Tag Archives: Chinese superstition

Wear red on 12th birthday

Main Piece: Chinese Superstition/Tradition

“It is a Chinese superstition/tradition to wear the color red every 12th birthday in order to ward off bad luck.”

Background Information:

This is a part of Chinese tradition and the informant learned this from one of her Chinese friend’s mother. The superstition also postulates that if you do not wear red on that birthday you are more susceptible to bad luck

Context of the Performance:

This tradition occurs every twelfth birthday. This is a Chinese tradition and it falls in line with wearing certain colors for certain reasons such as wearing white when getting married or wearing black during a funeral.

My Thoughts:

I have not heard of this tradition, but I have heard about other similar traditions that involve wearing certain colors for certain reasons such as communication or as a signal.

Doorframe Superstition


DS: “Yeah, according to my mom, it’s bad luck to kiss or hug underneath a doorframe. I’m not quite sure why this is, but I remember my mom told me it’s an old Chinese tradition.”


DS is a Chinese American who has lived in the United States his entire life. His grandmother lived in China and passed down many of her cultural traditions to her daughter. In turn, the daughter passed down these traditions to DS. According to DS, everyone in his family believes that kissing under a doorframe is bad luck. He does not believe in the superstition; however, he still lives by it. In his words, “Even though I think it’s silly, I still live by this superstition as it ties me to my family”.

My Interpretation:

Personally, I find this to be very interesting. Doorframes are a liminal space between two places. Liminality is often linked to magic and otherworldliness. I feel like the superstition may be tethered to that. Interestingly, when I first heard this, my mind immediately turned to mistletoe and how the West almost encourages kissing in doorframes. It is very interesting that there is a break between the two cultural ideologies on this subject. Although I do not believe in this superstition, I think the fact that DS still lives by it shows the power superstitions have in creating a sense of community.

Chinese New Year Superstition

Context: My informant is a 26 year-old woman who is of Chinese descent. She grew up in Hong Kong and lived there until she moved to Pasadena at the age of 7. Listed below is an account of a Chinese holiday called “Harvest Festival”. She detailed her experience of Chinese New Year and specific beliefs and practices her family had. She knows and loves these stories from personal experience. She knows and loves these stories from personal experience.


“On Chinese new year, you are not supposed to wash your hair or your clothes because it is thought to be washing off the good luck. You are also only supposed to wear red, even your underwear. The elders also give the younger people money in red envelopes as a sign of good luck and prosperity. On the first day of the year you only eat dumplings, second day you eat fish and vegetables, and on the third day you eat ‘longevity noodles’ because it’s supposed to give you a long life.” 


The superstitious aspect of “washing good luck off” was one thing that I found particularly interesting. It is believed that one possesses a high amount of good luck on Chinese new year and you will wash it off if you wash any of your things. The connection to red in Chinese culture is present in many stories that this informant told me and I am curious to know where red ties into their history and how it came to be such a symbolic color. I love the way that food ties into this holiday over the span of several days. It almost seems as though one is preparing the two days before in order to eat the “longevity noodles”, noodles that promote a long life. 

Chinese Chopstick God

Background: My informant is a friend of mine of Chinese, Taiwanese, and Japanese heritage. His parents are both from Taiwan and are mixed between Chinese, indigenous Taiwanese, and Japanese. The purpose of the call was specifically so that I could gather folklore from my informant, and they were aware about that as well. The entire main piece is a transcription of our call.

Context: This conversation was recorded on a zoom meeting that we had on a Wednesday afternoon. My informant is a friend of mine, and the conversation occurred in both of our rooms. The purpose of the call was specifically so that I could gather folklore from my informant, and they were aware about that as well. During the call and in between our discussions of different folklore items, we talked socially about how we were acclimating. Thus, this conversation was more casual than the rest of my interviews. My informant’s dad, who is the source of this piece, is mixed between Taiwanese native and Chinese from the Hunan province.

Main Piece:

This was the first one I thought about right now when you were listing stuff out…uhm let’s see… the first thing I remember was when I was younger like when I was in elementary school I was told that I could not play with my chopsticks at dinner, like I couldn’t make them into like I couldn’t use them to pretend to be drumsticks or couldn’t use them to pretend to be like standing up in the rice. And I thought it was kind of odd because I saw everyone else around me doing it. Like, why can I do this, his belief or rationale behind it was that Ancient Chinese people believe that the chopsticks, where the tools of ….I believe it’s like the word God or something like that. And so by playing around with them, you’re disrespecting the wood God and children who played with. I’m not kidding. I swear, you looking back on it, it seems pretty ridiculous but you know for a kid who doesn’t know any better, like, you know, you’re just like enthralled by this. Anyhow, so as a kid. If you played with the chopsticks, and like, you know, use them as drumsticks or whatever you make the word God angry and then in the middle of the night. The word God will come and spank in the middle of the night with the chopsticks

Me: ahahahaha. What if you sleep on your back?

Too bad. I don’t know how much I believe that at the time. But I can tell you after day, to this day, I still don’t really play with my chopsticks. I’m very Utilitarian with them.

Me: So, so, like, how old were you when when this story was told to you.

I would say like five or six ish. I was like the beginning of elementary school.

Thoughts: I found this very interesting because my parents are Chinese and I have never heard of a wood god that spanks people. Like many folk stories/tales/beliefs, this folk belief is probably told to children to make sure that they behave.

Wear red in the year of fate

Main piece:

In Chinese lunar calender, there is the twelve-year cycle represented by twelve animals as zodiac. When it is the same zodiac as the year you are born, you are supposed to wear red. No matter it is underwear, socks, or any clothes, you should always have a piece of red on your body. It would bless you a smooth year of fate.

Background information:

2020 is the year of mouse, which is my mother’s zodiac. One day we are changing cloth in the room, I saw her wearing a red underwear which is not her style. So I asked her about it and she told me this custom of wearing red in the year of fate. She also said she heard it from her parents and apprantly it is a wide spread agreement in Chinese society. She said I also wore red when I was 12 but I don’t remember.


This piece was collected quickly through a daily talk with my mother when we are in the middle of doing something else.


Chinese people have a positive belief of the color red. It represents good luck and can protect us from bad things. I think there may not be any scientific proof behind this color belief today, but there might be some relation in the past. For example, maybe red helps people to discover each other in dangerous situation. Or maybe red makes people feel warm. Anyway, I am always glad to see my mom wear something colorful.