Superstition is any belief or practice resulting from ignorance and fear of the unknown, which is considered irrational or unreasonable by non-practitioner. Even to this day, where a lot of things could be explained by science, there are still many people who believe in superstitions even though they know those are not true. Why is that so? When there is no natural cause that can explain a situation, people tend to attribute the situation to supernatural causes, to give themselves the sense of control and the ability to predict the future events.
Different cultures around the world have their own version of superstitions that are unique, and may be interpreted differently among each culture. The meaning of some of the superstitions could also be altered when they are being passed down from the ancestors. Now, let us have a look at some common superstitions and taboos of Malaysian Chinese:
- On the first day of the Chinese New Year, words such as “break, spoil and die” should be avoided, as those are believed to bring bad luck to oneself. Instead, auspicious phrases like 恭喜发财 (Gōng xǐ fā cái, “wishing one’s wealth”), and 心想事成 (Xīn xiǎng shì chéng, “may all your wishes come true”) should be used when greeting each other.
- Avoid wearing black or dark-colored clothes during Chinese New Year. Wait… WHAT? But black is the most classic color and black outfits flatter most body shapes! Well, since black is typically worn during funerals and associated with inauspicious things, the elders would not want to compromise with your fashion sense.
- Avoid sweeping the floor on the first day of the Chinese New Year, as it is believed to be an act that sweeps away the luck and wealth.
- Do not shake the legs while sitting and eating. Shaking your legs is a body language that signifies boredom. However, in Chinese culture, it is believed to *cue Shake It Off by Taylor Swift* shake off all one’s wealth and fortune!
- One should not leave any food, particularly grains on their plate. In Chinese culture, each grain of rice is believed to represent a pock mark on the face of their future spouse’s face.
- Never give a clock or watch as a gift to someone. Giving a clock as a gift, 送钟 (sòng zhōng), is a homophone of送终 (sòng zhōng), in Chinese, which has the meaning of attending one’s funeral or bidding the last farewell.
- Never point the moon directly with the index finger, as it is believed to be disrespectful to the moon goddess 嫦娥 (cháng é), and will result in the ears getting cut off. Interestingly enough, some people did experience pain at the back of their ear, or a cut would suddenly appear behind their ears the next morning after pointing directly at the moon.
- Avoid talking about bad things that have yet to happen as they believe those will eventually become reality if they keep thinking and talking about it. However, we know that a negative mindset could directly influence one’s behavior and actions. Therefore, negative thoughts will become reality when they gave up trying to improve a situation because of their unconscious beliefs in those negative thoughts.
- One should not ridicule the other’s weaknesses or misfortunes, as it is believed that those who did that would be placed in their shoes one day.
- Left eyelid twitches indicate fortunate; right eyelid twitches indicate misfortune. Let’s see how accurate it is the next time your eyelid starts twitching!
- Couples should avoid giving shoes as a present to one another, as it is believed to cause break up. But fret not, there is a way to resolve this issue: the other partner could pay back a couple of cents when he/she receives the present.
- Avoid opening an umbrella indoors, as it will bring you back luck. However, we know that opening an umbrella indoors could result in injury, which may be the reason why this superstition arose from the past.
Although most of the superstitions seem illogical, not all are unreasonable or purposeless. Some of the superstitions are probably there to remind the younger generations to conduct themselves appropriately. For instance, shaking legs while eating should be avoided not because it will literally shake off one’s wealth, but because this is a rude behavior, especially to the elderly. Keep in mind that, existence depends on one’s acceptance; one is free to believe what they want to believe, as long as the belief does not lead to irrational decisions that will impact their well-being. So, do you know what are some of the taboos or superstitions in your culture?
By Lee Jia Nee