It’s time for preemptive voodoo dumplings!
My younger, university age students couldn’t tell me anything about this, but my older students (over 45) got the biggest kick out of explaining it — it was the same with Mr. SÃ²ng two Spring Festivals ago when they invited us over for dinner on åˆäº”ï¼Œthe 5th day of Spring Festival.
Traditionally on the 5th day of Spring Festival (åˆäº”), no one visits anyone in the evening and parents would make their kids come back before dark. The evening of the 5th day is for “beating the petty people” (æ‰“å°äºº), who, my students explained, are those infuriating neighbours or coworkers who oppose you in secret, messing up your affairs without you knowing who’s behind it. So there’s a whole traditional custom during Spring Festival using dumplings as voodoo dolls to preemptively give trouble to anyone who might secretly give you trouble in the new year.
ChÅ«wÇ” (åˆäº”), like chÃºxÄ« (é™¤å¤•), is an evening of dumplings and fireworks. According to this tradition, the dumplings and fireworks on chÅ«wÇ” are for beating your future petty people. Specifically:
- å‰å°äºº duÃ² xiÇŽorÃ©n. Chopping up the jiÇŽozi filling (always chopped very fine) is “chopping petty people.”
- æå°äººçš„å˜´ niÄ“ xiÇŽorÃ©nde zuÇ. Pinching the dumplings closed is “pinching petty people’s mouths.”
- å´©å°äºº bÄ“ng xiÇŽorÃ©n (zÄ“n xiÇŽorÃ©n in Tianjin dialect). Lighting off firecrackers is “exploding petty people.” This is harder to translate exactly; “ç»™ä»–ä»¬å´©èµ°” is the example my students used, meaning something like “explode them away” as in scaring them off with the explosion (as opposed to blowing them to pieces).
- è¸©å°äºº cÇŽi xiÇŽorÃ©n. Apparently you can also draw a picture of a “petty person” on the bottom of your socks and “step on petty people.”
Hong Kong is famous for æ‰“å°äºº as a paid service — you go under overpasses and pay someone to chop for you.
Other stuff about “beating petty people” in China:
Other stuff about celebrating Chinese New Year’s:
- Enjoying ç¦ (fÃº) and the inner circle of Chinese life
- I pity the fÃºâ€‹
- â€˜Tis the season forâ€¦ RED PANTIES!
- The Nian monster is coming! Better get some red underwear!
- Sharing Chinese New Yearâ€™s with the neighbours
- Happy New Year! Congratulations for not being eaten!
- Chinese New Year: a Passover?
- Happy New Year! (Taibei 2006)