Year of the Rat: Bring some luck into your life

With the Year of the Rat starting today, it’s not too late to attract good luck in order to make 2008 the best ever. Here are three ways. The first two I have tried.

Get a miniature orange tree– When we lived in Singapore we bought an orange tree every year right before Chinese New Year. The experience reminded me a bit like buying a live Christmas tree. Vendors selling these trees popped up all over the city. Size, cost and amount of oranges all figured into our decision making regarding which to buy–even the style of the pot was part of the package.

We set our tree out on the patio of our apartment and managed not to kill it for awhile. I can’t remember if we had any more good luck than normal, but I loved having such a bright, cheerful plant thanks to the oranges that were not much bigger than a golf ball.

Buy bamboo–Unlike our orange tree that didn’t last a year, (it was us, not the tree), bamboo plants will last awhile if you remember to change the water. In Taiwan, we bought bamboo just in case one of these plants would bring us good luck. I can’t say if any of them did, but I loved browsing the choices before making a purchase. The most expensive ones are grown into shapes. Like Christmas trees and orange trees, the size figures into the price as well.

Put away your scissors–Bringing good luck into your house can also be as simple as putting away sharp scissors and knives. If they are out, you can “cut” your luck.

For more Chinese New Year tidbits about how to improve your fortune, check out this link to the Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco.

Celebrate 2008 Year of the Rat with red rat-themed panties!

Thanks to the Internet that allows us to travel and educate ourselves without getting out of our pajamas, today we can be privy into lifestyles and traditions of radically different cultures. And, when culture and superstitions blend, it’s almost impossible not to have an an interestingly strange (if not explosively bizarre) outcome: believing that wearing red panties with rats on them will bring you good fortune, for example.

That’s exactly what’s happening in Malaysia: Chinese women are buying red panties — this year with rat motifs — in order to get lucky as the Chinese Year of the Rat is about to begin on February 7. They say if you really believe in something, it will probably come true and if wearing red panties will strengthen your belief, why the heck not, eh!?

The Chinese new year is celebrated with a bang throughout the world. Most Chinese cities will have a 3-day public holiday to bring in the new year, and Chinatowns around the world will rejoice the beginning of the rat year through parades, firework displays, multi-course banquets and parties. Unlike the rest of us, the Chinese party for a good month post their new year’s day.

The Lunar Calendar determines the Chinese New Year. Although the western calendar is what’s mainly referred to by the Chinese, the zodiac Lunar Calendar still holds much importance.

I have never followed the Chinese calendar nor do I entirely understand it, but I do know that according to it I’m a monkey. The last Chinese Year of the Monkey was 2004, so if it’s a 12-year cycle, I suppose I’ll be celebrating in 2016?

Visa problems? Maybe you should visit the Visa God

My fellow Indians have found a new way to secure visas to the West. Go to Hyderabad, take 11 rounds of the Chiklur Balaji Temple and voila, your visa will not be rejected.

A temple that has been around for about 100 years hardly drew anyone until recently, thanks to the reincarnation of Hindu Lord Vishnu into “Visa God”, it now draws 100,000 visitors a week. People go as early as 6am to avoid the rush.

Commerce graduate and ex-Unilever employee who is now head priest of the temple (his father’s), couldn’t have put his business knowledge to better use as he crafted this idea while Hyderabad worked towards developing into a key technology hub. The temple even has a website!

“Want it bad enough and you will get it”; “just believe in it enough and it will happen”, “Law of Attraction“; praying for what you want; all that I can understand and reason with; but turning a God into a “Visa God” and driving traffic under that excuse, is a bit hard to stomach. The fact that it has worked, leaves me amused and wondering. I suppose the idea sprouts from that of believing and faith, but it’s a bit far-fetched, no? Apparently, nobody who has greeted the Visa God has been disappointed.

From the article: Mr. Babu of Indus Entrepreneurs says the appeal of the Visa God boils down to the following: “Even if you’re not religious, you say, ‘Why not? I can just go and spend a few minutes and get a visa.”

My country, yet again, leaves me very, very confused.

Heights of superstitious India: Man marries dog

If there is a country that often takes superstition to different heights, it’s India.

Throw salt behind you over your shoulder every morning to have a good day; bury your child’s first tooth in cow-dung and throw it over your roof — it will hasten the child’s teething process; you can’t marry unless your astrological charts match; about 300 million gallons of waste go into the Ganges every day, yet people go to bathe there as they believe it will wash away their sins … the list just gets more and more absurd and is endless. (Most Indian politicians follow their faith when they make decisions for their country — but that’s a different story altogether.)

The latest demonstration of superstitious India: Indian man marries female dog to redeem himself of stoning two dogs to death. When he killed those two dogs about 15 years ago, he suffered some form of paralysis and lost hearing in one ear. An astrologer told him that he was cursed for his bad deed and marrying a dog was the only remedy.

What!?OK, just for the record: I like to respect what people have faith in. I am Indian and have been brought up around things like karma and traditional astrological / spiritual beliefs. I may not believe in most of it, but I do respect it. But when it gets taken to levels like this, I really don’t know what to think.

I know India has a huge problem of illiteracy, and poor villagers depend on their local pandit, or astrologer to show them the way. If it helps you in your life, fine — but where is your head when you are asked to marry an animal?

Not being educated doesn’t mean you don’t have common sense and it amazes me how all sense of rationality often gets thrown out of the window in the name of faith. It also scares me.

[Via Red Orbit]

Hotels to Start Building 13th Floors?

Thanks to the commonly-held superstition that 13 is an unlucky number, hotels have traditionally been built without a 13th floor (or, more accurately, mis-labeled their floors so that 12 is followed by 14). The practice is so widespread, in fact, that most travels can’t recall ever seeing one. But, while most new hotels follow suit, the Starwood chain appears to be bucking the trend, recently including the 13th floor in four of it’s new Westin hotels.

So has the move caused mass hysteria? Have the builders all fallen mysteriously ill or disappeared?

The answer, in short, is no. It’s certainly been a conversation starter, but a recent USA TODAY/Gallup Poll suggests that the vast majority of Americans wouldn’t mind staying on a floor labeled “13,” with only 9% saying that they’d be compelled to request a room change.

A bigger problem than traveler discomfort, it seems, is the potential confusion this move might cause for fire departments. It’s so common for hotels to skip the 13th floor, that most assume it isn’t there.

What about you? Would you be uncomfortable staying on the 13th floor, or is this merely an out of control superstition?