The night before Chinese New Year, you bathe with pomelo leaf water.
KF: My mom makes this concoction of sorts–it’s like pomelo leaf water and I basically have to pour it onto myself from head to toe to cleanse myself, and it’s supposed to be to wash away any bad luck that I have and wash away any dirt and stuff, and bring new fortune for the good year. I do this every year.
KF performs this ritual the night before Chinese New Year. Bathing rituals are prominent in Chinese culture. This act of cleansing is supposed to ward off bad luck and provide one with a fresh start into the new year.
When we’re in a space that is rich with magic and superstition, it’s difficult to separate the mind and body. Bath rituals connect the two–by physically washing yourself, you’re also cleansing the spirit. This idea of an “embodied mind” reveals just how powerful belief is; the mind and body work together to provide the ritual its effect. The new year is a liminal time–a chance to make magic happen. The preparation for the new year, however, blocks out a period before the actual time in order to get ready to enter a new phase with a clear consciousness. For many people, this is the moment to start off on a fresh slate–past mistakes and mishaps can be washed away, and we can begin anew. There is this reference to cyclical time; we start the new year, navigate life, do things we may regret, and then cleanse ourselves of them before starting all over again.
These celebrations often present an opportunity to reconnect with our culture and engage in traditions that bring our family together. From personal experience, I sometimes feel detached from my cultural background, but during events like Chinese New Year, I find it very meaningful to participate in the customs and the magic of welcoming a new beginning. Rituals enable people to rekindle communal ties across language barriers and age differences–they signify something greater than the individual, thus encouraging everyone to take part in ensuring they’re performed correctly.