Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Revisiting a Timely Old Post: The Power of Superstitions - Chinese New Year's Traditions & Angsts

Vintage & Contemporary Lie See (Lucky Money)
& Lucky Candies 
It's hard to believe, but two years ago I noted that Chinese Lunar New Year's Eve was fast approaching on Wednesday February 2nd, 2011). It's happening again, and just as fast approaching (now Saturday February 9th, 2013). The time of uncertainty and opportunities associated with the Year of the Dragon should come to an end, and I should feel a state of calm and reflectiveness come over me as the Year of the Water Snake kicks-off on Sunday February 10th, 2013. Well, once again I'm anxiously tackling items on my "Prep for Chinese New Year 2013" checklist just as I did two years ago, all the while having the same angsts over traditions so steeped in superstitions passed on by my ancestors. The superstitions dictate the frenzy, I and likely many others within the Chinese community, are going through right now until New Year's Eve. My list has been amusing and bemusing anyone outside of the Chinese culture, as in the case of my hubby. He finds it hard to believe that this CBC (Canadian-born Chinese), raised in Toronto, could be tied to so many "silly" superstitions and/or rituals despite all that hi-tech!

*** Top 9 Chinese New Year Superstitions in 2013 ***

* Sweep kitchen floor & Wash kitchen floor
I've noted in my daytimer to sweep and wash the kitchen floor by Friday February 8th. It would be bad luck if I did it on February 9th, Chinese Lunar New Year's Eve! I'd be sweeping out the good luck from home! Likewise for dumping the dirty water! 

* Garbage/Recycle Days Taboos
Two years ago, we lived in a house with alternating Garbage Collection and Recycle Day on Thursdays. That year,  Chinese New Year's Day fell on a Thursday Garbage Collection Day! Aye-Yah! You should have seen my hubby's look of sheer amazement (or horror?)  as I pointed out that by January 20th, 2011 we needed to pitch whatever needs to go into the garbage collection, and that on February 3rd, 2011 we must keep any garbage in the house! Well, we've since moved into a condo with fabulous daily recycling program. Guess what we're doing on Friday February 8th, 2013 when it's Recycle Day at our new place?  Hint: No garbage goes out Saturday as that's New Year's Eve in 2013 and tossing out your garbage is equivalent to tossing out your good luck! 

* Hair Cut Appointment before Chinese New Year's Eve 
This subject is always a huge bone of contention as one ponders over when is the ultimate last day you can slot your hair cut appointment into a packed agenda, as it's considered bad luck to have it done too close to Chinese New Year. You'll sever your good luck! Yes, there are chances of accidents, where you get snipped and not your hair! Keeping all this in mind, I set my hair appointment with my amazing stylist, Guy Krouse at Salon Vivace for this Thursday January 31st so I'd be ready for the Chinese New Year's prep tours and of course, the two banquets: Chinese New Year's Eve 11-course banquet on February 9th, 2013 and the inaugural Lantern Festival 9-course banquet on February 23rd, 2013.

* No Showering on Chinese New Year's Eve
 It's bad luck to wash your hair and have a shower! If you're active and go to the gym, this one can be a challenge as nobody wants to go to school or work stinking like a skunk! Apparently, in the good old days, most Chinese villages lacked plumbing, whereas in Toronto, we have great plumbing! Try telling your mom this one. Anyway, I and other Chinese friends just go to the gym and not inform mom about showering after that vigorous gym class! The other solution: not go to the gym just prior to New Year's Eve and be stressed out from skipping your workout! Hubby could barely contain his laughter when I informed him about this superstition and the angst behind it.

* Get Chef Knives Sharpened Before Chinese New Year's Eve 
Two years ago I called before dropping off my chef's knife at Nella Cucina. They promised that I'll get it back within a week, before it's Chinese New Year's Eve! Whew! Meanwhile, fast forward to 2013, it has been a busy year.  My bold plan: sharpening the chef knife on my own by Friday February 8th, Shhh! Don't tell my mom. Superstition: knives severs good luck, so you'd want to sharpen before it's the new year and retain good luck in the new year! Aye-Yah!

* Bad Luck to Start with Broken Crockery
I must pitch any broken dishes, cups, plates and any other crockery as it's considered to be "bad luck" to start a new year with broken stuff. After my Friday tour, I'll replace a few chipped cups while picking up Green Chopsticks for my banquets. Aye-Yah! So much to do, and so little time!

*  Replace Dead Houseplants with Fresh, Live Plants!
It's inauspicious having dead plants as you're carrying over the bad luck from one year to the next! So I better swing by one of those Chinatown shops on Sunday after my tour and replace one of the bamboo shoots in my planter to ensure a lucky Year of the Water Snake! Agghhh!

* Settling Debts in order to Start New Year with a Clean Slate
It's funny how Chinese New Year follows right after the holiday season of gift spending, as it make settling debts a tad challenging... Sigh, it got to be done, otherwise you hear your ancestors murmuring about the bad luck for the new year!

*  Exchange Old Bills for Crisp New Bills at the Bank 
Bank tellers in Toronto's Second Chinatown banks (Spadina Ave/Dundas St W) or other areas wouldn't blink an eye when an Asian patron request for crisp new $5, $10 and $20 bills. It's considered good luck having crisp new bills in the pair of Lie See (Lucky Money) you hand out to little kids and any unmarried adult siblings.  I must also buy more of those red/gold envelopes. Sigh!

Money Tree Decoration for Chinese New Year

Before it's "Curtains Up" for the Chinese Lunar New Year festival, here are a few more other items I'll try to tackle to ensure more even luck in the Year of the Rabbit ...

* Buy 3 Kumquats (fruits) with green twigs & tie with red string/ribbon for good luck!
* Buy a box of Lucky Pastries from Chinese bakery (re-fills of wallet-shaped pastries, fire cracker-shaped cookies; smiling face cookies)
* Buy more bags of Lucky Candies for the food tours, Chinese New Year's Eve banquet (Feb 9) and inaugural Lantern Festival banquet (Feb 23)
* Pick-up 3 Sesame Balls from Kim Moon Bakery
* Find golden platter to place fruits, candies & Lie See as decoration on table in lobby for guests!

                                    Happy New Year!

Gung Hey Fatt Choy in Cantonese or

Gong Xi Fa Cai in Mandarin or

Chuc Mung Nam Mui in Vietnamese! 

1 comment:

  1. This is amazing! Thank you so much for sharing. Though I am not well organized this year, next year I will have a post of my own on this theme as Joe and I are so excited to start this year off with your fabulous hosted banquet.

    It is funny how sometimes life works out, these things all happened within past month:

    1. We reorganized the apartment and donated a lot of clothing and "stuff" we weren't using
    2. We recycled everything that was worn out or broken
    3. I had the best hair cut of my life
    4. Given our showering habits are our own, we'll just keep that little secret from everyone, especially our mothers!
    5. My knives are always sharp!
    6. We get rid of broken things as soon as they break, we have a tiny apartment
    7. I am currently planning my indoor herb garden
    8. I went to the bank and got all of my debts in order
    8. I'm carrying fresh new $20 bills and no pennies. ;)