Merry Christmas, enjoy your Chinese curse.

lo-panOne of my wife’s friends sent us a Christmas card that said something like “May the coming year bring lots of changes.” It sounded disturbingly close to a Chinese curse that goes something like, “May your future be filled with change.” (I’ve read that this is actually a mistranslation or interpretation of another subtle Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times.” Ouch. Too late.)

Without knowing if it’s intentional or not, I can’t tell if it’s funny or if I should burn it up to allay the bad juju. I mean, even if it was meant as a genuine well-wish from a well-wisher, hasn’t she read any of those “deal with the devil” stories to know that you have to be more specific when you say stuff like that? Or King Midas type myths and parables? 

And how would you state it more safely to make it more evil-deity-proof? “May the coming year bring you the changes you’re looking for.” I’m not sure I like that, actually; that’s like another Chinese curse that says “May you find what you’re looking for.” How about: “May the coming year bring you as much change as you want or can handle.” Doesn’t really sound like well-wishing, I guess, still reads like a thinly-veiled Chinese curse. “May your future bring you change, if that’s what you’re hoping for, and no change if you’re trying to remain the same, but good luck with that because stuff changes all the time, and what a weird thing to put on a Christmas card in the middle of winter anyway because the winter is marked by the solstice, which is an important milepost for seasonal change in most cultures. But hey, loosen up, it’s just a wish.” Nah.

In a perfect world, there’d be a Simpsons quote to clarify the situation, but nothing jumps to mind. So, in mining another important repository of knowledge, kung fu movies, I think Chow Yun Fat’s character in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon said (in subtitles), “May your future be fortunate,” and I like the sound of that. Then again, everyone dies in the end of movies like that, so it’s probably a curse, too.

What was wrong with “Merry Christmas,” or “Happy Holidays,” anyway?