Relocating to China? What You Need to Know About Lunar New Year 2019 - Year of the Pig
On February 5th 2019, we welcome the start of The Year of The Pig in the Lunar New Year! The pig is the twelfth in the 12-year cycle of Chinese zodiac signs. According to one myth, the Jade Emperor said the zodiac order would be decided by the order in which they arrived to his party. Unfortunately, the pig was late because he overslept and was the last to arrive!
In Chinese culture, pigs are the symbol of wealth and their chubby faces and big ears are signs of fortune. Past Years of the Pig include: 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995 and 2007.
Challenges for Relocation
As well as being one of the world's most prominent and celebrated festivals, Lunar New Year is also the cause of the world’s largest annual mass migration. According to China News, 85 million people are expected to leave the major cities to visit their families in rural parts of the country. Traveling during this time can be very stressful and challenging, with airports, roads, and trains overcrowded and uncomfortable. With this in mind it’s not surprising that nearly all companies avoid relocating employees during this time, with many avoiding the weeks leading up to and after the New Year too!
International assignees using public transport in China over the holidays should be aware that train and bus stations can become very crowded. If you plan to drive, allow extra time for your journey as there will be heavy congestion on all major roads. Fortunately, this situation is set to improve in the coming years as China steadily expands its high-speed rail network.
What You Need to Know About Lunar New Year
Lunar New Year can be celebrated by everyone, so here are a few superstitions to avoid over the holidays if you would like to be blessed with good luck throughout 2019…
Do not say negative words. All words with negative connotations are forbidden! These include: death, sick, empty, pain, ghost, poor, break, and kill. You wouldn’t want to jinx yourself or bring those misfortunes onto you and your loved ones.
Do not break ceramics or glass. Breaking things will break your connection to prosperity and fortune. If a plate or bowl is dropped, immediately wrap it with red paper while murmuring auspicious phrases, including asking for peace and security every year. After the New Year, throw the wrapped up shards into a lake or river.
Do not clean or sweep. Before the start of the New Year, there is a day of cleaning to sweep away bad luck. During the celebrations, cleaning becomes taboo as it may sweep away good luck. If you must, be sure to start at the outer edge of a room and sweep inwards, then bag up any garbage and throw it away after the fifth day. Similarly, you shouldn’t take a shower on Lunar New Year’s Day.
Do not use scissors, needles or other sharp objects. There are two reasons behind this rule. First, it was to give women a well-deserved break from chores like sewing. Second, sharp objects in general will cut your stream of wealth and success. This is why the majority of hair salons are closed during the holidays.
Do not visit a wife’s family. Traditionally after marriage, the bride moves into the groom’s family home and will celebrate Lunar New Year with her in-laws. Returning to her parent’s home on New Year’s Day indicates marriage problems and may also bring bad luck to the entire family. Couples should instead visit the wife’s family on the second day of the New Year.
Do not demand debt repayment. This custom is a show of understanding. It allows everyone a chance to celebrate without worry. If you knock on someone’s door demanding repayment, you’ll bring bad luck to both parties.
Avoid fighting and crying. Unless there is a special circumstance, try not to cry. All issues should be solved peacefully. In the past, neighbors would come over to play peacemaker for any arguments that occurred. This is to ensure a smooth path throughout the year.
Do not give New Year blessings to someone still in bed. Wait until the recipient has got out of bed before wishing them a happy new year, otherwise superstition dictates that they’ll be bed-ridden for the entire year. You also should avoid telling someone to wake up. You don’t want them to be rushed and bossed around for the year. So take advantage of this rule and sleep in!
Chinese gift-giving taboos. If you are bringing a gift to someone’s house in China, be aware that some items are considered bad luck whatever time of year it is! Clocks for example are considered one of the worst gifts you could offer someone as the word ‘clock’ is a homophone of ‘paying one’s last respects’ (送终). ‘Splitting pears’ (分梨—fèn lí) also sounds similar to ‘separation’ (分离). Some gift taboos are regional. For example, in Mandarin, ‘apple’ (苹果) is pronounced píng guǒ. But in Shanghainese, it is bing1 gu, which sounds like ‘passed away from sickness’.
Formed over thousands of years, these taboos embody the beliefs, wishes and worries of the Chinese people and should be respected by international assignees, especially when socialising with locals.
We hope you all have an auspicious Lunar New Year and may blessings be upon you and your family!