With an extra fifth lunar month this year, have you given a pig’s knuckle to your wife’s parents yet? Folklore academics and fortune tellers call the fifth lunar month the “toxic month” because of inclement seasonal weather and negative miasma. Based on folklore tradition, married daughters will buy pig’s knuckle and noodles for their parents because it promotes long life. Anyone can also eat the dish on the 15th day of the intercalary fifth month (June 7) to improve their luck.
Folklore academic Lin Mao-hsien explains that a lunar year with an intercalary month has 13 months, and because that is an uneven number, it is seen as inauspicious. In addition, the fifth lunar month is generally seen as a “toxic month” during which disease often occurs. These two factors mean that an intercalary fifth month is particularly unwelcome. This is also the reason for the tradition that married daughters should bring their parents pig’s knuckle and noodles prior to the extra month to promote long life. Another tradition says that the dish should be given either prior to the extra month or prior to their parents’ birthday during a year with an extra month. These days, the dish no longer has to be given prior to the month. Any day during the extra month — which ends on July 21 — is OK. The main point is instead to show concern.
Master Huitzu at Fazhi Shengtian Temple in Bali, Taipei County, adds that we can all improve our luck by ourselves on the 15th day of the intercalary month, regardless of whether we are married or eat pork. Non-vegetarians can eat pig’s knuckle and noodles, while vegetarians can replace that with sesame oil noodles and remembering to pray to have their bad luck dispelled and to succeed in their undertakings.
It is preferable to buy a freshly cooked pig’s knuckle rather than buying a fresh one and cooking it at home because that will bring on luck and help dispel disaster by spending money in addition to promoting long life for one’s parents. Apart from pig’s knuckle and noodles or sesame oil noodles, one can also give a birthday peach.
But why married daughters? Master Hui-tzu says that people struggled to make ends meet in the past and women had to eat leftovers. Married daughters could thus bring the dish to their mothers to give them something to eat. Another explanation is that according to folk tradition, a daughter married into another family is superfluous in the same way as an intercalary month is superfluous. Folklore therefore dictates that this tradition should be carried out by married daughters. Hsu Fu-chuan, another academic of folklore, says that this is a longstanding tradition in southern Taiwan, and that pig’s knuckle can be replaced by a red envelope or gold.
Pig’s knuckle vendors say more and more people have been taking out pig’s knuckle lately, and that this is probably a result of this tradition.
(LIBERTY TIMES, TRANSLATED BY PERRY SVENSSON)