Don’t Marry in a ‘Widow Year’? On a Chinese New Year Superstition

Did you know that 2019, the Year of the Pig, was a widow year, and it was supposedly “unlucky for marriage?

A “widow year”?

I’ve heard the term “widow”, a woman whose husband has died, used to describe all sorts of things, from the “widow’s peak” on your hairline to, of course, the deadly “black widow spider”. And given the original meaning of “widow”, the term, when paired with a year, struck me as a rather ominous combination.

This piqued my curiosity, which prompted me to do a little research and learn more about this superstition.

Why do people call it a “widow year”? And why is it supposedly bad for marriage?

A “widow year” means any year in the Chinese lunar calendar without lichun or Spring Commences, one of the 24 solar terms that divide up the lunar year. Specifically, lichun or Spring Commences marks the coming of the spring season.

According to the China Daily article Couples Rush to Tie Knot Ahead of “Widow Year” (published Feb 3, 2010), some Chinese people think of lichun or Spring Commences as “a time of Yang (masculine) energy.” To them, a year without lichun or Spring Commences equals a year without Yang energy as well.

The article provides further clarification:

Superstitious people believe women who get married in a year without the “Spring Commences” day will become widows. … Tradition-bound parents also fear consequences like husbands coming to harm, marriages breaking down and children getting bad luck.

Should you postpone your wedding plans during a “widow year”?

If you’re newly engaged, should you put the nuptials on ice or opt for a speedy elopement before the “widow year” begins?

Well, consider what that China Daily article also said:

Regarding the idea of a “widow year”, Guo Hu, director of Beijing’s Bureau of Meteorology, says that on average, there are seven so-called “widow years” every 19 years. But there are also seven years with two “Spring Commences” days in the same 19 years.

“It is totally groundless to say a year without a Spring Commences day is unlucky,” Guo told the Beijing Daily.

In other words, it all depends on your perspective and what you consider auspicious.

After all, imagine all the hundreds of thousands of people who marry in any given “widow year” around the world. Every single one of these couples could not possibly suffer the same marital misfortune. If a “widow year” truly posed a threat to people everywhere, then why didn’t anyone ever pass the warning on to me while in the US?

And, apparently, a growing number of young Chinese people don’t mind flouting this superstition either, as the China Daily article Vowing to be different with the nuptials notes:

Wang Xiaoqiang, a 26-year-old white collar worker in Shanghai, doesn’t really care that the Year of the Snake 2013 is not regarded as a propitious year for weddings.

“I was told Lunar 2013 is not a good year to get married but that is something believed by elderly people,” said Wang.

In other words, when a “widow year” comes, worry less about the superstition — and follow your heart instead.

What do you think about the “widow year” superstition for Chinese New Year? Would you marry in a “widow year”, or would you postpone your wedding?

Correction: Updated original post, which incorrectly named 2020 as a widow year.

Baring it All for Love? The Skinny on ‘Naked Marriage’ in China

When I say my husband and I had a “half-naked marriage”, you’d be wrong to envision the two of us parading down the aisle in, say, a stripper’s version of wedding garb. As titillating as it might sound, the reality looks far more practical (and not nearly as sexy), as reported in the Feb 3, 2010, China Daily article Embracing a ‘naked marriage:

A witty poem on major BBS and SNS websites defines naked marriages as: “No apartment, no car, nor diamond ring; no wedding ceremony, nor honeymoon; each of us pays 4.50 yuan ($0.66), and we get a wedding certificate to start a new life.”

There are two types of naked marriage, the totally nude kind and the half-naked marriage, which means the man should at least provide a ring or something else for his beloved when they get hitched.

Our nuptials fell into the latter, as I described years ago in the post Marriage in China is Home, Car, Money?:

By July 2007, it’s not as if John and I hadn’t wrestled with these issues before. We faced “Money” all the time — hadn’t we survived summer 2006, when some months I never knew when the checks from my new business would come in, and wondered what bills to pay and what to leave aside? Hadn’t we just managed to scrounge the cash together for plane tickets? When it came to “Car,” we were just grateful that our secondhand 1991 Toyota station wagon — teeter-tottering with every bump on its barely-there shocks — still ran after some 170,000-plus miles. And as for “Home,” we felt lucky to manage the rent on our place — owning just wasn’t in the cards for us yet.

Still, we did have a wedding ceremony in 2007 (which included a banquet that welcomed over 150 guests) and enjoyed a simple honeymoon a few years earlier in Bali, firmly placing us in the “half-naked marriage” camp.

But here in China, our choice still remains largely exceptional, as the 2015 CNN article No frills? Chinese say ‘I do’ to creative — and cheaper — weddings stated:

While the public seems to appreciate the philosophy of true love trumping everything else, most respondents in repeated surveys still reject the notion of disavowing all traditional trappings of marriage.

The 2011 China Daily article Money-troubled post-80s find naked wedding as way out provides some examples of those statistics:

An online survey from China’s popular matchmaker’s network, Jiayuan.com, showed 38 percent of women voted in “support” of a naked marriage, while 77 percent of male voters were happy with it.

And so does the 2013 China Daily article Marriage attitudes slowly change:

When asked about “naked marriage”, a recently coined term for getting married without owning a house, car or much other property, 45 percent of those polled said they are not against the idea, but less than 30 percent would “practice a naked marriage” themselves.

While I embraced our half-naked marriage, I don’t believe I represent most foreign women either. In my previous post 5 Fascinating Stereotypes of Western Women in China, I emphasized that many follow the lead of Ember Swift, who blogged about how she valued the financial stability of the Chinese man she later married.

Nevertheless, China will always have its share of couples who dare to eschew all that pricey pomp and circumstance, whether for frugality or simply to make a statement. And while Jun and I most certainly did not have a bare-it-all ceremony, that hasn’t stopped some couples in China from trying out a more literal interpretation of the naked marriage concept — such as saying “I do” in something resembling their birthday suits.

Humanahumana!

What do you think about naked marriage?

P.S.: For those curious, naked marriage in Chinese is 裸婚 (luǒhūn).