Sunday, November 16, 2014

Chinese Superstitions (Baby Edition)

Don't want any ghosts scaring this little angel
(William on his birth day)

William has been a great nighttime sleeper from week one. That's not to say that he never wakes or doesn't have an off night here or there, but he rarely cries and after having a bottle, he goes right back to sleep. The past few weeks have been a bit of a struggle. At first, I thought it was due to his last round of vaccinations. Then I thought he might be teething. Finally, I realized he had a full blown cold and fever. No matter what the cause, I always figure that whatever troubles him must be linked some logical explanation—an illness or a new stage in his development.

Ming's mom had different ideas. She was convinced, and even in the midst of William's obvious illness is still convinced, that his recent nighttime crying is tied to the paranormal. Ghosts have taken a part of him away and it is our job to call him back home, to unite his body and mind.

A stick to scare away ghosts
In order to achieve this, Ming's mom used a two pronged approach. In order to execute part one, she first found a large stick. She broke it in half and placed one section in the mail slot outside our door. The other lies on the bookshelf above where William sleeps. My understanding is that these sticks are used to keep ghosts from returning and re-snatching his spirit. I guess I can get behind this idea; it's almost in the same ballpark as a Native American dreamcatcher, which I used to have as a kid.

Part two of the reunification required my participation. I felt a bit ridiculous taking part and Ming's mom told me that if I didn't want to do it, we could just forget all the hocus pocus. But I decided to play along, even trying to convince myself I believed it, because, really, what does it hurt? So one night, after William fell asleep, Ming's mom went to the door to leave. She called to William:

“William, are you there?”

I answered on his behalf (naturally), calling back to my mother-in-law, “I've come back!”

Then I continued, speaking to William in soothing whisper, “Don't be scared. Don't be scared. Drink mommy's milk.”

This was repeated three times and then William's spirit was returned, which meant he'd no longer have a reason to cry at night. And that night he didn't cry, though I'm not convinced that our little ritual had anything to do with it. Ming, however, is a believer.

An inauspicious alley way 
Interestingly, superstitions about babies and ghosts have come up a number of times since William was born. For instance, Ming is adamant that during the first year of life, we should avoid taking William out at night. Babies, like animals, are susceptible to seeing ghosts after dark.

Another issue we have is that there is a crematorium near our apartment. I didn't even realize this until Ming started panicking about it after the baby was born. Obvious this is a problem because there must be hoards of spirits lingering around. And it is just the off of the main alleyway that connects our apartment complex to the main road. If at all possible, Ming avoids that route when we have William with us, opting for other exits even if they are slightly less convenient. It's not something I would ever concern myself with, but I entertain the belief to avoid arguments.

What about you, are you superstitious? Do you ever entertain other people's superstitions?

5 comments:

martalivesinchina said...

I had never heard of this superstitions. Very interesting! But of course, I can't believe any of it :D

PS. My dog goes out every night and I don't think she has seen any ghost!

rosieinbj said...

@Marta I usually don't believe in these things but I did have a really strange incident walking my dog at night recently. She suddenly darted into the road and was cowering under a park car, afraid to come out–totally out of character for her. There was nothing around that I could see. Later I told my husband about it and he said we had been walking in an area where the Chinese has suffered many casualties at the hands of the Japanese during WWII. She must have seen a ghost! Or maybe there's another explanation. . . .

martalivesinchina said...

Oh wow, that is scary!! I live in a very new area which was the countryside 10 years ago, so I guess no horrible things have happened here and if ghosts do exist, for sure they wouldn't be here :D

Charlotte said...

Wow..since it let my comment through I'll try another!
My mother in law went out early one morning to pick insects out of manure and then made them into dumpling filling. She proceeded to package them up and send my father in law on a three hour trip over to Tianjin to their youngest daughter who "didn't have enough milk" in hopes that her milk output would be increased. I could have saved all of them the trouble by saying that as long as you just keep nursing the baby you'll have little problem (for most) but they insisted on giving him more forumla after every feeding. But what do I know, I'm the strange American who insists on nursing my kids to age two (and partly because I'm afraid grandparents will try to take over and take them to the hometown or something crazy!) and not giving them the deadly forumla that's for sale here.

rosieinbj said...

@Charlotte I think I just threw up a little! That is pretty disgusting, although I'm not that surprised.

I hate that they push formula. I'm not against formula at all (I know some moms are a bit fanatically about the issue) and my son has been having some formula since birth. They were always giving it to him and it messed up my ability to breast feed.