I am meeting five friends today, five friends who may no longer be mine by the end of the day.
Jan and Ross are in Sydney from Bellingen; they will walk across the harbour bridge this morning, together with Jan’s sister Sue. They suggested I join them outside Luna Park to continue their walk to Wendy Whitley’s garden.
Meanwhile, Jules and Stephanie are also in Sydney from Bellina and when Jules called me yesterday, I recklessly suggested that they should join the party, risking the loss of five friends in one stroke.
I woke up at 3:00 a.m. wondering if I should cancel but if I call them at that hour, it would be a test on our friendship in itself. It’s past five thirty and I’ve decided to take the risk.
No, my friends don’t hate each other and I have done nothing to hurt or betray any of them. It’s the third day of Chinese New Year and to see friends on this day is taboo.
There is a saying in Chinese, 「赤口毒舌」(red mouth poisonous tongue) and the third day of the new year 年初三 is the 赤口日, the Day of the Red Mouth*. The Red Mouth Dog 赤口狗 is an angry god. Traditionally, everyone stays home and pray to the gods. Meeting friends would result in argument and malicious gossip.
Although I am not superstitious, I believe that nothing comes from nothing so I am trying to give reason to this taboo. I remember all the preparations that went on before the end of the year and all the visiting and visitors that used to be de rigueur during Chinese New Year. I believe that the superstition was created by exhausted householders to discourage visitors and excuse themselves from visiting others. A day of rest. Considering that the official public holidays only extend over the first three days of the new year, wouldn’t you like to have at least the last day to yourself?
* like English, Chinese uses the same word for many meanings; 赤 can mean red, empty, true, pure….any number of things but here I chose ‘red’ – hey it’s Chinese New Year.