January 31, 2010

Make your own luck…

Posted in Between Us column, Diversity, Relationships at 11:45 pm by dinaheng

My mom, several sisters, a brother-in-law, and I gathered in Las Vegas recently for a family reunion. Everywhere we went, there were displays paying homage to the Lunar New Year, which will occur this year on February 14, coinciding with Valentine’s Day.

The display at the Bellagio’s Conservatory and Botanical Gardens was my favorite. Using Feng Shui principles, the design features an 18-foot tall Chinese God of Prosperity, who stands amid gold-leafed I-Ching coins.

On one side of the garden are giant pandas, made of living plants, and on the other is a moving tiger, fashioned from dried botanicals. This year marks the Year of the Tiger, known for being fiery years when tempers flare, and fortunes are made or lost.

Legend has it that Buddha asked the animals of the world to meet him on the Lunar New Year, and 12 came, including the tiger. In the Chinese zodiac, the tiger symbolizes bravery and luck.

For the Chinese, luck goes hand in hand with superstition. Growing up, we were taught to wear the color red to attract good luck, and to avoid washing your hair on birthdays and holidays to prevent washing away good luck.

Every culture has its customs and superstitions, and it’s fascinating to see how people incorporate those things into everyday life.

Tourists from Asia are known to be big gamblers, and many casinos have courted this market as the recession has lingered, cutting down on the lifeblood gaming profits in Vegas. It’s interesting to see the proliferation of slot machine games that now have Asian themes, calling you to the Fortune Cookie, Dragon Wheel, or Xanadu.

Every casino has a noodle shop or Asian-themed restaurant, making it easy to get Chinese, Japanese or Thai food around the clock.

My family spent a three-day weekend going from casino to casino, taking in the sights, eating way too much, and yes, losing too much to the one-armed bandits that seduce you into trying to win back every penny, nickel, quarter, and dollar you gambled away and more.

The highlight of one evening was having everyone gather around our mother, who was playing a two cent slot machine — and winning.  After putting in five dollars, she walked away with $92. The sound of our whooping cheers drew quite a few envious looks.

That win, as you can imagine, didn’t come anywhere near compensating for the losses, but hey, as long as you remember that you’re playing for fun and not profit, you don’t feel so bad.

Gambling can become an addiction in no time flat, so it’s best not to play alone and to budget what you can really afford to lose and stick to it. I gave myself a limit of losing $20 a day, and after three days, I lost $55. So I consider myself lucky.

Luck, I’ve decided, is not a matter of chance. Good things happen in life, and so do bad things. What we draw to us is usually a consequence of our actions, so the key is being responsible for what we do, and being grateful for all that Life gives us.

The best part of the trip was just spending time together as a family, which is what the Lunar New Year is really all about. After all, there’s nothing more fortunate in life than being surrounded by the people you love.

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