There are two things I always look forward to when the Chinese New Year approaches.
Firstly, eating tikoy. I remember we would always receive boxes of tikoy back in the days. To enjoy the glutinous rice cake, we would cut it into thin rectangular slices, dip it in beaten eggs, fry it, and eat it right off the pan.
In time, I learned through experimenting on different ways to best enjoy this Chinese New Year’s treat. (But that’s another story to tell).
Secondly, reading the Chinese zodiac horoscope. I do enjoy reading the astrological predictions that always come up during this time. I don’t give much credence to them but I do like to find out which signs would be lucky in life and love.
Yesterday was the start of the Lunar Year, 2022 is the Year of the Water Tiger, the king of all beasts based on Chinese culture. This animal sign symbolizes strength and braveness. It’s also known for exorcising evils.
This year, the luckiest signs are the Ox and Goat. It is also good for those born under the Rabbit, Dragon, Horse, and Rooster signs. Meanwhile, the Rat, Snake, Monkey, Pig, and Dog have to work doubly hard to enjoy a smooth life and bring in some luck.
In celebrating Chinese New Year, there are many things some people do to bring in luck and ward off bad luck.
Take, for instance, eating tikoy brings luck. The Chinese term of this favorite treat, nian gao, is a homonym for growth (“higher year”). Its stickiness also symbolizes strong bond.
Based on a Chinese tale, people would offer this sticky cake to the Kitchen God, who reports to the Jade Emperor on how they are living their lives. These reports became the basis for whether their lives would be shortened or lengthened. To keep the Kitchen God’s mouth shut, they would give him this sticky cake.
There’s also the Yu Sheng (Yee Sang in Malay Chinese) or the Prosperity Toss Salad. This salad is not ordinary one. You can’t just put things together to make it. Each ingredient represents auspicious symbols – fish for abundance, pomelo for luck, radish for prosperity, carrots for blessings of good luck, and noodles for long life, among others.
One has to recite greetings of good luck and prosperity while adding each ingredient. When it is served, the people gathered around the table have to toss the salad. The higher the toss, the bigger the luck. Don’t mind the mess.
Of course, we can’t forget ang pao (hong bao) or that little red envelope. Obviously, receiving these pockets for monetary gifts brings luck. But words of caution: if you’re single and younger, don’t even think about giving one, especially to older people. By doing this, you are giving away your own luck. This is okay if you’re attending a wedding and giving gift to the couple.
Outside Chinese New Year, there are many things we believe to be lucky or unlucky. Every country has its own practices and beliefs on what they consider lucky, and what can bring misfortune.
Let’s start with dates and numbers. In the Philippines and some countries, 13 is an unlucky number. Double whammy if it is Friday the 13th, and more potent if it happens during the Ghost Month.
In Korea, four is the unlucky digit. I often wondered why there isn’t a button with number 4 in their elevators. A Korean friend explained it is because the word four sounds like death.
Eight is a lucky number. In China, the 8th of the month is considered an auspicious day. In Western cultures, three is lucky, often associated with Holy Trinity and such. What can I say, third time is a charm.
Some cultures believe that crossing paths with black cats, walking under the ladder, and putting your bag or purse on the floor bring bad luck.
In Russia, cockroaches are good omen. So is finding a four-leaf clover in Western cultures. The concept of luck has been ingrained in our culture. We say luck for things that are beyond our control. It has that sense of unpredictability. We look at circumstances and opportunities that fall on our lap by chance.
While there is no harm in following or believing these practices and beliefs, I do believe that hard work, doing good deeds, and sticking to your values can catalyst a change in your life.
As for luck, well, a little luck won’t hurt. Just don’t go chasing after the pots of gold at the end of the rainbow all your life.