SEE­ING RED

China Daily (Canada) - - SHANGHAI -

For many mar­ried Chi­nese, home dec­o­ra­tions and clothes aren’t the only things they have in this auspicious color

oc­cu­pants of these homes too are of­ten dressed in clothes that have an el­e­ment of red. In tra­di­tional house­holds, wear­ing white or black will al­most cer­tainly in­cur the wrath of the el­ders.

In Chi­nese cul­ture, red sym­bol­izes pros­per­ity and joy. In an­cient times, Chi­nese also be­lieved that the color had the power to ward off evil spir­its, and would of­ten paint the ex­te­ri­ors of their homes red.

As a Chi­nese, the Lu­nar New Year ranks among my fa­vorite hol­i­days. Be­sides get­ting to feast on the sump­tu­ous meals pre­pared by my par­ents and rel­a­tives, the fes­ti­val is also a chance to par­tic­i­pate in in­ter­est­ing cus­toms and light-heart­edly in­dulge in su­per­sti­tion.

This would be es­pe­cially rel­e­vant for me be­cause this year, the Year of the Dog in the Chi­nese zo­diac, is my ben ming nian (zo­diac year of birth).

“You should be con­ser­va­tive in all as­pects of your life this year,” said my col­league while we were hav­ing a con­ver­sa­tion about the Chi­nese zo­diac.

“Why? I’m a Dog. Shouldn’t it be a good year for me?” replied.

“No. It’s the com­plete op­po­site. Your ben ming nian means that bad luck awaits,” she said.

Chi­nese astrol­ogy web­sites have the same warn­ing — I I would face prob­lems with my fi­nances, mar­riage and ca­reer, and should strive for mod­esty in all as­pects of my life. This also in­cludes not par­tic­i­pat­ing in high-risk ac­tiv­i­ties. I wonder if that means I should no longer ride a Mo­bike to work.

But I knew there had to be some­thing I could do to counter this, so I con­tin­ued my re­search. As it turns out, there is in­deed a way to ward off bad luck — I need to wear red un­der­wear. Ev­ery day. For the en­tire Dog Year. But I’m

not ac­tu­ally al­lowed to buy them — some­one else has to present to me as a gift.

So if you’re feel­ing kind and would love to help, I pre­fer boxer briefs. Large should do nicely. Please make sure they are made with 100 per­cent cot­ton. Thank you.

Here’s an­other hi­lar­i­ous piece of ad­vice I came across on­line: “It’s thought that dur­ing one’s ben ming nian, he would have bloody dis­as­ters. Me­ta­physics re­searchers think two meth­ods could avoid this. One is tooth-wash and the other is blood do­na­tion.” This could be a lit­tle tricky. I hate the sight of blood, and I hate go­ing to the den­tist.

Maybe I should just kill two birds with a stone by scrub­bing my teeth so hard that my gums bleed. Dear feng­shui mas­ter, would this work?

One tra­di­tional Chi­nese cus­tom that I don’t par­tic­u­larly en­joy is giv­ing out red pack­ets, or hong­baos, to rel­a­tives dur­ing the Chi­nese New Year. There are gen­er­ally two schools of be­lief to do­ing this.

Mar­ried peo­ple have to give red pack­ets to their par­ents,

grand­par­ents as well as younger sib­lings and rel­a­tives who are sin­gle. For the other prac­tice, hong­baos are only given to par­ents, grand­par­ents and rel­a­tives who do not have a job.

I think the lat­ter prac­tice is a lot more eco­nom­i­cal. Un­for­tu­nately, my fam­ily prac­tices the for­mer. It doesn’t help that I’m mar­ried and have to give hong­baos to my wife’s sib­lings and cousins as well. I only have 10 cousins. My wife has 20.

Ev­ery year, we spend about an hour sort­ing out red pack­ets by size and de­sign be­fore slot­ting crisp bills into them. The par­ents and grand­par­ents get the big­gest, pret­ti­est hong­baos. Our sib­lings get the sec­ond-largest ones, fol­lowed by nieces or neph­ews, and cousins. We also have to give red pack­ets to ran­dom peo­ple we meet dur­ing house vis­i­ta­tions (like the son of my un­cle’s cousin’s fa­ther’s grand­mother’s sworn sis­ter from Shan­tou, Guang­dong prov­ince).

Need­less to say, even my monthly sav­ings are in the red dur­ing the Lu­nar New Year.

REN LONG / XIN­HUA

As part of its Spring Fes­ti­val cel­e­bra­tions, Shang­hai Dis­ney Re­sort put up red and gold Mickey Mouse lan­terns and got other pop­u­lar char­ac­ters to don Chi­nese New Year out­fits.

CAO LEI / FOR CHINA DAILY

Shang­hai’s scenic spots such as the Bund, the City God Tem­ple and Zhu­ji­a­jiao an­cient town have seen huge crowds of tourists and vis­i­tors dur­ing the fes­ti­val hol­i­day.

GAO ERQIANG / CHINA DAILY

Peo­ple burn in­cense at Jing’an Tem­ple in down­town Shang­hai on the fifth day of the Chi­nese New Year, a time when peo­ple tra­di­tion­ally pay re­spects to the God of For­tune.

CAO LEI / FOR CHINA DAILY

The dog, the Chi­nese zo­diac an­i­mal for this year, can be found ev­ery­where in the city dur­ing the Chi­nese New Year.

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