Sunday, January 22, 2012

Chinese New Year, Dragons, and Red Underwear

In 2007, we arrived in China right after the Chinese New Year for our 5-month stay.  Our apartment was on the college campus where I taught, and as usual, we frequently saw laundry hanging to dry from balconies and dorm windows (we hung our laundry to dry, too, as the photo above shows!).  One odd thing I noticed was the number of items of RED underwear hanging out to dry.  Panties, boxers, bras, all in red!  I thought that was quite hotsy-totsy for college students!  But I soon learned that it wasn't a Victoria's Secret inspired fashion trend -- it was protection:
For those turning 12, 24, 36 etc. (the Chinese Zodiac uses a cycle of 12), termed benming nian, or the meeting of one’s zodiac year, traditional Chinese belief is that it can be an unlucky year. To ward off any dangers that might befall you in your benming nian, it helps to wear red. Red is one of the luckiest colors in Chinese traditions, standing for loyalty, success and happiness.
If you’re really traditional, you should wear red every day, all year long. If you’re not a big fan of the color red in your outer wardrobe, red underwear is an easy way to protect yourself against the hazards of benming nian.
So all of those 24-year-old college/grad students had all been gifted red underwear for the dangerous Zodiac year!
Zoe was born in the Year of the Dragon, so this year is her first repeat Zodiac year.  We're lucky that her school uniform includes a red sweater or sweatshirt, so she's covered (in more ways than one!) during the week.  But what about weekends?!

We went looking for red underwear for her today, and found PLENTY in adult sizes and risque styles given the proximity to Valentine's Day.  But for little girls?  Not so much (I suppose I should be relieved they don't have little girl panties in red, given that red underwear has the "sexy" connotation.  But that doesn't usually stop the designers -- I once saw a pair of 2T underwear with the word "HOTTIE" on the front.  Yikes!). Might have to dye a few pairs to get Zoe through the Year of the Dragon. . . . .

Happy New Year to you all, and for those meeting the Year of the Dragon at age 12, 24, 36, 48, etc., best wishes for protection and lots of red underwear!

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