Red is IN, black is OUT
Bright and cheery colours are welcome for the festive season, especially the colour red. As the story goes, there was a creature named Nian which went around terrorising the people. However, the people discovered that Nian was afraid of the colour red and ran away upon seeing red, literally. Therefore decorative items and festive clothes are red in colour during CNY to keep Nian out. No matter how cool wearing black is, it’s a no-no when you go visiting. Black is associated with bad luck or death.
Mandarin oranges are exchanged together with blessings spoken over the recipient for good fortune. They are always given in pairs. The younger generation would normally offer these to their elders. Married couples also exchange mandarin oranges together with an ang pow. It is also good to note to give and to receive with both hands.
Red packets aka Ang pows
Married couples give out ang pows containing money (people exchange for new dollar notes at the bank for CNY too) to those who are single and other married couples. This is why kids love CNY – $ to buy cool stuff! In exchange, the singles would give mandarin oranges with a word of blessing. There is no minimum or maximum amount to give in the ang pow, but normally an even numbered amount is given. Just a note – opening up an ang pow in front of the giver is considered rude.
Chinese phrases of blessings are exchanged between each other during CNY. Since it’s the year of the horse according according to the Chinese zodiac calendar, many phrases are spoken containing the word ‘horse’. Even if something bad happens (such as vomiting on the floor in the video), people will still find something positive to say.
Here are some blessing phrases in the video and commonly used during CNY that you can pick up:
身体健康 (shen ti jian kang): To wish good health
万事如意 (wan shi ru yi): To wish that everything will go as the person desires
步步高升 (bu bu gao sheng): To wish progress
新年快乐 (xin nian kuai le): To wish happy new year
财源广进 (cai yuan guang jin): To wish wealth
Bak kwa (aka beef jerky in the video)
Bak kwa stands for meat slices. Originally, bak kwa was just available in pork, but more recently chicken bak kwa has been added. The barbecued meat is sweet and fragrant and the slightly burnt portions portions give it an extra oomph. It’s available all year round, but people here normally eat it during CNY. To get to know other CNY snacks, click here.
Greeting the elders
Normally, ‘auntie’ and ‘uncle’ are used to address people a generation older than you. But this should only be used if they are a friend’s parents, or if they are the people working in the service line, such as the taxi drivers or staff at a hawker centre. In a business setting, address your associates by name.
Click here to read up on the activities that people do during Chinese New Year visiting!