Monday, February 25, 2019

36. Valentine's Day -- It Comes Twice this Year

Did everyone have a sweet and romantic Valentine's Day? Lots of roses and chocolates, not mention perhaps a lovely candle lit dinner?

Actually, for those of who follow western and Chinese traditions, we have two Valentine's Days this February 2019. In addition to St. Valentine's Day on February 14th, there is the Lantern Festival on February 19th. Also known as Chinese Valentine's Day, this is celebrated on the first full moon of the lunar calendar after the Chinese new year.

The Lantern Festival is different from the Moon Festival (aka Mid Autumn Festival) in that the lanterns are not for children. Traditionally, adults hang up lanterns at a fair and they write riddles or conundrums on them. Then they see if anyone can figure out the answer in order to win a prize.

This does not necessarily sound romantic, so how is this related to the western version of Valentine's Day? Way back in the early days, Chinese women couldn't go out on the street as easily as men; especially single or unwed women. But attending a festival, such as the Lantern Festival, was a safe way to be out of doors.

Women could hang out with friends and guardians, observing the beautiful lanterns as well as testing their knowledge and wisdom by attempting to solve the conundrums printed on the lanterns. And romance was always a possibility if by chance a young and talented single man happened by. And there were those who might arrange to connect with a secret lover under the lanterns.

Many poems and novels capture stories of love that happened under the Lantern Festival's full moon over the course of a thousand years. That's how the celebration also came to be known as Chinese Valentine's Day.

In the west's celebration of Valentine's Day, those enraptured by love remember how St. Valentine sacrificed himself for all who fall in love. And, of course, hearts and Cupid and his arrow symbolize the celebration of true love.

What images symbolize the Chinese version of Valentine's Day?

Monday, February 18, 2019

35. Color and Good Energy -- What's Best for You?

The Forbidden City, Beijing (Peking), China, Asia

Yes, the color red in Chinese culture is a symbol of happiness, celebration and good luck.  And, like other cultures, the Chinese believe that painting the front door to one's house red will attract positive energy. This tradition continues, but in the old days when China was still under the rule of emperors, only rich families and governors could afford to paint their front door red. It was a sign of status and wealth. This is a common occurrence as told in centuries-old stories and poetry.

When examining old-style traditions around marriage matchmaking, two potential young lovers would be paired up based on what type of front door they were living behind. The front door -- wood or bamboo -- was an indication of whether a family was rich or poor. Wood signified well off; bamboo less so.

But, is red truly the perfect color to attract good energy? Perhaps not 100 percent. In the theory of Feng Shui, red really does help to raise the power of positive energy, especially in a timeframe where there is the highest potential for success. Wearing more red helps to empower this energy.

Most Feng Shui followers then figure that if they are in period of low energy, or even a timeframe where they're hitting bottom, that red can help them get back up. They could, however, be wrong. How so? If one is in a period where energy is low, wearing red could increase the bad energy.

Uh oh! Then what color can help us when we're down? Yellow.

Did you ever notice how Chinese monks in higher positions always wear yellow? Or that Chinese amulets to ward off evil are drawn on yellow paper? This is not a coincidence. In Feng Shui theory yellow is the color that can help kick out bad energy, even evil energy. And, it is suggested that you wear yellow and sleep in yellow sheets to avoid negative energies.

Many years ago, a top ad agency in Hong Kong was having paranormal incidents after a member of the staff had been murdered during an in-office robbery after hours. To figure out what was going on the agency hired a famous Feng Shui master.  He said the spirit would likely come back on a certain day and time and suggested that several co-workers wear yellow to deflect the energy.  Now, does wearing yellow during a bad (or low) energy period make more sense to you? You can give the red a break.

Raising good energies with red and yellow? Yes, depending on the time period you are in. Yet, there's more. The color that is best for you also depends on the season in which you were born.

  • Summer: Wear more blue, white and black
  • Autumn: Best to go with green
  • Winter: Try more red, orange and purple
  • Spring: You are perfect in any color, but especially white

These recommendations are not just for clothing, but they are also good for home furnishings as well as wall decorations. Be sure to wear your lucky color somewhere on your body every day. It will help put a smile on your face and boost your confidence.

Monday, February 11, 2019

34. The Origin of Chinese New Year

Happy chinese new year 2019 Zodiac sign year of the pig.

Welcome to the Year of the Boar! Here's wishing everyone's wallet is stuffed with money -- as fat as a little piggy!

You may not be hearing lot of fire crackers going off like new year's celebrations before the turn of the century (safety ordinances being what they are these days), but if you make it to any Chinatown you will be sure to see many lions dancing around with loud drums and gongs.

I always ask my American friends what else they know about the Chinese Lunar New Year celebration. Often they will make note of all the gold and red decorations in Chinese neighborhoods. And it's true, there's a lot of gold but most of the dominant color is red.

These two colors represent both wealth and luck in Chinese traditions going back thousands of years. There are red firecrackers, red and gold lanterns, couplets about spring written on red papers hung on walls, red money envelopes being exchanged, red ribbons wrapping gifts, and even people wearing red clothing during the New Year celebration.  This is because Chinese believe the color red brings about good luck and positive energy. Red is indeed the traditional color for celebrating the Chinese New Year.

The significance of red is not only important to the Chinese, but to other ethnic groups as well. Friends with Latino and Pacific Islander backgrounds have told me about painting the front door of their houses red in order to attract good luck.

Going back in time, the word "year" in the Chinese was the name of a "monster." No one knows where this monster came from or whatever happened to it, but the legend has it terrorizing the lands -- killing off livestock and consuming the entire harvest leaving communities without food  stores for the fallow winter. People would hide in their homes keeping as quiet as possible while the monster was out and about. With the monster coming back every 12 months, eventually villagers decided they had to fight back. Their survival depended on it.

During the last evening at the end of the twelve month, the day that "year" or "monster" returns, the people took to burning a lot of lamps inside their homes instead of hiding in the dark. Everyone putting on red clothing and they hung red in every corner as well as outside in front of their homes. Everyone put on red clothes thinking that it would scare the monster away.

As the dreaded monster came closer and closer to the village, they started making noises by hitting gongs and drums and throwing lit firecrackers at it. Finally the "year"/"monster" was frightened off and ran away from where it came. Elated that they succeeded in turning back the monster, villagers celebrated. And, to keep the monster from ever returning again, they decided to repeat the celebration every 12 months. Thus, the beginning of the Chinese New Year celebration.

This is one of the stories that tells the origin of the Chinese New Year celebration, but there are others as well. Today, it is expected that families will spend a considerable amount of money to properly celebrate the coming of the new year.  For some, the coming of the new year is still a monster, albeit one that consumes their bank accounts.

Monday, February 4, 2019

33. Happy Chinese New Year! And Back to the Numbers

Gong Xi Fa Chai! Happy Lunar New Year to everyone!

In just a couple more days -- on February 5th -- it's Chinese New Year, and we welcome the Year of the Boar, or as some might say, The Year of the Pig. Then, the next day, February 6th, is the official first day of spring on the lunar calendar.

Many lovers may be planning to get married and have a piggy baby, for sure, the 19th of September (9/19/19), as mentioned in previous blog posts, could be a very popular day to get hitched.

But let's turn this post back to talking about numbers. My friend Melissa called to tell me that she got a new phone number. I asked if she got a new phone and she said, "No, just another number."

Melissa, who runs her own company, was attending a conference in Los Angeles where she ran into a Feng Shui practitioner visiting from Hong Kong. She doesn't really follow Feng Shui principles, but she thought how could it hurt to get a little advice about Feng Shui from this man.

The intriguing part is that he didn't need to visit her office. He based his reading on her birth day and time. With that information he told her she could benefit from changing her phone number. Because Melissa's a business woman and phone calls are her main connection to her clients, he suggested the best numbers in her phone number that could help her to generate more business.

Did it work? Well, I am still waiting to hear back from Melissa. But, this isn't the first time that I've heard about numbers bringing positive energy to a business, especially based on a phone number. I heard that this is very popular in Thailand. Apparently, Thai's base their business phone number on the day of the week that they were born and out of that a set of lucky numbers can be determined for the best number. Here they are:

Monday: 9, 16, 19     Tuesday: 2, 4, 26     Wednesday: any number but NOT 3 or 13     Thursday: 2, 4     Friday: 55     Saturday: 2, 4, 26, NOT 8     Sunday: 7

Interesting? They also think that the number combinations of 213 or 217 can lead to more traffic accidents. 1881 could mean betrayal by others.

In Thailand there are some very superstitious traditions. So much so that phone companies will set up a good phone number for you based on the chart above. Do you believe it? When in Thailand ...

Ok, I'll be back shortly.  I've got to call my friend Melissa.