Saturday, January 28, 2017

Happy Chinese New Year



It's almost the end of the first day of Chinese New Year. We've celebrated the day with Chinese food. Any sweeping and laundry that hasn't got done can wait for a couple of days. I don't want to sweep or wash away any good luck that I may have.

My mother always worried about leaving by the same door that she entered when visiting someone's home. She always knocked on wood so as to not tempt fate. All her superstitions, which she would be the first to laugh at, came from her British upbringing. My superstitions and traditions are more of a fusion of cultures... not that I'm a slave to them, of course. For instance:

Chinese New Year's Day Taboos
(From http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/0/chinese-new-year-2017-year-rooster-zodiac-animal)
To be avoided on the first day of the Chinese New Year:

1. Medicine: Taking medicine on the first day of the lunar year means one will get ill for a whole year.
I blew that one when I took Tylenol for an earache. Probably being sick on the first day of the lunar year isn't very auspicious but I can't do anything about that so I'll forget it.
2. New Year's breakfast: Porridge should not be eaten because it is considered that only poor people have porridge for breakfast and people don't want to start the year “poor” as this is a bad omen.
Oops! My diabetes nurse tells me that my habitual oatmeal, fruit and yogourt is a healthy start to my day. Perhaps the addition of cherries will give the porridge more class.
3. Laundry: People do not wash clothes on the first and second day because these two days are celebrated as the birthday of Shuishen (水神, the Water God).
That's easy. I don't do laundry anyway. That's my oldest son's job and he's at his dad's.
4. Washing hair: Hair must not be washed on the first day of the lunar year. In the Chinese language, hair (发) has the same pronunciation and character as 'fa' in facai (发财), which means ’to become wealthy’. Therefore, it is seen as not a good thing to “wash one’s fortune away” at the beginning of the New Year.
I read this just in time! I'll put off my shower to tomorrow morning.
5. Sharp objects: The use of knives and scissors is to be avoided as any accident is thought to lead to inauspicious things and the depletion of wealth.
See, porridge was the best choice. My other choice was a bagel which I would have had to cut.
6. Going out: A woman may not leave her house otherwise she will be plagued with bad luck for the entire coming year. A married daughter is not allowed to visit the house of her parents as this is believed to bring bad luck to the parents, causing economic hardship for the family.
Hmm. That sounds a bit sexist to me. Why women and not men?
7. The broom: If you sweep on this day then your wealth will be swept away too.
Easily done.
8. Crying children: The cry of a child is believed to bring bad luck to the family so parents do their best to keep children as happy as possible.
Neither of my nearly grown up children cried so we're all good here.
9. Theft: Having your pocket picked is believed to portend your whole wealth in the coming year being stolen.
That's bad luck at any time.
10. Debt: Money should not be lent on New Year’s Day and all debts have to be paid by New Year’s Eve. If someone owes you money, do not go to their home to demand it. Anyone who does so will be unlucky all year.
Beats the heck out of breaking knee caps.
11. An empty rice jar: A depleted receptacle may cause grave anxiety as the cessation of cooking during the New Year period is considered to be an ill omen.
Check. I try to never have an empty rice jar. (Or in my case canister.)
12. Damaged clothes: Wearing threadbare garments can cause more bad luck for the year.
If my friend, a woman, had not left her house to visit for lunch, I might have broken this taboo.
13. Killing things: Blood is considered an ill omen, which will cause misfortunes such as a knife wound or a bloody disaster.
Good to know.
14. Monochrome fashion: White or black clothes are barred as these two colours are traditionally associated with mourning.
I wore green. Red might have been more festive, but then I would have had to do laundry.
15. Welcoming the New Year: According to tradition, people must stay up late on New Year’s Eve to welcome the New Year and then let off firecrackers and fireworks to scare off inauspicious spirits and Nian, the New Year monster.
We used to do this. The kids and I would stay up and bang pans to scare off bad spirits. I miss those days but our neighbours are too close now.
16. Giving of certain gifts: Clocks, scissors, and pears all have a bad meaning in Chinese culture.
Some day I will have to find out why oranges are lucky and pears are not. Scissors being a bad luck gift I'm familiar with. My mother would never give scissors or knives without the exchange of money (small change will do). To give either as a gift risks cutting the relationship.

Peace and prosperity in the coming year!