While it’s no easy feat to pick the perfect gift, the one thing you don’t want to give is bad luck, aka the ultimate relationship killer, as there are various superstitions attached to gift-giving etiquettes especially here in China.
Don’t panic. The stakes are much lower when you know what not to do. That’s why we compiled a list of the worst possible gift ideas to avoid. Take heed and steer clear of these big no-nos for giving presents on Chinese festivals.
You may hope it’s a sentimental reminder of your enduring relationship but giving a clock is a portent of impending doom. The phrase for giving a clock, 送钟 sòng zhōng, is a homophone for attending someone’s funeral, 送终 sòng zhōng. It also signifies that time is running out and your relationship is headed for doom. If you don’t want to leave your loved one feel cursed, lay off clocks, watches and yes, to be safe, sundials of any type.
You may feel the luck on St Patrick's Day but not so much in China. The Chinese phrase for ‘wearing a green hat’ 戴绿帽子 dài lǜ mào zi, is a euphemism for a guy whose spouse is cheating on him. Hence green headwear is a fashion no-go and offering it to married men is especially a taboo for the Chinese. Though no one seems to know the origin of the superstition, it’s said to date back to the Yuan dynasty when the male relatives of prostitutes were forced to wear green headscarves as a sign of lower class. Your friends definitely won't appreciate this one, especially if they're getting married any time soon.
Knife-giving superstitions and beliefs surrounding sharp objects are found in and outside China. The most common of which is that it means cutting the relationship short if you give someone knives or scissors. But apparently the superstition can be averted, if you include a coin with the gift. Alternatively, if you really want to get a budding chef or a partner a set of ginsus, you could always buy gift vouchers...
Shoes in Chinese, 鞋 xié, is a homophone for evil, 邪 xié, and so giving someone a pair of shoes might link them with devilish spirits and is thought to be unlucky. Others also believe it signifies that the receiver will walk away from the gift-giver – clearly not the best gift idea if you’re trying to win someone over…
A basket of fruits is nice but it doesn’t always warrant a fruitful relationship. Similarly, pear in Chinese 梨 lí, is a homophone for leaving, 离 lí. Thus gifting the fruit is akin to sending someone off, which could symbolise a break-up or the end of a friendship.
Umbrellas and fans
Offering umbrella and fans as a gift might not be perceived as an innocent gesture either, as it may insinuate you’re falling out of love with your partner – because umbrellas, 伞 sǎn, and fans, 扇 shàn, are both a homophone for 散 sàn, which means going your separate ways.
Hankies are used to wipe away tears in funeral settings. So to give a handkerchief to someone is a bad omen for plenty of tears to come in your relationship. Opt for scarves instead, if you want to keep tears of sadness at bay.