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Cutting Hair for Chinese Lunar New Year 

Informant Details

  1. Gender: Female
  2. Occupation: Student
  3. Nationality: Chinese-American

Folklore Genre: Holiday Ritual/Superstition

  1. Text

The informant explained a ritual done for the Chinese Lunar New Year. She said that people are supposed to cut their hair before the new year, and then not cut it for a while after the new year. It doesn’t matter how much is cut off – it can be just a trim. Sometimes she will go to a salon, but other times she cuts her hair herself. She has done this every year for as long as she can remember. Both women and men partake in this tradition. If you don’t cut your hair, the superstition is that you are carrying all of the bad things that happened to you in the past year into the new year. So, if you don’t cut your hair then you bring bad energy and bad luck into your future.

2. Context

The informant’s understanding of this ritual is that it signifies “out with the old, in with the new” because you cut off your dead ends to make room for the new growth in the new year. The informant was taught this ritual as a young child. She learned this from her Grandmother, who is from Guangzhou, China.

3. Analysis

This ritual embodies the principles of contact magic. The hair is believed to carry the energy of the past because it grew during that time period. By cutting off the ends of this older hair, the individual is able to move forwards without the weight of the past. In International Folkloristics, Dundes says “With Contact or Contagious magic, one can carry out an action on an element that was once touched by or connected to the designated target of a magical act.” (186) In this example, the hair was connected to the individual’s past. Therefore, cutting the hair is analogous to cutting energetic ties to the past.