Chinese New Year is a time for family, friends, and age-old traditions - and there are many superstitious beliefs behind the festivities & rituals.
House cleaning - the entire house is cleaned before New Year's day. Then all brooms, dusters & cleaning gear is put away! Cleaning is strictly forbidden, for fear that good fortune might be swept away. Sweeping resumes after the holidays are over. This is a time to put up your feet and relax! ......I think I like this one.
Firecrackers - the Chinese way of sending out the old year and welcoming the new, as well as scaring away any evil spirits. At midnight, all doors & windows are opened to allow the old year to "go out," and good luck to come in freely. Also, staying awake all night might give your parents a longer, healthier life. These firecrackers last for about 2 weeks!
All debts are paid - start the year off right, without any debts owed. Nothing should be lent on this day. There is a belief that any activity you participate in will be perpetuated the entire year thru, so many avoid such predicaments as lending, cleaning, arguing, crying, etc. Children are often tolerated during this time, and never spanked even though they might be mischievous. Your attitude sets the tone for the entire year ahead.
Refrain from foul language - especially unlucky words like "four" as it sounds like the word for death. Ghost stories, death & dying are also taboo conversations.
Personal appearance - everyone dons new clothing, shoes and many people wear red - the lucky color, inferring a bright future and will scare away any evil spirits. You are not supposed to wash your hair on New Year's Day, so you don't wash away any good luck.
Songbirds - it is a very lucky thing to hear songbirds, red-colored birds or swallows singing outside. Everyone always greets each other with kind words!
Knives & scissors are not used - so as not to cut off any good fortune. Any sort of sharp object is avoided, even hairdressers.
Eating candy - this is said to bring a sweeter year ahead!
Red envelopes - young children are given red envelopes with new, crisp money inside - for good fortune. They are often given in pairs.
While some people do not fully believe these taboos/lucky signs - these traditions are still practiced and can provide continuity with the past & provide the family with greater cultural identity. I think many people throughout the world are like this - which really makes me think about the holiday traditions we choose to perpetuate without truly thinking of their meaning & significance. At the same time its so fun to learn about other cultures and how they celebrate differently across the globe.