Tag Archives: good fortune

Egg Day (立春)

(above image is taken from the informant’s Instagram with their consent. It was posted February 4, 2018)

Note: The tradition was performed by the 18 year old informant (notated I), while the further explanation was supplied by her mother (notated M).

Performance: This tradition was performed on February 4, 2022 by the 18 year old informant. Further information was collected over a phone call March 4, 2022.

Transcript of the informant explaining the performance:

[Note: the informant didn’t really explain the tradition in detail because it was something I already knew about. In essence it’s the balancing of eggs on the 4th or 5th day of Chinese New Year, however the informant does it every February 4th for convenience. Further detail can be found in the transcript from my conversation with the informant’s mother.]

I: um like, and I only like, we never like did it every year until a couple years ago, but like it was a long time ago since we were still living in that old house, um it’s like a fun good luck thing, and I get to do a fun thing for Chinese New Year that I understand and don’t have to speak Chinese for it AND I get to, it’s always been like a fun thing to include other people on. Because, like, I post on Instagram and half the people are like oh my god it’s f***ing egg day and the other half are like what is happening, what is egg day, why is everybody in on this?

And then, y’know, when I came here [Australia], two people were like what the f*** are you doing? and I was like balancing eggs do you want to balance eggs? and they were like kind of. So, I don’t know, it’s also something you can use to connect with people. And be like “this is a fun culture thing.” I don’t know, I just enjoy it. It’s a fun way to connect with my culture. But like, in a very, un-serious way.

And it’s not like a *super important cultural practice*, y’know? So, it really is like anybody can do it.

Transcript of the informant’s mother explaining additional information about the tradition:

Me: What is the name of the tradition, and what’s its origin?

M: Origin, Chinese. The name is call 立春 (Lìchūn)

M: Spring time (春Chūn) is in the middle. Li (Lì立) is like you stand straight. that’s called li.

[FROM LATER IN THE TRANSCRIPT]

M: I don’t think this is from like, from China. I think China people don’t do that though I don’t know why. This is more like Taiwan people do that, Hong Kong, of course Malaysia, right. Singapore. I don’t know, I kind of shocked when I asked my neighbor, she’s from Shanghai. She said she never did it. Maybe is not from China, I don’t know, but Hainam, the Hainamese do that.

What is the origin or meaning behind this tradition?

W: So we do that on…the the the meaning behind doing this is just to start, it means that the new, the spring day is coming. Is a new day, so for a new year, so that’s why Chinese doing it on the Lunar calendar New Year, um usually count it like fifth days, fourth or 5th days after the Chinese New Year, count it, start from the first day. And, lichun leans that in the old time, all the farmer right? So when it’s time to plant, that is when they do this, is called lichun. Lichun is just to like, to tell that it’s time to plant and that it’s spring time. 

so this standing the eggs thing is just a…they believe the Earth is tilted on that particular day, that is straight. straight down like this that means it balance on both sides right. And somehow, I don’t know when it started, that they tested it… you can actually balance, because egg is the only thing that is not, you know, that is impossible to stand an egg. but on that day, actually they tried it, it worked, so it’s proof that the Earth is actually really straight and with the strong gravity. So we do that, then of course why they say do that is because to bring good luck in, into your house, prosperities. so that’s why Chinese do that during Chinese New Year, and then during Chinese New Year you want to bring good luck, you want to bring money into your house, so doing that means that, so you stand an egg, means that if it happens, if you’re successfully, you can do it, means that you have good luck. Then you let it stand in your house. I always let it stand for 15 days because Chinese New Year is 15 days so-

I: It means I have great luck. 

M: So Chinese New year is always 15 days, right? And so a lot of celebration going on the 7 day, the 15 days, it depends on what you origin from. So like you’re Hawkin you do it differently, if you are Hainamese you do it differently, so all of it if you are different province you have different belief. 

Personal Thoughts:

This tradition is particularly fascinating to me, because it displays an awareness that the Earth is not perfectly upright. While this tradition fulfills typical traits of many Chinese New Year traditions – an association with good fortune, it also differs greatly by balancing eggs. While the informant’s mother said that they balance eggs on this particular day because eggs are not perfectly round (and are difficult to balance), I also wonder if it’s because eggs are supposed to be a potential reflection of the world balancing on this particular day. Many ideas of world eggs are discussed in Venetia Newall’s Easter Eggs. While none of them particularly match Egg Day, they share an idea of an egg as something greater than just an egg.

Additional Notes:
For additional discussions of Eggs and their significance to folklore, go to:
Newall, Venetia. “Easter Eggs.” In The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. 80, No. 315. (Jan. – Mar., 1967), pp. 3-32.

Folk Belief: It’s Good Luck to Kill a Scotsman

Main Piece: 

Informant: “There’s a law in England that in York on Sunday, you’re allowed to kill a Scotsman with a bow and arrow. So- I mean, this was put in place in the 1700s when England was at war with Scotland and it was never repealed, so it still exists. So, apparently, some people think that if you do this— Of course, there are like law kinda hierarchies, so the murder law I think also applies. I mean, it’s apparently supposed to give you luck if you do kill a Scotsman. I mean, I’ve never tried it but…”

Collector: “Is there any like traditions or things that people do on a Sunday to celebrate this law? Besides killing Scotsmen.”

Informant: “Well, you know, I don’t know. I heard, you know, a thing once. This might be one guy. I heard people like treat the Scotsperson as an animal and they left, you know, a bowl of haggis outside as bait. And they would wait in the bushes. I mean, this is England, so…”

Collector: “Do the Scotsmen like this?”

Informant: “I don’t think so. I don’t think they go to York on a Sunday.”

Background:

My informant had not personally partaken in any of the rituals surrounding this law. From the way he presented it, it was up to individual interpretation how to personally engage with this law, hence the singular person hiding in the bushes. No set rituals necessarily exist in any official or widely known capacity. My informant said he understands it as the good luck associated with the killing is what is well known. He also made it clear that these efforts were obviously facetious and the repetition of “it’s good luck to kill a Scotsman in York on Sunday with a bow and arrow” is something of a running joke.

Thoughts:

There are direct ties between this piece of folklore and intercultural tensions. At the time of the laws establishment, there was an active war between England and Scotland. However, in the modern United Kingdoms, there is a different sort of tension. The Scottish Independence Movement is largely championed by Scots and largely blocked by British government. As such, while the two cultures are within the same nation, there is a tension between the Scots’ desire to leave and the relative power that the British have. I think it’s possible that this folklore is a piece of malevolent humor shared between the Brits. It serves primarily to denigrate the Scots as a group but is obviously facetious enough not to be too egregious for public.

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph — Prayer for Good Luck

Text

The following piece was collected from a seventy-three year-old woman from Vail, Colorado. She is Irish Catholic. She will hereafter be referred to as the “Informant” and I the “Collector”.

Informant: “Oh, whenever my family needs a bit of luck, or we think someone else could use it, all you have to say is ‘Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.’”

Collector: “Then what’s supposed to happen?”

Informant: “Nothing is supposed to happen. It’s just a way of trying to get some extra help from above.”

Collector: “When do you say it?”

Informant: “Well, we’ve always said it whenever we see an ambulance. If one drives by with the sirens, you say a quick JMJ and that helps. Or…haha… if you need some help on a test you think you did poorly on, I would always write JMJ very small in the corner of the paper right before I turned it in. Couldn’t hurt.”

Context

The Informant learned this practice from her father, who would always stop the car and make the kids said JMJ if they saw an accident or an ambulance. It later leaked into other aspects of their lives, more lighthearted in nature. The Informant always felt more confident, or at least hopeful, about a test that she had written JMJ on. She believed that with God on her side, there was such a better chance of things turning out well in the end.

Interpretation

            I believe this piece to be interesting in the ways it can be applied and at the same time very familiar to me. Growing up, my family’s mantra for a quick bit of help or luck came as a result of very quickly saying “Come, Holy Spirit”. Hearing another family that has a similar practice, but different words is heartwarming to me, because I enjoy hearing that people have faith in small phrases, that saying them can bring good luck and fortune.

Chinese Folk Belief on Big Noses

Note: The form of this submission includes the dialogue between the informant and I before the cutoff (as you’ll see if you scroll down), as well as my own thoughts and other notes on the piece after the cutoff. The italics within the dialogue between the informant and I (before the cutoff) is where and what kind of direction I offered the informant whilst collecting. 

Informant’s Background:

My parents and I are from Central China, but I grew up in Kentucky.

Piece:

So my parents would tell me another thing… compared to my mom and dad, I have the biggest nose in my family. My parents would make me feel good about it by telling me that people with big noses tend to be more fortunate in the future.

Piece Background Information:

I guess that’s like a superstition they have, but it made me feel good about myself. They would just point out my big nose and tell me I would be successful in the future, because that’s how it goes. I think it’s a Chinese culture thing.

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Context of Performance: 

In person, during the day at Ground Zero, a milkshake shop and cafe on USC’s campus in Los Angeles.

Thoughts on Piece: 

While I did not find any specific accounts of Chinese folk beliefs associating a large nose with success, there are many accounts observing that Jewish people tend to have large noses and also tend to be successful. While I do not quite know where this belief that a big nose could symbolize good fortune came from, it is safe to assume that the informant’s parents probably were trying to make him or perhaps even themselves feel good about what they believed was a big nose. For the record, I do not think the informant’s nose is large.

Folk Belief on Red Ears

Note: The form of this submission includes the dialogue between the informant and I before the cutoff (as you’ll see if you scroll down), as well as my own thoughts and other notes on the piece after the cutoff. The italics within the dialogue between the informant and I (before the cutoff) is where and what kind of direction I offered the informant whilst collecting. 

Informant’s Background:

My parents and I are from Central China, but I grew up in Kentucky.

Piece:

My mom would say… sometimes my ears would get really hot and red and uncomfortable. I think that’s a normal thing for people for whatever reason. When I would tell my mom, she’d tell me that it just meant somebody was missing me.

Piece Background Information:

I think it was just a way of making me feel good in an uncomfortable situation. I think her mom told her that, and she passed it down to me. I don’t know if it’s like a Chinese culture thing or something passed down within my family, but that’s just something she would tell me.

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Context of Performance:

In person, during the day at Ground Zero, a milkshake shop and cafe on USC’s campus in Los Angeles.

Thoughts on Piece: 

The folk belief that itching, ringing, or burning (red) ears means someone is talking about you or thinking about you dates back very, very far and is definitely not limited to Chinese folk belief. Some further variations claim that ringing in your right ear means someone is thinking or saying something good about you, while ringing in your left ear means someone is thinking or saying something bad about you. While this of course is not based in scientific fact, it is most likely a sentiment that parents pass along to their children in order to explain an unknown phenomena of ear pain (and possibly even tinnitus) or feelings of embarrassment or overheating.