Luck, hard work and the Ox

Published by rudy Date posted on January 25, 2009

“Di ba swerte yan sa Intsik?”

Everyone wants to know what they should do to bring luck to their lives in the new year, which starts tomorrow.

And because the lunar new year is popularly known as Chinese New Year, people assume that Chinese – including Chinese-Filipinos or Tsinoys – possess the secrets of good luck and prosperity. Thus at this time of year every year, we are expected to be the fount of wisdom with regards to what to do, what to eat, what to wear, and friends all want to know what we will be doing tonight (New Year’s Eve) and tomorrow.

It’s no secret really. My family, like all other Tsinoy families hereabouts, will be doing one thing this evening: eating.

The most important ritual is wei lou, for the family to gather around the hearth and share a sumptuous meal together, with substantial amounts left over. Our menu is determined more by gastronomic preference than so-called “lucky food” – rest assured the meal will be cholesterol-laden, but washed down with pots of fine Oolong tea. My wise ancestor once told us that the best time to diet is tomorrow.

The lunar new year is also referred to as the Spring Festival, and is the most important holiday for Chinese everywhere. In China and other predominantly Chinese societies, the festival is celebrated as a weeklong holiday, with factories and stores shuttered and workers, especially those who work in big cities, returning to their home provinces. 

In China, trains – still the most popular mode of transport for the ordinary Chinese – are jampacked with people returning home. Last year, freak winter storms stranded hundreds of thousands; this year, the government weather bureau has forecast fair winter weather for the millions of commuters. In Manila, Pagasa has also forecast fair weather – including the return of the cold, dry air – for all the festivities slated for the first day of the new year.

There are some who prescribe very specific rituals and accessories to bring good luck and prosperity: a certain number and variety of round fruits (some say 12, others 13), wearing certain colors and patterns (purple is reportedly the color this year, but red is always festive; and polka dots seem to have given way to rectangles since some wiseguy said bills are better than coins), performing certain rituals (jump over a fire, do not sweep your house, pay all your debts before the old year ends, which is always a good thing to do).  

Geomancers, feng shui masters and fortune tellers – men and women who draw on ancient Chinese traditions to predict the future, offer investment advice and help mere mortals make sense of their destiny – are doing brisk business these days, as people want to know what the year has in store for them and what they can do to shift the odds in their favor.

But it all depends on which feng shui master you consult.

For example, Raymond Lai of Hong Kong says the year “will be a number nine fire year, and the color is purple, so the fire energy will be very intense…”

However, Jenny Lin of Taipei says “this year lacks four of life’s five basic elements – wood, fire, metal and water, and only has earth,” which means “everybody has to work as hard as an ox while ploughing the field this year.”

The much-awaited annual guide for the 12 animal signs of the Chinese zodiac in today’s issue of STARweek magazine notes that “the Earth Ox plods into our lives this year almost appropriately and necessarily to clean up the mess left by the turbulent 2008 and sort things out for a more orderly world.”

It is indeed an appropriate task for the Ox, who is regarded as strong, reliable, hardworking and determined. These are characteristics that will serve us well this year, as financial analysts and economists as well as seers and feng shui masters agree that the global economic turmoil is far from over.

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines spokesman Monsignor Pedro Quitorio III has advised Filipino Catholics against buying lucky charms, calling these “superstitious” and “syncretic.”

“The Church looks at these lucky charms as superstitious because we should only trust God to make our year progressive and not rely on the position of the bed or the door,” he added.

More than amulets and rituals and lucky colors, people should emulate the Ox and meet the year with determined action, strength and hard work, and this year might just turn out to be – pardon the pun – “oks na oks.” – January 25, 2009 
with Evelyn Macairan, Philippine Star

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