CC Issue 14 / Reflections

Making Reb Tevye Proud

As much as I don’t want to write about Chinese New Year, the cacophonous din of the dragon dancers and their drums outside my window this morning left me no choice but to reflect on the event.

People are out and about everywhere today, walking the streets and alleyways to visit their relatives on one of the few days of the year when they don’t have to work.

When I left my house this morning to escape the noise, I walked by several people also carrying bright whirly pinwheels, presumably to ward off evil spirits. While I don’t put any stock in the efficacy of the pinwheels, it caused me to consider whether the people I saw actually believe it themselves or whether they just buy them out of habit—merely a tradition of the Chinese New Year holiday.

This particular tradition or practice is clearly based on a superstition, but I wonder whether the traditions of my own culture are really all that different at heart.

Perhaps we also decorate the tree and stuff the stockings in the (superstitious?) hope that we will feel happy and safe and warm once we have done these things. Or, at the very least we will remember the time when as children we felt this way at Christmas. Either way, it is a feeling that often seems to elude us in regular life.

Of course many “traditions” have something inherently desirable or attractive—e.g. the pretty shininess of the pinwheel, the sweetness of the candy in the Christmas stocking. But it seems we are also using these things to get at something else that we desire and yet don’t know how to attain.



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