Expats in China embrace Chinese New Year customs and traditions

Published:  27 Jan at 6 PM
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Chinese traditions and superstitions connected with the New Year celebrations are fascinating and fun, with many expats joining in the festivities.

The customs connected with the Chinese New Year go back several thousands of years, and the festival itself causes the world’s largest migration as millions and millions of Chinese travel to their family homes to be with their loved ones and observe all the highly-respected traditions Many expatriates who’ve lived and worked in China for a while have come to appreciate the country’s unique superstitions and rituals, most of which are linked with long life, money, respect for the household gods and for the pantheon of traditional deities.

This year, a group of expats in Beijing decided to follow one tradition, that of getting a haircut just before New Year. The cutting of hair during the celebration, also known as the Spring Festival, is totally avoided by the Chinese people, as it’s thought to bring bad luck. In Chinese, the word for haircut is ‘jiantoufa’, with the ‘jian’ character meaning ‘cut’ and the ‘fa’ character meaning ‘get rich’, inferring that cutting hair in the new year might be cutting wealth. As a result, the Chinese get their hair cut in advance of the festival.

Britney Caraway decided to join in the tradition the week before the festival as she’d seen it the previous year. She told the Global Times it was one way she could embrace Chinese culture, although she’s not a true believer in superstition. Richard Ammerman had his hair cut in the street whilst sipping a beer, shivering in the cold wind, and enjoying the hot blow drier used to finish off the cut.

American Terry Crossman has lived in Beijing for 35 years and is known as an expert on Chinese customs and culture, including everything connected with the Spring Festival. He understands haircutting in the street is all part of local cultural traditions, however cold the northern Chinese winter can be, and cleans and decorates his apartment on New Year’s Eve, as do his Chinese neighbours.
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