Top 10: Asian superstitions

by | Oct 18, 2017

Like many other Asians, I grew up in a traditional household and my elders – from my grandmother to my mom (to think of it, maybe it was just the women) are highly superstitious. They told me the craziest things! I didn’t want to believe in them, but I wasn’t going to take any chances so I followed those rules. To this day, even though I still don’t believe in those superstitions, I catch myself passing some of them onto my own daughter. At the very least, they ARE an excellent way to get her to follow rules.  So without further ado, here are my top 10 (outrageous) Asian superstitions …

10. Don’t eat watermelons while pregnant
Eating watermelon while pregnant

I’ve seen it many times – Chinese elders advising expectant moms: “Don’t eat watermelons during your pregnancy!”  The belief is centered around the Ying & Yang equilibrium of the body. Ingesting “cooling” foods and drinks can cause an in-balance of the “Qi”. So while my wife was carrying our child, I looked this up because you can’t be too safe right? Debunking this old-wives tale, it turns out that scientific research studies point to the beneficial effects of eating watermelon during pregnancy. These benefits include: swelling reduction, muscle cramp relief, heartburn relief, boosting in energy levels.

9. Can’t wash your hair on Chinese New Year
Money down the drain

On Chinese New Year Eve, Mom always told me: “Wash your hair before midnight.” This is so that you won’t need to wash your hair on New Years Day. In Chinese, the words hair and fortune share the same phonetic sound “FAT”). Therefore washing your hair would be the same as watching your fortunes go down the drain – not a good thing to begin the year with. Makes sense right?

Photo source: Images Money @ Flickr.asia (CC BY 2.0)

8. No hammering, renovations or re-arranging furniture during pregnanancy
Hammer and nails

During my wife’s pregnancy, we were told by our parents not to perform any type of renovations or “construction” activities. These can include hammering nails into the wall; re-arranging furniture; and renovating the home. The superstition is that doing any of these things could “hurt” the baby’s spirit. It wasn’t exactly construction, but I did have to prepare the nursery room which included assembling the crib. I guess fortunately for us, we had a healthy baby : )

7. Childbirth means 30 days in pajamas
Shower head

In Chinese tradition, after a mother delivers a baby she is confined to her home for a 1-month recovery period (坐月). During this time mothers are not allowed to shower, wash their hair and drink or eat cold foods. These restrictions are aimed at restoring the body’s balance after childbirth. If the yin and yang are imbalanced, the mother is susceptible to becoming sick.  Well, if you don’t shower in 30 days I can think of a slew of other problems you can develop due to poor hygiene – nasty!

6. Tossing away any removed teeth
removed tooth

While growing up I never saw a cent from the Tooth Fairy. Why? Because my father would always throw away teeth that fell out of my mouth. If it was a top tooth, he’d drop it into the sidewalk drain outside our house. If it was a bottom tooth, he’d throw it onto the roof of our house. While that sounds crazy, it makes sense when you learn that these two types of tosses promoted the ideal directional alignment during growth of the new incoming tooth. This was definitely a fun one for me.

5. Don’t swallow watermelon seeds!
Watermelon seeds

Dad always told me: “Don’t eat the watermelon seeds, or a watermelon will sprout from the top of your head”. Ummm OK Dad…. This is one of the few pieces of superstitious advice I felt comfortable not following. In fact, I’ve gone as far as looking for scientific proof that dispels this folklore. Biotechin.asia – a site devoted to biotech and healthcare says that watermelon seeds are actually “good for skin, hair and your overall well-being. These seeds contain fatty acids, proteins and minerals. They are rich in magnesium, potassium, manganese, iron, zinc, phosphorus and copper.” So take that Dad!

4. If you don’t finish all of the rice in your bowl, the person washing the dishes will go blind
bowl of rice

Mom said: “If you don’t finish all the rice in your bowl, I will go blind when I do the dishes.” I’ve never been able to find the origins and reasoning to this belief, but to this day, I always clean my bowls and plates before handing them over to be washed. I refuse to be even remotely responsible for anyone losing their vision!

3. Calling cute babies ugly
Cute/Ugly baby

My sister-in-law told me: “Oh my god… your baby is so ugly!” Imagine my disbelief of such candid and rude remarks towards my prized newborn baby! I since learned that if you give a baby too much admiration, it will attract the devil’s attention who will come and kidnap your baby. Therefore we trick the devil by insulting the baby. It’s no wonder so many children have self-esteem issues!

2. No whistling at night!
Evil spirits

When I was around 6 or 7, I remember one evening whistling a tune while staying over at my grandmother’s house. Grandma grabbed my attention and told me: “If you whistle in the evening, you’ll invite evil spirits into the home.” I’m in my 40’s and I’m still afraid to whistle at night!

1. Don’t squat while pregnant
Pregnant yoga

I forget why, but one time while my wife was pregnant, she had to squat momentarily. Her mom blurted out: “Don’t squat! The baby will slip out!” Well, why didn’t she tell us this great tip earlier –  BEFORE we booked a doctor and private delivery room at the hospital.  Could have saved a fortune!

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