Why Chinese Superstitions Are Actually Bad Luck (3 minute read)

Happy Lunar New Year! I can probably write about how I celebrate it with my family (the red pockets, food, family traditions, stories etc.)

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Instead, I want to talk about Luck. 

I started thinking about the beliefs associated with the celebration. If I were to stereotype Chinese people, I would say we have an incredibly superstitious culture. 


We have beliefs about certain numbers, dates, colours, daily practices, types of food, words and pretty much anything you can think of. Depending on what they are, it will either bring you good luck or give you bad luck.

From planning to give birth/get married/engaged on a particular date...to ordering an even number of dishes at a restaurant, there is a lot of thought that goes into every decision a Chinese person makes, 
depending on how superstitious they are


I would say my parents are moderately superstitious. They pick and choose what they want to believe in and tried their best to get my sisters and me to believe in them.

My mom likes to follow the ones that prevent bad spirits and the ones that are associated with good health and a long life. She's obsessed with being healthy and of course, all her Chinese medicine stuff.

My dad's a traditionalist (obedient son) so he practices the ones his parents taught him when he was a kid. He would follow ones that involve Feng Shui, food, cleaning and those that were based on social statuses like giving red envelopes to unmarried friends/family and children.

So what do I follow? Well, this whole luck thing is one of the Chinese traditions that I don’t believe in. Although I appreciate them, I don’t think by doing or not doing arbitrary things will change my future.

I often get irritated when others see my life and tell me how lucky I am. It's funny because I often say the same thing to other people and I really shouldn't (in addition to other things I need to stop saying). I think this quote that I saw on my Instagram feed puts it nicely:
“I am not lucky. You know what I am? I am smart, I am talented, I take advantage of the opportunities that come my way and I work really, really hard. Don’t call me lucky. Call me a badass.”
- Shonda Rhimes
I believe that intentionally doing things that will get me closer to my goals will lead to great things happening to me. Ultimately, I can have whatever I want if I put in the effort. 

When something bad happens to me, I face it head on and I don’t blame bad luck. I see it as an opportunity, a challenge, a hurdle to get through so that I become more resilient in the end. Everything happens for a reason.

It’s not luck that I found my husband. It’s not luck that he treats me with respect and loves me unconditionally. It’s not luck that I have great friends and family who care about me. It’s not luck I can afford a place to live and raise my daughter. It’s not luck I have a strong relationship with my parents. It’s not luck I did well in school. It’s not luck that I have a passion for writing.

It’s not bad luck I have a history of mental illness. It’s not bad luck I experienced racism throughout my childhood. It’s not bad luck I’ve had to experience heartbreak. It’s not bad luck I didn’t get those jobs. It’s not bad luck that the dishwasher was leaking the day we moved into our new place. It’s not bad luck my birth plan didn’t go as expected. 
It’s called life and it’s messy.

I think this superstitious culture makes it seem like our lives are out of our control. 
Like if we go against these rules, there’s an outside force that will make our lives miserable. However, isn't it possible for someone to live their life, following every superstition and die without being granted their fortune? 

These superstitious beliefs make us powerless to control our destiny. 

I like to believe that I have control over my life and know I can change its direction when it's not going my way. The power is within me and I am in control of my own happiness. If I'm not happy with how my life is going, it's not because I washed my hair on New Year's Day or because someone wore black to my wedding.  

Speaking of bringing bad luck to others...there are some Chinese people (usually the older generation) who will be offended if those around them don’t follow these rules. Doesn't that perpetuate a blaming mindset, shifting the ownership of someone's happiness onto someone else? 
I'm not even going to start on all the superstitions involved with planning a wedding and the family drama, blood, sweat, and tears that happen when negotiating which ones to follow or not. Another post, another time.
Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate my Chinese culture and I value learning about these superstitions. I will teach my daughter when she’s old enough to understand and share with her the ones my parents tried to instill in me. 

However, at the end of the day, I think it's about practicing them to preserve the Chinese culture rather than having it dictate how we live our life, expecting to reap rewards. 

So Readers, do you believe in luck? Do you think some people are just more lucky than others? 


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