Article by XIANEASE
Another Spring Festival has come and gone. For some of you, it was your first-ever experience with this cultural juggernaut; for others, it was an opportunity to do something, anything but sit around town waiting for work to start again. But for the locals, and for millions of people (billions, even) around the Asian continent, the Lunar New Year is vitally important. For celebrants, nearly everything about it is focused on starting the year on the right foot (and fighting off the terrifying, man-eating monster Nian [年], but that’s a whole different thing). There are so many little traditions and superstitions it can be difficult for the average laowai too keep track of them. Because of that, it’s pretty likely that you’ve accidentally cursed yourself for all of the Year of the Dog. So, break out the lucky red underwear, because here are just a few of the ways you’ve probably gotten hexed during Spring Festival 2018.
YOU CUT YOUR HAIR
One of the more commonly upheld Spring Festival traditions, you’re not supposed to cut your hair from the first day of the Lunar New Year until the second day of the second lunar month. In terms of the Gregorian calendar, that means if you even so much as trimmed your hair between February 16th and March 18th of 2018, you’ve cut off your good luck for the year. What’s worse, your new hairdo might have also condemned your uncle to death. Our editor-in-chief, who spaced out on cutting his hair and has a very unfortunate pattern of baldness and is too superstitious for his own good, will unfortunately continue to look like he has mange until late March, because he tends to like his uncles.
YOU CLEANED YOUR APARTMENT
In this work-a-day world, sometimes we get so busy that things like basic cleanliness and housekeeping fall by the wayside. If you were one of the people that used the Spring Festival holiday as a chance to finally tidy up, then congratulations, you swept up and then threw out your good luck for the year. The next time you go to your slovenly friend’s house and start to judge them for their (lack of) homemaking skills, just hold your tongue and remember that they will be infinitely luckier than you this year.
YOU ATE PORRIDGE FOR BREAKFAST
Porridge may be an acquired taste for some foreigners but, from salty to sweet, there are many varieties that are delicious and perfect for a light meal. If you’re a porridge aficionado, you probably had a bowl or two during the holiday. Unfortunately, tradition dictates that only poor people eat porridge, and by doing so you have condemned yourself to a year of being a broke loser.
YOU TOOK SOME MEDICINE FOR YOUR COLD
Did the chilly final throes of winter make you feverish? Did the Fog of Progress get a little too deep in your lungs and give you a hacking cough? Did you choke down some pills to fix that? If you did, be sure to stock up on curatives because, as the tradition claims, taking medicine or seeing a doctor during Spring Festival sets a precedent of being sick for the entire year. Hope your company’s medical insurance is good; you’re going to need it.
YOU ASKED FOR FOUR OF SOMETHING
One of the more interesting (or, depending on who you ask, challenging) things about the Chinese language is the prevalence of homophones—words that sound like other words. This has not gone unnoticed by its billions of speakers, because this feature of the language has given shape to some of China’s most enduring cultural traditions, such as the so-called “cross-talk” comedic stage shows. The flip side of that coin, however, is that there are some less fun homophones, like the number “four” (四, Sì) and the word “death” (死, Sǐ). Tradition dictates that if you say any inauspicious words aloud during the Spring Festival, then you may be inviting their effects on yourself. This is a problem that may perhaps be amplified in Shaanxi, as the local dialect turns a lot of those bouncy third tones into sharp, dropping fourth tones that might drop you straight into your grave.
These are just a few of the ways you might have screwed the pooch for the entire Year of the Dog. If you haven’t done any of these, don’t breathe a sigh of relief just yet—if you got pick-pocketed, did your laundry or made a small child cry during the festival as well, you’re going to be unlucky as well. Even adding those last three to the list, we still haven’t covered all of these traditions, because we don’t have enough space. Oh well. Guess there’s nothing left to do but tough it out until the Year of the Pig in 2019.
Are you doing anything special during the Year of the Dog?
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