I am referring to these little wood carvings:
They are bullfinches, and they are said to be messengers of the God of Academia in my homeland. (There are several stories telling how they became messengers – the one told at the shrine nearby my place says it is because its name written in Chinese character resembles that of the word for “academia.”)
And every new year, they take centre stage of a tradition related to this God called “trading in lies” (the exact date on which this tradition takes place differs depending on the shrine that hosts it – the one nearby my place does it on this date), for their name in my mother tongue is pronounced the same way as the word for “lies.”
In the olden days, people gathered in the shrine and, while chanting “let’s trade, let’s trade!,” exchanged these wooden birdies with one another so that any bad luck they had in the past year will become lies and leave their hands, and be traded in for good luck for this year. Nowadays, I suppose not as many people show up for this tradition, so we simply go to the shrine and trade in last year’s birdies for this year’s to rid of all lies (including the ones we told intentionally or unintentionally) through the powers of this God’s wisdom, honesty, and benevolence.
Maybe it is a bit ironic that the host of this tradition is the God who was a man framed by his jealous colleagues on false charges, never getting the chance to redeem himself.
But on second thought, maybe there is no one more appropriate than him, who must have felt the pain of all the lies around him and wished them to go away more than anybody.
Maybe we would rather forget all the bad luck that befall upon us and all the lies we tell.
But maybe if we forget them, we would never be able to trade them in for all the good luck waiting to come our way and all the dreams meant to come true.
Then maybe, with a little help from the birdies, we can unite to turn things around for the better.
Truth be told, these wooden birdies are quite bald-faced – I have seen photos of other wooden bullfinches given out at other shrines for this tradition, and they all look pretty… dare I say, mean and bad. And I feel they start to appear even more mean and bad as bad luck befall on me and I tell lies. But truth be told, it is probably because they are bald-faced that some bad lucks shy away from me and I stay away from telling some lies.
Maybe they are truly the good kind of bald-faced lies?? I believe so.
So, maybe we can come together around these birdies and trade in all bad luck and lies of the past year for some good luck and truths in the new year?
“Let’s trade, let’s trade!”