In spite of the fact that my grandmother literally stepped off the boat barely half a century ago, she doesn't seem to have brought along any of the tiresome baggage containing archaic customs and superstitions that typify the Chinese immigrants of that particular era. Seems like she cast them all into the sea the minute she decided to board the heaving junk out of mainland China.
So when curious tourists ask about my family and our superstitious beliefs, I usually ruefully admit that I never had any. Don't think my skeptical grandmother ever told us any.
Paul : Not even one superstition?
Grandma : You want me to make one up for you?
Paul : I've got a really good imagination. Surely you had some kooky superstition as a child back in China.
Grandma : Not really. We're a scientific people.
Paul : Good grief.
Honestly, I don't even think my pragmatic, no-nonsense granny believes in a God.
So we were one of the few Chinese households without a single altar for many years. Don't think I ever held a single joss-stick as a child. Temples were places we went to ogle and stare at the smoke, the incense and the devotees in awe-struck wonder.
Paul : Damn, did grandma make up another story to scare the kids?
Cousin : Shit. Again? I thought she promised not to!
Paul : Whose turn is it to debunk myths again?
At least till one of my lovestruck uncles brought home a surprisingly flighty, shockingly superstitious wife, a devoted daughter of blood-smearing, idol-shaking Chinese shamans. No doubt to my grandmother's utmost dismay.
Not only did the new daughter-in-law shudder that she'd married into a family of godless heathens, she wondered why we didn't have a single altar to pray to. So to please her daughter-in-law, my grandmother - rolling her disbelieving eyes heavenward yet ever so obliging - grabbed a used soda can to place on a stand, stuck a red candle in it and mumbled some prayer of thanks.
And that was our makeshift altar.
See why we never had any superstitions?