In Which I Commit an Epic Chinese New Year’s Fail

Boy, did I ever pull an epic fail on Chinese New Year’s Eve. Helen’s version is hereby shared. For benefit of non-Chinese friends, I also supply my best attempt at a translation, which is pretty lame, and my best attempt at excusing myself, which is even lamer…


This year the funniest thing happened on Chinese New Year! Last night I told my husband that it was a bad thing for a husband not to give his wife a red envelope, and he took me seriously! [On Chinese New Year’s Eve you give children traditional red envelopes with cash inside; married people apparently don’t get red envelopes but some American husbands – not naming any names here – don’t know this.] He said, “Oh, I’ll have to go to the bank and get some money.” I told him it was too late at night, and this year, a mere gesture would be good enough – next year he could give me a fat one. This morning I took out from under my pillow the yāsuìqián [“children’s money,” meaning the money children find in red envelopes on Chinese New Year’s morning], I counted…huh?? – I counted… what??!? – I counted…ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen…WHAT???? No way!! I let him have it, and he said, “I know that thirteen means “idiot, lunatic [in Shanghainese slang];” I gave you all the cash I had in my wallet, but then I took back one dollar on purpose, just to make sure I was giving you twelve dollars, not thirteen. Please go back and take the other dollar too….” Hahahahaha

All I can say in my defense is, I could have sworn there were only thirteen dollars in that wallet; I don’t know how I missed noticing that fourteenth one.

What makes it even worse is that Helen started to peek into the envelope the night before and saw one of the one-dollar bills, and I told her to stop peeking – and when she asked how much was in there, I said, “You’ll find out tomorrow. All I’ll tell you tonight is that I was careful to pick the amount on purpose for a very Chinese reason.” Ai-ya…..