A Superstitious Family – an Open Speech

Most families have a few superstitions flowing through them, even if it’s only the older members who still hold to them diligently. And if there’s one feature most of these superstitions have in common, it’s that they’re totally, utterly inexplicable. Like a chocolate kettle paired with a paper teapot, they make no sense whatsoever.

Emily, my best friend, and classmate came from a large extended family. She was of Chinese and Malay ancestry. People of this ancestry are referred to as “Baba” or “Peranakan.” Theirs was a warm and caring family. Two married sons and two unmarried daughters were present. The sons, along with their wives and children, shared a sprawling bungalow with their parents. The house was always buzzing with activity and laughter. The family was also very traditional and held high regard for their forefathers.

All of the other members of the family held their parents in high regard. The children were filial and obedient, and they never argued with their parents. They were a close-knit family, and members of the family helped each other in times of need.

The family, however, was very particular about certain practices, and superstitious beliefs prevailed. Members of the family were not permitted to give each other sharp instruments such as needles, knives, or scissors. They expected squabbles between the giver and the receiver as a result of this. The family also stated that no one was to sweep the house after sunset because it would cause family warmth and love to be swept away.

The children were not allowed to sleep on the eve of Lunar New Year until they had ushered in the new year at the stroke of midnight, because the deities bestowed the most blessings on those they met first. On the day a son married, he and his wife were each made to sweep a large orange into the house’s threshold. The oranges represented gold and prosperity and sweeping them in heralded the arrival of good fortune. If a member of the family became ill, there was to be no mention of death or hospitals for fear of attracting the devil to claim the sick person’s soul.

My family was invited to their home for dinner one day. During the meal, one of the grandchildren inadvertently rested her left hand on her plate. Her grandmother immediately chastised her. She told the child that if she did that, she would never find food on her plate because the devil would claim that her plate was not for food but for her hand.

I’d never met such a superstitious family before, but they seemed to be amiably united by their superstitions, both good and bad.

This can happen if you’re ostentatiously wealthy or brag too much about your achievements. It is one of the reasons why people who believe in this theory choose to be quiet about their own achievements – anything too showy can bring bad luck down the road. Some even believe it explains why so many celebrities have tragic flaws. It’s also one of the reasons why some people use various charms to ward off it.