Here are a few things at which at one point I’ve abided by, in spite of their non-sensical nature. Due to a doubly superstitious background as a Chinese-Panamanian, sometimes I cannot tell whether it’s due to my western/Latino or oriental side:
Dry your hair, fend off El Sereno
- Growing up, I had a careful routine after stepping out of the shower. It consisted of pulling my hair as waves of heat caressed my hair, water drops running down strands and blown like leaves raked by seventh graders looking for a summer job. I did it religiously because I was afraid of getting sick if a gush of wind flew by my humid, cold head. El Sereno, as I imagined him during elementary school, was a humidity loving monster that attacked whoever steped out of the house with wet hair.
Burn that paper, help the dead
- For a relatives’ funeral, people burned fake money and paper belongings for the afterlife. Paper belongings could be anything you’d like your deceased one to have in the afterlife. Two story mansion with private pool and sauna? I got it for ya, burning right now. That nice Mercedes you always wanted but could never afford? Burnin’.
- We were burning paper just because it was tradition (the person was Catholic and somehow we were still engaging in ancestral practices), but the general belief is that by turning these into ashes, your loved ones will have a comfortable afterlife. It’s also a way of protecting yourself, because if you don’t respect your ancestors, they’ll hunt you from the afterlife. Regardless, you want them to be livin’ like Kardashians in the afterworld.
Share your beer, revive a memory
- For those that don’t believe in burning money, another option is to spill alcohol during Memorial Day, or on occasions when you pay tribute to those dead. Before you ever have a sip of that beer, you spill a steady stream on the ground, so your loved one can also partake in the event with you.
Locus of control
I don’t believe in an FedEx-ing stuff to the afterlife, or in revengeful dead ancestors, but the impact of believing life is controlled by a greater power is tremendous. What to someone is religion, to the other is superstition. And what to someone is blatantly obvious, to the other is an empty belief. When people believe that no matter how hard they try, destiny has the upper hand, how they approach life changes.
Why would anyone with no control of the future walk the extra mile, or work extra hard? If it doesn’t pay off?
Why would they go through regular medical checkups if the when and the how of a person’s death is uncontrollable? Other tools like life or health insurance, which grant control over the future can also be met with confusion. This highlights the importance of getting a bigger picture, digging deeper into a person’s outlook on life to understand how they act.
Upbringing, culture, and religion all have an impact on how we act on the day-to-day.