Singaporeans – and Asian people, in general – are superstitious people. I’m not talking about typical knock-on-wood/black cat superstitions, but more mythical, cool and sometimes even random ones. Singaporeans, for the most part, do not believe in Westernized superstitions like Santa Claus. In fact, the typical Singaporean Parent would probably scoff at the notion of a bearded fat man prancing about about in a red suit lined with faux fur, and tell you that under no circumstances would Mommy kiss an ah pui like Santa Claus under the mistletoe.
Superstitions that Singaporeans believe in can vary from traditional ones like married couples giving money (aka ang paos) to single people during Chinese New Year (awesome for me, not so awesome for married couples who have to reluctantly dole out $10 bills to their insufferable younger siblings and cousins) to peculiar ones, such as being reincarnated into a bug.
One time, a giant moth made its way into the dining room while we were having dinner and fluttered around in a bat-like fashion. My maid came into the room armed with a a fly swatter (or was it a rolled up newspaper?), all ready to K.O. it, when my Dad shouted, “Eh eh stop! Don’t kill it! When my mother died, she turned into a butterfly. Open the windows instead!”
Yes, I think my Singaporean Dad is kind of eccentric too.
Anyway, I digress.
Singaporean Parents love superstitions, because it gives them a legitimate reason to force their kid to do/not do something. In fact, they probably all received the same parenting handbook on using scary superstitions to their advantage . Your petulant son won’t stop making a racket over the Transformers toy you won’t buy him at the mall? Threaten to leave him there and then casually mention that he should watch out for the pontianak who preys on crying children. Have a picky eater who refuses to eat her vegetables? Tell her the Kitchen God is taking note of her hidden broccoli under her mashed potatoes.
My Singaporean Mom used to tell me that if I didn’t finish all the rice on my plate, my face would break out in pimples and I would hence be doomed to live a life of misery. Or that the “bad wind” would freeze my face if I continued to make pig faces at my sister.
Other supertitions that Singaporeans love include the number 8 (it’s considered lucky), wearing red underwear when gambling and putting a mirror outside your door during so that demons and ghosts will be scared off by their own reflection.