The fundamentals of being Chinese include knowing Chinese superstitions and adhering to their rules. Passed down from parents, relatives, teachers, and children’s books, many of these superstitions guide our life decisions. Here are some that have been prominent in my life:
Fengshui is a Chinese philosophical system of harmony between people and their environment. Some people build their entire career around guiding others in their search for harmony and good luck. Fengshui dictates whether certain furniture should be placed in a particular area of the house, or if certain houses bring good luck or not. Bad fengshui can bring terrible consequences! For example, my mom has repeatedly told me not buy a house at the bottom of the hill. If I do, I’m just waiting for a car to careen into my living room.
Chinese people are very cautious about accidentally bringing symbols of funerals into everyday life, as it may lead to an early demise. I once tried to buy a white lantern with a panda decal from Disney World, but my dad would not allow it. I was quite frustrated, but relented when he explained that white lanterns are only found at funerals. One of the first superstitions I was made aware of was to NEVER stick my chopsticks vertically into rice, because it looks like incense burned at funerals. Save yourself from a tense dinner and be careful about chopstick placement.
Lunar New Year is always a fun time because of all the amazing food and money received in red envelopes! However, pre-New Years is a crucial time of trying to get rid of the previous year’s bad luck. This entails cleaning the whole house, buying new clothes, getting a new haircut, and other protective measures. This must all be done BEFORE New Year’s Day because if you shower or clean on the actual day, you’ll risk losing good luck for the whole year.
Chinese people hate wasting things, so in efforts to make sure children finish all the rice in their bowl, parents tell them that each grain of rice left uneaten will result in a new pimple on their face. I always made sure to adhere to this rule, but it definitely did not work, as my skin has been riddled with acne for years. A true concern my parents had was late night showers because damp hair would suck all the heat out of my head and give me pneumonia. Simply having slightly damp hair was enough for my dad to send me back to the hair dryer. However, I have gone to bed many times with not-100% dry hair, but have never contracted pneumonia, so the legitimacy of this rule is definitely suspect.