For many people, especially ladies, every weekend is shoe shopping time. But in the last week of the lunar year, there are even more reasons to buy shoes. First, it is customary to buy new outfits for the new year, so it is not surprising that even non-shopaholics will buy new shoes at this time. Second, most shoe shops offer high discounts right before Chinese New Year, so it is a good time to get a good bargain on shoes. That brings us to the third reason which is the cause for this discount: Traditionally, shoe shops were closed throughout the Chinese New Year period, sometimes for up to two weeks, so owners needed to make up for the two weeks of no business during CNY, and competition led to higher discounts right before the CNY.
So why did shoe shops use to close for such a long period of time during CNY? The answer is simple, because buying shoes is one of the big don’ts during the CNY period. But that was in the past. Nowadays, only a few small, traditional shoe shops still close for over a week. All the international brands stay open and still gets tons of customers during CNY, thanks to non-Cantonese speaking tourists.
Technically, buying shoes is bad luck only for the Cantonese speaking world, mostly in Macao and Hong Kong, because it has to do with the Cantonese pronunciation of shoes (鞋 = haai), which sounds like a sigh.
The new year has to be celebrated energetically with new hopes and resolutions. It is believed that if one sighs at the beginning of the new year bad luck follows, and he or she will be demotivated and unenergetic for the whole year. So for us Cantonese speakers, not only are we not allowed to sigh during New Year, we should definitely not “buy sigh (shoes).” But for those who are not superstitious, the best time to buy shoes is actually during the week of CNY, because whatever was not sold out before CNY will be even cheaper.
Aside from buying shoes, there are a few other things we need to be aware of which may bring bad luck upon the whole year. One of my favorite don’ts is not to sweep or dust one’s abode. The superstition is that if we sweep and throw out garbage during the CNY period, we may be kicking out the god of fortune. Although I cannot understand how dust and dirt in my apartment has anything to do with the Chinese god of fortune, I strongly abide by this rule. It is the one time in a year I can tell my husband that I “cannot” clean the apartment with good reason, instead of “I do not want to because I am lazy.”
Another forbidden act during the first days of the CNY is washing one’s hair. Like buying shoes, this superstition also has to do with Cantonese pronunciation. Hair (髮 fast) and prosperity (發 faat) are pronounced exactly the same, so by washing one’s hair, it is feared that one’s prosperity for the year will also be washed away.
We are not big on cutting anything during CNY either. Hair cutting is obviously a don’t, but even cutting one’s nails may cause our prosperity to be cut away. Another saying is not just about the cutting, but that the use of sharp objects during CNY will result in the misfortune of injury that year.
It is hard to understand why we need to keep our apartment, hair, and nails dirty and overgrown in the beginning of the year to have prosperity. But whether you chose to follow these CNY don’ts or not, I wish you a prosperous year of the Pig!