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Beyond the Huat: Taiwan’s Lunar New Year

By Dorcas, OMF SG Missionary to Taiwan

Did you know that here in Taiwan, the Lunar Lunar New Year isn’t just a two days-long celebration – it’s a whole week of festive fun, running from the 8th to the 14th of February.

But wait, there’s a twist! The yellow trash trucks take a holiday too, so you’ve got to get your garbage game plan sorted in advance.

In Taiwan, as Lunar New Year approaches, it’s a tradition for people to head to the bustling annual New Year Market. There, they shop for all sorts of auspicious goodies, like colourful candies, sticky rice, dried ingredients, festive clothing, and those classic red-and-gold decorations. It’s a lively scene filled with excitement and anticipation for the upcoming celebrations!

The festivities kick off with Little New Year’s Eve or 小年夜, where Taiwanese return to their family homes and begin their religious traditions that is based on the traditional lunisolar Chinese Calendar.

Lunar New Year’s Eve is marked by family gatherings, religious worship, and a symbolic reunion dinner with dishes representing various wishes for the coming year. Red packets, a tradition in Taiwan, are given by those who have entered the workforce and established income (unlike Singapore, red packet are traditionally given out by married couples). The number 4 is avoided in these red packets as it is considered unlucky.

“Guarding the year” (守歲) is a significant tradition where families stay up together until the first day of the new year to preserve their parents’ longevity. The new year begins with firecrackers and pasting of spring couplets.

On the first day, people rise early and embark on “Spring Visits” (走春), exchanging greetings and well-wishes with friends and neighbours. The second day holds importance for “returning to the maternal family” or “visiting the in-laws,” bringing gifts in pairs.

There’s a saying that goes, “初一早、初二早,初三睏到飽”. It is believed that the third day is when rats get married, so it’s customary to sleep in and avoid disturbing the rats. Traditionally, people will sprinkle rice, salt, and pastries in corners of their homes, symbolising hopes for a bountiful harvest in the coming year.

Various taboos exist during this time, including refraining from sweeping the floor, taking out the garbage, or eating porridge on the first day. If one chooses to sweep the floor during the New Year, it’s advised to sweep from the outside towards the inside, not the other way around. Using sharp objects and washing clothes or hair during the new year period is also discouraged due to their potential impact on fortune.

In summary, Taiwan’s Lunar New Year is a vibrant and elaborate celebration filled with traditions, taboos, and a week-long festive atmosphere that encompasses family, community, and cultural practices.

Written by Dorcas Koh

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