Many couples in Taiwan are rushing to get married before the Chinese lunar new year — January 26, 2009 in the Western calendar — because they believe that next year will be an “unlucky” year in which to get married, since next year is marked as the “Gu-luan” year (similar to Western leap year in that there are two days marked for the arrival of spring). This superstition, like many in Chinese culture revolves around the fact that word gu sounds similar to the Chinese word for lonely, thereby dooming any marriages that happen in a Gu-luan year to end early or tragically.
Westerners would probably find this superstition silly or quaint at best, but superstition is a world I’ve had to live with my entire life. My mother would take her three children out of the house when my dad had to work late, because she feared the spirits the roamed the house, and we’d end up at a local amusement park or mall until my dad could safely take us home.
Throughout my life, I’ve found myself mired in superstition; when my sister was pregnant with her first baby, she was warned not to eat “cold” foods, not cold as in served cold, but cold as designated by category (watermelon is cold regardless of what temperature it is), and to only eat “warm” foods. When I bought my first house in California, I found myself digging up the tree in the front yard at my mother’s request and moving it because it was in an unlucky position, blocking the front door. Even more recently, my own wedding date was chosen because it was supposed to be lucky; my partner and I married on 08/08/08 because we thought the triple 8’s would be lucky for us, and so did many other Chinese grooms and brides as we found out trying to book a location for our wedding.
My incredibly strong mother, the one who instilled me with all my superstitions is approaching the end of her life. She’s battled breast cancer for almost 12 years. She’s in the hospital this week, having overcome sepsis which would be fatal for most of us. As strong as she is, my mother still clings to her beliefs and I suppose I do as well.
The American side of me continues to remind myself that I’m a little ridiculous in my beliefs. But I also look at my mom in the hospital bed and think it’s lucky the way her bed points towards the door, and I’m daunted by the fact her room number contains the number 4.
I guess I still believe we all need a little luck in our lives.
If you’re looking for more on Chinese superstition, back in 2004, Christina Eng wrote a beautiful article on Chinese superstition that I really admired and find myself coming back to time and again.