Chinese Insects Awake Day or Excited Insects Day is one of the 24 Chinese solar divisions. It is associated with the arrival of spring. Somehow this has also become associated with the White Tiger Festival. I went to Canal Street on Hong Kong Island to view a ritual associated with this day. It involved some practitioners who would help clients take revenge on their enemies. The clients draw a picture of the person they want to curse, and then the practitioner put the picture into a piece of paper and then beats it with the heel of a show. If you really don’t like someone, a sharp-heeled show is called for. After it is well beaten, it is put in a paper white tiger—its mouth wide open and then put in a fire. The only thing I can find is that this is related to a Daoist practice among rural women who worshiped the White Tiger. They kept images made out of paper of the White Tiger in their homes to keep out rats, snakes and squirrels.
As I watched this I kept thinking–what would be equally mystifying to someone visiting the U.S. I decided it would be the Autumn and Halloween. I remember New Zealand visitors wondering why our neighborhood business district was putting out scarecrows and corn stalks along the light poles. They were expecting some deep meaning. After some thought, I offered an explanation–it is harvest season so these are decorations. Then we were driving out in the country and they saw a massive field of pumpkins. One of them commented on how he had grown pumpkins to feed to pigs when he was growing up, implying that pigs were going to eat these. “Oh, no,” I said. “Nobody eats those. Those acres of pumpkins are going to be sold so that we can scoop out the insides and then carve scary faces on them. We will put candles in them and put them on our front steps. Silence and a total look of mystification followed.