10 Things to be Avoided as Chinese New Year Gifts
Whether a gift is good or not may differ in the eyes of givers and recipients. In choosing a Chinese New Year gift, one should know basic Chinese social norms on taboo gifts and some local customs; otherwise a thoughtful gift in your eyes might embarrass the receiver and harm your relationship. Here list the most commonly seen 10 things that should not be chosen as Chinese New Year gifts, and some highly possible gift giving mistakes as reminders.
Sharp Stuff – cut off relationship
Sharp objects like knifes, swords, and scissors should be avoided, for they suggest a relationship to be cut off. If you give these stuff to others, it means that you are going to break off with the receivers.
Clock – end & death
The Chinese pronunciation of ‘clock’ (钟 zhōng) is the same with that of ‘end’ (终 zhōng). The latter one usually suggests a person’s death, so presenting a clock as a Chinese New Year gift is a taboo. The recipients will get irritated.
Umbrella – split, separate
As many superstitions are associated with the homophones in China, the word for ‘umbrella’ (伞 sǎn) sounds the same with the word ‘split’ (散 sàn). Therefore, it is a thing foreboding separation with friends, which is also a thankless gift, especially for boyfriend or girlfriend.
Mirror – fragile, easy to incur misfortune
During Chinese New Year or other festivals, people seldom give mirrors as gift out of two reasons. One is that mirrors are fragile, and breaking a mirror is usually an omen of relationship breakdown. The other reason is related with the old Chinese Feng Shui culture. Mirror is an important tool to change a house’s Feng Shui layout, so if a mirror is placed in a wrong direction, the misfortune will come.
Pear – separation
Fruits are common Chinese New Year gifts, but some of them are not welcomed. For example, pears, just like umbrella, insinuate families’ or friends’ permanent separation, which doesn’t fit the joyful atmosphere during festivals. Therefore, when choosing gifts for your lover or parents, pears should be avoided.
Chrysanthemum – death & funeral
Sending flowers is favorable, but it is restricted in different occasions. In China, chrysanthemums, especially yellow and white ones, are mostly associated with occasions like funerals or mourning ceremonies for the deceased. If you visit a friend with chrysanthemums during the Chinese New Year, you will be surely kicked out of his/her house.
Shoes – evil
The Chinese character for ‘shoes’ (鞋 xié) has a homophone, ‘evil’ (邪 xié). People link these two words together, so shoes get an ominous meaning. Giving somebody a pair of shoes equals sending evil to others. Be careful, your friends might be out of contact on account of getting a pair of shoes from you.
Wallet – send your fortune away
Wallet or purse stands for one’s wealth, so choosing them as gifts is an omen of sending your fortune away. However, giving a wallet to your husband or wife is fine; anyway you share the same household wealth with each other.
Belt, Tie and Underwear – too intimate
Some personal items like belts, ties, underwear or necklaces are improper to give to ordinary friends as Chinese New Year gifts. Such a present usually leaves a hint that you want to develop a more intimate relationship with others, like boyfriend and girlfriend relationship.
Hat – white: death; green: disloyalty
People will wear white hats in China when their elder family members pass away. Besides, a green hat usually satirizes a man who has a disloyal wife, which would be a deadly insult to the receivers. Hence, hats are usually out of people’s gift list.
Further Reading on Taboo Gifts in China:
Anything in Number 4 – death
In Chinese, ‘four’ (四 sì) has the similar pronunciation with ‘death’ (死 sǐ), so things related to number 4 are evaded by Chinese people as much as possible. Some buildings even do not have the 4th floor.
Anything in Black or White - funeral
Black and white are major colors used in a Chinese funeral. When choosing Chinese New Year gifts, you are supposed to give up on these two taboo colors.
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