Get rid of dust and debts before the New Year.
Much like Filipinos, the Chinese make sure to clear out their houses — and their debts — at least a few days before the New Year. This is to symbolically banish misfortune, and allow good fortune to enter the house, at the same time.
However, the same shouldn't be done on New Year's Day itself. Otherwise, the dust swept out will take good fortune along with it, and the money used to pay debts will hemorrhage from one's bank account for the rest of the year. As the old saying goes, timing is everything!
Lay out oranges and tangerines for prosperity.
Again like Filipinos, the Chinese pick out a certain number — and type — of fruit to set out come the New Year. But unlike Filipinos, the Chinese don't just pick out any round fruit. Instead, they choose oranges and tangerines in particular.
The reason is that the Chinese word for "orange" sounds the same as the word for "wealth," while the word for "tangerine" is a homophone for "luck." That's why you'll often see New Year's visitors to Chinese homes carrying bags of oranges and tangerines, so that the recipients will enjoy good luck and fortune throughout the year.
Decorate the house with lanterns and other prosperity symbols.
The lantern is probably the most recognizable of the Chinese New Year symbols. Usually colored red and gold, Chinese lanterns are hung outside homes (and in malls owned by businessmen of Chinese descent) to ensure prosperity and long life. The lanterns also take center stage at the Lantern Festival, which takes place 15 days after the Chinese New Year.
Aside from lanterns, the Chinese have many other symbols of health, prosperity, and good fortune. For instance, images of fish are also used as decors during the New Year, since the word for "fish" has the same pronunciation as that for "abundance." Likewise, yuanbao — also known as sycee — are gold/silver boatlike ingots (with a bump in the middle) that are laid around the house to symbolize wealth as well.
Deck the house with flowers too.
If you visit a Chinese house around the New Year, you'll notice that it smells good. That's because the Chinese use a variety of flowers to attract all sorts of good vibes to their homes.
For example, peach blossoms are scattered around the house to attract romance and prosperity, while plum blossoms are used to bolster courage and endurance. Orchids encourage a family to have many children, red peonies enhance riches and honor, and narcissus flowers draw wealth and luck.
Wear red clothes and accessories.
In Chinese culture, red is the color of joy and luck. That's why it's worn on happy occasions like the New Year, and not on sad occasions like funerals. To complement their red outfits (and perhaps to enhance luck as well), the Chinese also wear red accessories on the New Year.
After dressing in red, the Chinese visit the nearest temple to light candles and pray. In Binondo, the residents go to the Seng Guan and Kuang Kong temples, though there are other smaller places where they can ask to have their wishes granted by the gods.
Feast on symbols of luck, wealth, and happiness.
Although tikoy (glutinous rice cake) is the most famous Chinese New Year cuisine, it's not the only special food for a special day. There's also pancit (fried noodles) for long life, hopia (round pastry filled with sweet bean paste) for wealth, and sweets offered in octagon-shaped containers for luck and togetherness (since 8 is the luckiest number in Chinese culture), among others.
Just as there are things you should do during the Chinese New Year, there are also things you shouldn't do.
For instance, washing hair on the first and second day of the New Year is a no-no. That's because the Chinese word for "hair" sounds the same as the word for "riches," so washing hair is effectively the same as washing away good fortune. (Moral of the story: Always take note of homophones!)
Likewise, using sharp tools like needles and knives should be avoided. Because these tools can prick and cut, respectively, it's believed that they can also cut wealth and fortune for the rest of the year. In other words, if you have any tasks that require the use of sharp objects, be sure to complete them before the New Year.
So far, that's eight items for luck. (See what we did there?) For more fascinating info on Filipino culture, keep it here on Enjoy Makati!