I recently finally made it to the new Wal-mart in Wudaokou. Just inside the entrance was a wall of red underwear. All kinds-boxers, briefs, bra’s, undershirts—the whole nine yards and every stitch the same shade of fire-truck red!!! Ah, I said to myself, the appearance of the red underwear is a sure sign that it’s Chinese New Year.
Here’s the thing. The Chinese zodiac is divided into 12 years, and each year is named after an animal. It’s very common here for someone to ask your age, not by asking how old you are but by asking what animal you belong to. They know what animal year this is, and they know the order they are in, so once you tell them, it’s easy for them to figure out the year in which you were born. The Year of the Pig began on February 18. So someone who "is a Pig" is 1, 12, 24, 36, 48, etc.
There is a supersticious belief that if this is "your" year, it is considered a "year of fate," bound to be full of much bad luck….unless you wear red underwear or a red belt or a red wristband to ward off the bad luck. I don’t know, I guess evil spirits here don’t like red. They’re a finnicky lot. They don’t like loud noises, hence the firecrackers to scare them away. They can’t turn corners, and they don’t like looking at themselves in the mirror. But I digress…
So, if you belong to the Year of the Pig, don’t forget your red underwear!