As we approach, Chinese New Years and celebrate the Year of the Rooster, I wanted to pop into the blog and remind you about some etiquette around gift giving.
What NOT to give as gifts during Chinese New Year!
1. Sharp Objects — Cut Off Relationship
While still a lovely housewarming or wedding shower gift, a gorgeous Cutco carving knife set is not ideal for Chinese New year. Giving somebody a sharp object insinuates that you want to cut off your relationship with them; clearly, I may assume NOT the intention of any gift.
A common Chinese saying goes “one slash and its in two parts” to mean the end of a relationship between people, therefore sharp objects are not a good idea.
2. The Number 4 — Sounds Like Death
In Chinese, the number four (四 sì /srr/) sounds similar to the word for death (死 sǐ). Therefore, anything with the number 4 is considered unlucky — do not give gifts in either sets or multiples of four.
3. Shoes — Evil
Say it isn’t so…. How could these precious adorable Fluevog’s ever be a bad idea… well, only when you are giving them for a present for Chinese New Year. The word for ‘shoes’ (鞋 xié /syeah/) sounds exactly like a word for bad luck or ‘evil’ (邪 xié).
On top of that, shoes are something that you step on, and are thus not good gifts. Avoid shoes at all costs.
4. Handkerchiefs — A Symbol of Saying Goodbye Forever
People generally give handkerchiefs at the end of a funeral, and are a symbol of saying goodbye forever. Giving someone a gift like this insinuates you are saying goodbye forever, and severing all ties. Not sure why we would give a GIFT to say goodbye but I guess it sends a clearer messages than unfriending them on FaceBook or not answering their calls and texts.
5. Clocks — Bad Luck
In Chinese, saying ‘giving a clock’ (送钟 sòng zhōng /song jong/) sounds exactly like the Chinese words for ‘attending a funeral ritual’ (送终 sòng zhōng) and thus it is bad luck to gift clocks or watches.
On top of that, clocks and watches also symbolize the running out of time. This is especially true for seniors. Giving a clock or watch as a gift is the biggest no-no in Chinese culture.
Ok then, for people you value & want to around for a longtime…
“NO CLOCKS for you!!”; said with love.
Giving fruit is a good thing, but pears are taboo. This is because the Chinese word for ‘pears’ (梨 lí /lee/) sounds the same as the word for leaving or ‘parting’ (离 lí).
Yes, even your treasured yummy Asian Pears are not a good idea… I asked.
7. Cut Flowers — Presents for Funerals
Cut flowers are generally presents for funerals, so do not give them on Chinese New Year! This is especially so for Yellow Chrysanthemums, lilies. roses and any white flowers, which represent death. White is an unlucky (funeral) color in Chinese culture, so white flowers should be avoided.
Even those funky & trendy or hip and stylish umbrellas available at The Umbrella Shop downtown or at Granville Island are a bad idea to give as gifts, because the Chinese word for ‘umbrella’ (伞 sǎn /san/) sound like the word for ‘breaking up’ (散 sàn). Giving somebody an umbrella may insinuate that you feel your relationship with them has fallen apart.
(Even for ill prepared guests visiting our infamously rainy city, umbrella are a NO-NO… just have extras available at home for them to borrow and use)
9. Black or White Objects — Often Used in Funerals
Black and White are important colors in funerals, so avoid presents that are largely black or largely white, including that gorgeous black and white polka dot wrapping paper or envelopes you recently purchased.
Red, however, is believed to be a festive and fortunate color, so red is always a great option for envelopes, or gift wrapping or any gift.
10. Mirrors — Attract Ghosts
Mirrors are a bad idea for gifts throughout much of Asia year round, as they are believed to attract malicious ghosts. On top of that, they are easily broken and breaking things is a bad omen.
So in conclusion, avoid mirrors.
If you are honouring distinguished guests, business clients or friends during the Chinese New Year festivities, please keep these few tips in mind.
Do you have any other cultural gift giving questions? Please don’t hesitate to ask.