Translation Musings: Chinese New Year – what not to buy

Feb 18, 2015 | World events

chinese lanternAs we reach another Chinese New Year, maybe you are thinking of buying someone a new year gift? Here are a few hints for Chinese New Year pressies!

DON’T buy any sharp objects. Now, I can’t really imagine a scenario where you would want to buy a sharp object for someone (maybe the ‘cut anything’ knives? But no, really, no). But particularly for this occasion – it signifies that you want to cut off your relationship with the gift receiver. Ah, so now I can see a scenario… Pears also fall into this category – although fruit is generally good, the word for pear  (梨 lí/lee) is very similar sounding to the word for parting (离 lí).

DO buy tea! Who doesn’t like a nice cup of tea? Put it in a nice box and wrap it beautifully – a perfect gift.

DON’T buy cut flowers. Now this is a bit of a present failsafe for most occasions, in the UK anyway,  but, in China, cut flowers are generally reserved for funerals so best avoided at New Year.

DO buy alcohol. Apart from the obvious, the word for alcohol (酒 jiu/lee) is very similar sounding to the word for long lasting (久 jiu).

DON’T buy black or white objects. Again, these are important for funerals so to be avoided, even in the wrapping paper.

DO, however, buy red objects. Red is a very festive and lucky colour so a great option.

Wishing you a happy and prosperous Year of the Sheep!

Thanks to China Highlights
image credit: image credit: dcubillas @