All Tea No Shade with Andrea Lo.
Kung hei fat choi! It’s Chinese New Year, and during this time — my favorite of the year — superstitious beliefs rule supreme.
Not that that’s a necessarily bad thing. To ensure a prosperous year ahead filled with luck and happiness, there are certain things we do and say, or avoid doing and saying. The most notable examples? Eating a variety of dishes with names that have special meaning, mostly for luck and fortune; not cleaning on the first day of the lunar new year (to avoid “sweeping” your luck away); not cutting, or even washing your hair through the first few days (because the Chinese word for “hair” rhymes with “prosper”).
Some companies arrange for lion dance performances in the office during the Chinese New Year period. Non-believers might dismiss it as baloney — an old coworker once went through the trouble of running through multiple floors in the building’s fire escape just to avoid the “noise”.
In the case of my lion dance-avoiding colleague, it’s possible that she just wanted to find a reason to slack off, but I think that if the superstition is not causing you major trouble, then why not go with the flow?
Growing up in the Chinese culture, our lives are ruled by superstitions, and not just during the lunar new year. Sometimes they can go into overdrive — just last week, I had to sit through a 40-minute heated discussion between my mom and brother in a cab as they debated travel dates, based on advice given from her feng shui master. In other situations they might sound almost laughable, like that time I needed a clock: my mom got me one, and because gifting someone with the timepiece rhymes with “sending someone to their death”, I tried to pay her a symbolic $1 to signify that I had “bought” it from her.
Most of the time, though, I think there’s something quite nice to these beliefs.
By coincidence, I’ve just had a statue of Guanyin, or Goddess of Mercy, put in my apartment a few weeks ago, for luck and protection. My por por came over to perform a ceremony before placing the statue. There is now something of a small shrine where the statue sits, in my study. Even though I’m not religious, I asked for this statue because for me, it provides a certain inner peace inside the home. And every day, when I tend to the offerings around Guanyin, I do feel a lot calmer than my usual hyper-anxious self.
I’m not here to debunk any superstitions, or criticize people who don’t believe. It’s entirely your choice if you want to discuss death at the dinner table during the new year or don’t consider the number “four” unlucky. Ultimately, I think we rely on superstitions for respite or escape during times of turmoil, or simply stress from day-to-day living. During major events like Chinese New Year, we hope for smooth-sailing times ahead. And who wouldn’t want that?
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