Superstitions. To believe or not to believe them?
I grew up in a traditional-minded Chinese Malaysian household and am no stranger to Asian superstitions. My mum is a big believer in them, believing there are lucky Chinese numbers and that keeping pet turtles slows down fortunes, for instance. I always wonder why.
As Asians, many of us are respectful. We believe in the spiritual, believe fate controls our destiny: anger ghosts or spirits floating around and they may curse a dose of bad luck upon us. My parents pray at temples for luck at the start of every Chinese New Year. My relatives have small shrines in their homes, and and never fail to put an even number of mandarins – usually lucky eight mandarins – at the front as offerings to the gods.
We find comfort in tradition, the tried and tested. Family is important to us; we hold on to beliefs passed down from generation to generation. Whenever one of my eyes swelled up red as a kid living in Malaysia, my mum made me poke it with a grain of rice and then throw that grain over my shoulder. My eye went back to normal right after that. Always. It worked for my grandma too. No joke.
Chances are Asians believe in superstitions because it’s odd not to do so: others think that way, we’re chided to listen to our elders and perhaps we should. One hot and humid afternoon during high school in Singapore, three of my classmates opened an umbrella in class and sat under it for kicks. It was an amusing sight and my class laughed. For many Asians, opening an umbrella indoors means inviting ghosts into the room, as China Elevator Stories has shared.
Our teacher, who was much older than us, started panicking, telling us bad luck will befall us. We kept laughing for five minutes as she nagged…and the power went out. No lights. The ceiling fans stopped spinning. Silence. Someone closed the umbrella. The classes next door went on as normal, nothing unusual happening over there. Maybe we did attract an angry spirit into our class. We never opened an umbrella in class again, and the power never went out another time.
But then again, I’ve opened an umbrella countless times in my Melbourne apartment and nothing out of the ordinary has happened.
Living in Melbourne for eight years, maybe I’ve lost touch with my stereotypical Asian side. Asian superstitions sound odd and silly to me, sillier than Western superstition. Walking under ladders, crossing a black cat, coming across the number 13 – supposed signs of bad luck. Practically everyone in this mainly Anglo city has heard of them. But making sure our spoon faces upwards on the dining table and shaving our face clean of a beard to avoid misfortune? Not so.
A lot of us believe in a higher power, no matter our race. A lot of us go to church to give thanks and ask for forgiveness in western cultures – alongside our love for an individual choice, a choice that makes us think we can control our fate instead of fate controlling us. Maybe that’s why some westerners pooh-pooh superstition.
It just so happens this is the 88th post I’ve written for this blog (not counting reblogs). I chuckled when I realised this. Didn’t plan it at all. Do I feel spooked? Lucky? Lucky on the writing front? Who thinks good luck will really come their way? We only hope so.
We don’t usually believe in superstitions because we want good luck.
We believe in superstitions because we’re afraid. You never know what may happen if you don’t.
Better to be safe than sorry.
Do you believe in superstitions? What’s the craziest one you’ve heard?