4 Tips To Help You Prepare For The Year Of The Rat 

Photo by Vernon Raineil Cenzon

Chinese New Year is one of the most important cultural festivals and celebrations not just for the Chinese community in Malaysia, but all over the world, including the large diaspora communities in countries such as the United States and Australia. In some countries it is referred to as the Spring Festival.

It’s the time when we bid farewell to the old, the past, and hope for the best from the future.

It’s also the time of the year when families reunite and gather, when familial ties are strengthened and reinforced. Relatives from afar meet; spouses celebrate with their in-laws, and this period is made even more special when there are new additions to the family.

Preparing for this special time requires careful planning, multi-tasking and shed-loads of patience.

Which is why we’re sharing a little bit of what we hope will be helpful to you — preparing for the Year of the Rat.

1. Clean Your House

Clean the house before the 30th day of the lunar month preceding the new month of the new lunar year. It is imperative that you take care of all the “throwing out” of whatever needs to be thrown out of the house (old clothes, old furnishings, spoiled linens, cushions, etc) before the start of the new year because there is a strong belief among celebrants that throwing anything out on the first day of the new year is akin to throwing out what good fortune might come your way. That means do not sweep, do not carry the bins out from the kitchen onto the rubbish collection area on the first day. There are many Chinese families that go that extra step and replace furniture or repaint the interior of the house or apartment. It is said some families believe old furniture invites bad fortune into the home.

Photo by deborah cortelazzi

2. Mandarin Oranges

Be sure to have an ample supply of mandarin oranges in the house. The Chinese New Year is a time when relatives, friends and members of both immediate and extended family (or even, to borrow a popular term, ‘blended families’) descend on your home (and other homes) and it is so important to have enough mandarin oranges on hand. Mandarin oranges are said to represent gold, and having oranges at home augurs well for your home to receive good fortune. Therefore, do make it a point to buy some nice decorative bowls in which to hold these lovely mandarin oranges, or you could keep them in boxes. Either way, you still need to create space in your home for these golden lovelies, so that your Spring Festival can be as fortune-friendly as possible. On that note, it is also said that a fully-stocked kitchen is an absolute must for those hosting loved ones at home on the first day of the new year. Hungry hordes become grumpy hordes when there isn’t enough food, and apparently no-one is allowed to swear or curse on the first day.

Photo by Jonathan Pielmayer

3. New Year, New Me

It is not just your home that needs spring cleaning and sprucing up — you do too! The new year is an opportunity for many to go shopping for new clothes and not feel bad about the extra splurge. More than that, though, buying new clothes signifies that your income-earning ability is healthy and you are able to replenish your wardrobe. On a more personal front, there are also some who hold the belief that one must not wash their hair beyond 11pm or midnight the night before.

4. Decorations

Beyond making your home conducive for family reunions and family gatherings (sounds like a lot of cleaning, decorating and tidying up), there are those who celebrate the Lunar New Year by placing pieces of paper, called tui lian 对联, that have been inscribed with good, optimistic and positive phrases such as ‘Every year you have steady fortune’, or just words such as ‘happiness’, wealth and health. These pieces of paper can be hung outside the home in a symbolic gesture to invite good luck and good fortune. That also means you should make sure gusts of wind, sudden tropical monsoon storms and Fluffy the Cat or Fido the Dog do not either blow these paper pieces away or chew them up. Be prepared. Make plenty. One can never have too much good luck or good fortune.

Photo by Humphrey Muleba

Red lanterns or red pineapples are favoured by some in conjunction with Chinese New Year. Specifically, these red lanterns and red pineapples are meant to be hung outside the home. Why? Because in Hokkien, red pineapple is ong lai 黄梨, which translates into ‘red come’ or ‘fortune come. In simple terms, you are beckoning good fortune.

Happy celebrating the Lunar New Year, folks!