Gung hay fat choy, everyone! Happy year of the Ox! In honour of this special day (which, in China, is of far greater importance than Christmas, and celebrated with weeks-long holidays in observation of the festival), I am doing .... nothing. Nothing out of the ordinary, that is.
You see, my ancestors were a pretty superstitious bunch, and as part of the New Year there were certain behaviours that woud be considered bad luck. Such actions were, and still are, dutifully avoided by the uber-mai shun. As a Christ follower, however, I'm not into "luck" and I do not associate certain behaviours with the invocation of curses any more than I believe in Santa, the Easter Bunny, and little pot-of-gold leprechauns. I'll leave that sort of belief system to the pagans and non-believers among us.
So what am I doing today that might be a faux-pas according to tradition? Well, let's examine the superstitions and taboos (some of which I might also inadvertently adhere to by virtue of it being my normal routine).
The entire house should be cleaned before New Year's day to get rid of the negative things of yesteryear. Too late. I went out for dinner with Hubbs and then I was just too tired to even do the dishes, much less scrub this place from top to bottom.
Avoid sweeping or brushing away "prosperity" on New Year's day. Since I hadn't planned on sweeping today anyway, I guess I am following this tradition. That said, I did clean up shed hair off my bathroom floor. If that hair represented prosperity then I guess I should kiss it good-bye ;)
After New Year's day, sweep the dust into the four corners of your home and leave the piles there until the fifth day. Well, no, even if I sweep in the next few days (a likely probability, BTW), there's zero chance I'd shove my dust and debris into the corners of our home. Cleanliness first!
Do not sweep debris over the threshold or out the front door, but carry the swept material out the back door; otherwise you will "remove" a family member and any good luck from your life in the upcoming year. I'll be sweeping my dirt into a dustpan that will empty into the garbage bag that will be carried out the front door. I have no idea what sort of curse I must be inviting on myself through these actions. (I'll also bet you didn't think you'd be reading so much about my sweeping schedule and technique, eh?)
Open every door and window on New Year's day to send out the old year and usher in the new. If I opened my door and windows, the only thing I'd usher in are spiders and thieves. No thank you.
Pay all debts by New Year's day lest you bring shame to yourself and your family. We're still financing our Accord and there's a balance on the VISA. Oh the shame! ;)
Don't lend out anything on New Year's day lest you set a precedent for lending all year round. We have nobody to lend anything to, so I'm free and clear on this front.
Watch your language: avoid swearing, using the number "4," speaking of death, or referring to the old year on New Year's day. I try not to cuss anyway. I will use the number 4 today if it comes up. I will also dwell on the past (by past, I mean yesterday) but avoid speaking about death.
Don't cry on New Year's Day or you will cry all year long. I'll try not to, thanks.
Don't wash your hair (and rinse out your good luck) on New Year's Day. We'll see about that. If it gets greasy I make no promises.
Wear red today to invite a sunny and bright future. I'm currently in gray and black. Ha! Maybe I'll wear something more reddish when we head out this evening. We'll see.
Avoid using knives or scissors lest you cut off your good fortune for the year. How do I eat if I don't use a knife? Neanderthals must have come up with this one, or else someone has a prep chef who did it all for them ahead of time. The knives will come out for sure.
Switch on lights at night to scare off ghosts and misfortune for the year. I will do this, but only for visibility, and not for luck.
Eat sweets for a "sweet" year. I'm dieting. Can't do that.
Wear new slippers on New Year's day to step on those that gossip about you. I'm a bare-foot kind of girl and do not own slippers.
Don't buy shoes at New Year's. I'm not sure how long this is supposed to be observed for, but I have plans to get some nice shoes within the month for an upcoming wedding. I won't be buying them today though.
Do not get a hair cut during the first lunar month lest you curse your maternal uncle(s). Sorry Uncle Garry and Uncle Wilson! My bangs will need trimming long before the month is up!
Do not buy or read books on New Year's Day lest you "lose" (the homonym of "book" is "lose" in Chinese) during the year. I probably won't do a lot of reading today but the very fact that this is a superstition almost makes me want to pull out Harry Potter for another read-through.
Avoid medicating on New Year's Day lest it become a sickly year for you. Do vitamins count?
And that's just the tip of the iceberg, folks. There are also tons of foods that are supposed to be lucky and others that are supposed to bring adversity. I'm obviously going to have one seriously bad year if I believed even a word of this stuff. Thankfully, my hope is not determined by my circumstances and my own actions, but by the God who has given me hope and by His eternal promises.
That said, I am a solid believer in lai-see (red envelopes). I'm still waiting.