There is a superstition, especially prevalent in Chinese culture, that it is bad luck to wash your hair on New Year’s Day. This belief likely stems from the idea that washing one’s hair will wash away good luck, wealth, and prosperity for the coming year.
The Origins and Explanations Behind This Superstition
This superstition has its roots in Chinese culture and language.
The Chinese Wordplay
In Chinese, the word for “hair” (fa) sounds similar to the words for “prosperity” or “wealth” (cai). As a result, there arose a folk belief that washing one’s hair on New Year’s Day would literally wash away one’s good fortune for the year.
This superstition is particularly strong in southern China. However, the idea manifests in different ways across the country. For example, some believe that washing hair on New Year’s will wash away general luck, not just financial prosperity.
More broadly, hair represents cleanliness and purity. The act of washing hair on the new year symbolizes wiping the slate clean from the previous year. This symbolic cleansing is seen as getting rid of both bad and good luck.
Following and Challenging the Superstition
Many Chinese families still avoid washing hair on the holiday. However, challenges to the custom are rising.
Adherence for Tradition’s Sake
Most who follow the superstition do so simply because it is tradition. They have done it for years and continue even without a firm belief. After all, avoiding hair washing for a day causes no harm.
Shifting Attitudes Among Youth
Modernization and globalization impacts traditions. As science explains superstitions as false, the newer generations increasingly see old customs as silly rather than significant.
Seeking Luck Through Action
Some believe luck should be obtained proactively rather than passively avoiding bad luck on New Year’s. These healthy attitudes focus on working hard and bettering oneself instead of relying on chance.
Alternative Practices and Beliefs
For those who wish to observe the spirit of the superstition without leaving hair dirty, there are alternatives. There are also unrelated practices people follow globally to attract luck in the new year.
Washing Hair Early or Late
To get clean hair while honoring the lore, one can wash their hair earlier on New Year’s Eve or wait until January 2nd. Using dry shampoo is another simple solution.
Unrelated New Year’s Superstitions
Beyond the hair washing myth, cultures worldwide have good luck traditions. These include:
- Eating black-eyed peas
- Wearing new underwear
- Kissing at midnight
- Avoiding broken glass
- Throwing salt over shoulders
In the end, although washing hair on New Year’s is no real curse, the lore reminds people to reflect on what truly builds prosperity: diligence, ethical action, and seizing each new day. It is human ideas and choices that determine our collective fate, not rituals or chance.
The belief that washing hair on the new year brings misfortune is ultimately just folklore. However, the philosophy within highlights what does create success: wise reflection and earnest initiative. Superstitions may color cultural holidays, but human character and conduct is what changes destiny.