By the time you read this, I will have had my fill of the brown sugar ‘year cake’, which just by chewing its gooey texture my year will apparently soar to great heights. I will have refrained from washing my hair on Sunday in case all my luck drains away through Oribe suds. I will have asked the cleaner not to be alarmed when red envelopes of cash fall out of my daughter’s pillow case. No, she’s not running a side hustle of selling kiddy contraband in the playground. This is her stash of lucky money and she has to sleep on it hopefully to make the fortune ‘grow’ in the new year. Slightly worrying that Chinese culture prematurely teaches kids to be would-be Harper Sterns from Industry.
Technically speaking we’re still in the thick of the Lunar New Year period, as it actually lasts for two weeks. On the final day in Malaysian tradition, single women throw oranges marked with their telephone number into the sea in the hopes of a prospective partner finding their ‘sweet fruit’ washed up on the shore. The patriarchy! But maybe not quite so ludicrous in the context of Milf Manor — a reality show pairing middle-aged hot mums with other contestants’ adult sons.
Good news! This year ushers in the Year of the Rabbit, which means positivity, auspiciousness and harmony in abundance. Specifically, it’s also the year of the ‘water rabbit’ — that’s even more love and affection in the pipeline for all of us. I’ve spent most of my life being given a loosey-goosey, simplified version of Chinese zodiac predictions by my mum. Endearingly she deliberately minimises the negative aspects and plays up the positives with comedic superlatives. ‘Your work life will be magnificent! Those around you will pay you great respect! Your love will blossom greatly!’ She also analyses the position of my three-month-old son’s eyebrows and says he’ll live up in a penthouse apartment because they’re particularly high. In other words, her Chinese woo-woo chat is to be taken with a pinch of salt.
You have to commend the effort that goes into this cultural quest for luck and fortune. Every year, my mother slaves away over the dishes of complexity, stuffing in as many ingredients with names that have similar sounds to luck or wealth. She’ll roam all over east London butchers to hunt down a perfectly sized chicken to place at the ancestral alter to please the passed-away elder Laus, who then might grant my sister a job promotion. Never mind that we get indigestion after the hefty meal — so long as our pockets will be lined with metaphorical gold.
Maybe the simplified, mainstream version of my mother’s superstitious, fortune-seeking routine is the #luckygirlsyndrome. TikTok has seen the hashtag explode with girls saying positive affirmations such as, ‘I’m so lucky and everything goes my way’, while things like Taylor Swift tickets, great exam results and first-class flight upgrades fall into their laps. No surprise that those hashtag-blessed people declaring how things are always working out for them are mainly white, attractive and of a certain income bracket.
But whether it’s believing that you’ll get a Chanel bag through vaguely deluded affirmations or scooping that promotion by boiling up a halal chicken, these belief systems of positive manifestation to a certain extent are coping mechanisms that help us navigate a shaky-feeling 2023. We could all do with conjuring up some peace and positivity right now. May the force of the water rabbit be with you.