Dreaded Nian

Posted on January 3, 2013


In endless tropical summer, the Spring Festival was always a spiritually dubious time for my grandfather. Desperate to ensure his good fortune continued in the coming year, he would close the shop out of superstition several days before the new moon. In Cantonese tradition, to give someone the gift of a clock at the time of the New Year is a very bad omen. It stems from a homophone linking the phrase “I present you a watch” with “I present you death”. It’s something that has since been translated in other cultures. A watch or clock is supposed to be a very unlucky gift, signalling the death of the relationship within which it is given. The timepiece has since become a negative element in the practice of Feng Shui, and something not to be trifled with at auspicious times.

When KuKu was fourteen, as the family were begining to think about their preparations for the coming New Year, she dreamed the dreaded Nian had visited my family in Penang. Screeching, winged, airborne creatures rained down fire on the villagers of George Town while they slept – destruction, anarchy and mayhem its sole purpose.

(Click on photos to enter gallery)

She awoke to be hustled, along with everyone else, to a relative’s pig farm in Ayer Itam, a lush farming district just outside the city limits of Georgetown……..

(What are your thoughts on superstitions?)