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Folk Customs Relating to New Homes

Guangzhou people tend to stay in the same house for an extended period of time. There are popular sayings that "Three moves leave the home empty and fire would smother if moved three times", and that "Frequent moves deplete grain stocks". According to ancient traditions, a home house should not sit empty. Historically, people believed that a new home in a strange location was prone to disasters and vulnerable to attacks by evil spirits. Thus, people would hire a Buddhist monk to slaughter chicken and dogs in the depth of night in hopes of frightening away evil spirits. A newly completed house should be immediately occupied. If this proved impractical, clothes should be hung on the beams as a sign of occupancy, lest evil spirits would make their home here. This custom has long been abolished.

People usually move into a new home on a carefully selected auspicious day. The head of the family would invite an elderly couple from the same clan who have many offspring to open the door of their new home. The invited couple would each stand on one side of the door; and after the sacrificial ceremony to the Door God, in the midst of crackle of firecrackers, the invited couple would chant "The left door opens, and wealth comes; the right door opens, and fortune arrives; the family will have both many offspring and greater affluence".

When the door opens, all members of the family would enter in a particular sequence. The first one to enter carried the burning furnace from their old home, in keeping with the ancient custom of fire worshipping. The second one carried grains, the third one tofu and fermented rice cakes, the fourth one a cage of hens and chicken …… This symbolized that the family would prosper and enjoy a life of affluence in their new home. Other people following the family into the new house carried furniture and household utensils; they were not supposed to enter empty-handed.

On the day of moving into their new home, the head of the family would invite elders in the same clan, siblings and relatives to a celebration. And the invited people would give a housewarming gift, such as a sofa, ceiling lamp, TV set, refrigerator, and another household appliance. The gift is sent with celery, garlic, tofu, steamed cake, firecrackers, and red paper, symbolizing that the family would prosper through hard work. And the family would host a banquet to thank their relatives and friends, and masons, carpenters and helpers who had been involved in the construction of the new house would be invited as well.

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