Step on Villains? A Curious Find While Buying Lucky Red Socks for Chinese New Year

2020 will welcome the Year of the Rat, the Chinese zodiac sign for some family members, which has prompted me to sift through online stores in search of a very traditional Chinese New Year gift for those about to enter their Chinese zodiac year: red socks.

I always thought that only the color mattered. After all, superstition claims that wearing red in your Chinese zodiac year – from red underwear and red long johns to red jackets and almost anything else painted in this brilliant hue – supposedly bestows luck upon the wearer, along with an extra layer of protection from any misfortune in the coming year.

But then, while perusing the endless red socks listed in Alibaba’s Tmall, I kept noticing a curious decoration on the bottom of many of the options – the characters cǎi xiǎorén (踩小人, step on villains) and an image either of a tiny person. And as I scanned the comments, I even stumbled across a customer complaining how the “step on villains” red socks bought from the online store had apparently done nothing to ward off enemies.

So I dug further to learn more and discovered that, apparently, there’s another superstition: If you wear red socks with “step on villains” on the bottom, you supposedly won’t encounter any enemies during the year. So they say.

And judging by the many offerings on Taobao boasting “step on villains” designs on the socks, it definitely sells.

But as for me, I’m not buying – at least, not this year. Instead, I opted for a set of red socks with the traditional Chinese character of “Fu” (福, blessings). I have no idea if they will impart said blessings for the recipient. But I’ve finished off all my Chinese New Year shopping, and that’s blessings enough for me.

Have you ever come across anything curious while doing your holiday shopping?

Jocelyn Eikenburg
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