food.  Everybody gets their chop sticks and at the same time toss the ingredients together and say your prosperity wish for the year.  Then of course you eat it!


It’s a very superstitious time of year. Most businesses will close down during the CNY period and they will have a fortune teller come to them and advise which day they need to open up again in order to have a prosperous year.  (of course all the employees hope they get a few extra days off!)


Here is the Kumquat tree outside my apartment

In Feng Shui, miniature Kumquat trees are usually purchased at the beginning of the CNY and positioned each side of the front door to attract abundance. The golden fruits are considered lucky because the word kumquat sounds like gold in Cantonese.  The thing’s i’ve learned: Do: buy a tree for a valued client  Don’t: eat the kumquats.  (I have to share a funny story with you – my first year in Singapore when my ‘good luck’ trees arrived I was eating them!  I love kumquats – I used to grab one every time I walked in or out of my apartment block – and I nearly harvested them all to make kumquat jam.  Can you imagine… all the aunties would have killed me)

There are lots of fireworks, fire crackers, burning incense and lion dances everywhere.

Other important rituals to observe:


  • Greet each other with ” Gung Hay Fat Choy” which meas “Wishing you prosperity and wealth”
  • Give two lee see’s (red packets) to each child as happiness comes in two
  • Wear brand new clothes (preferably red)


  • Wash your hair
  • Sweep the floor
  • Greet people who are mourning
  • Drop your chopsticks
  • Say the number ‘four’ as it means death and also don’t mention death
  • Borrow or lend money

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