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The Register encourages its readers to submit interesting questions, which will then be forwarded to an appropriate source within the University in search of the answer. Send questions via e-mail to asktheexperts@vanderbilt.edu, or via mail to “Ask the Experts” c/o the Vanderbilt Register, 110 21st Ave. S., Suite 708, Nashville, TN 37203.

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Q. What superstitions or traditions are associated with the Chinese New Year, which begins Feb. 1?

A. Lunar new year practices vary somewhat across China, but certain beliefs and traditions are fairly common. Shortly before the new year, the kitchen god’s mouth is smeared with a sweet, sticky substance. Since the kitchen god must give an annual accounting of the family to his superiors, it is hoped that he will either be unable to speak because his mouth is stuck shut, or that he will only say good things because of the sweetness in his mouth. It is also a common practice to sweep and clean the house before the new year. Fireworks welcome in the new year, for both apotropaic and festive reasons. Knives and scissors are kept hidden to prevent one’s luck from being cut off. It is also popular to eat dumplings, and children and single adults are given red envelopes with money. The holiday period is often considered to end with the lantern festival on the fifteenth day of the first month of the new year.

Source: Peter Lorge
Senior lecturer in history

Posted 1/31/03 at 10 a.m.