We’ve all heard about the luck associated with finding a penny on the ground. And many of us touch or knock on wood in the hope that it will bring good luck in the near future.
But what about writing letters to Juliet to improve our love lives? Or, women opting not to eat goat’s meat to avoid growing facial hair?!
This article brings you many of the unique and fascinating stories behind some of the most bizarre cultural superstitions from around the world.
Let’s begin by understanding why Azerbaijanis think that spilling salt or pepper will cause a fight.
Azerbaijan: Spilling Salt or Pepper
While some cultures if you spill salt encourage the flinging of salt over your shoulder to negate the bad luck, spilling salt OR pepper is bad luck in Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijanis believe that spilled salt or pepper will cause a fight, and the only way to remedy the situation is to cover it in sugar before sweeping it up.
China: Avoiding the Number Four
Chinese culture is full of superstitions, but none are more pronounced than the general fear of the number four.
Chinese people avoid the number four like the plague because its pronunciation is similar to the word for death – Si. Where the number four is present, the Chinese expect death to be lurking nearby.
India: Cutting Nails at Night (Turkey and South Korea too!)
Indians have lots of superstitions related to personal care and treatments, and the most well-known example is cutting your nails at night.
While most superstitions tend to have a spiritual or mythical origin, this one is practical. Before electricity was widespread across India, people avoided using sharp objects at night for obvious reasons. Nail cutting in the dark can be dangerous, and Indians haven’t altered this logic despite the prevalence of electricity throughout the country in the present day. Seriously, think about sharp objects at night, could create a bad situation, if done wrong!
Italy: Writing Letters to Juliet
Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet has spawned one of Italy’s most endearing superstitions. It’s said that visiting Verona and writing a letter to Juliet Capulet will bring you the luck you’re looking for in love.
People make their way to the Casa di Giulietta in Verona each year to personally deliver love letters to Juliet. And thanks to a group of volunteers of the Juliet Club, you will even receive a reply to your letter, potentially with the love advice you’ve been yearning for. (Check out the movie Letters to Juliet!)
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Mexico: Putting Two Mirrors in Front of One Another
Christians in Mexico avoid putting two mirrors in front of one another at all costs, particularly in their homes.
It’s said that two mirrors facing each other opens a portal for Satan himself, who will arrive and wreak havoc in your life.
Russia: Placing Empty Bottles on The Ground
Placing empty alcohol bottles on the ground after a drinking binge is deemed to be good luck in Russian culture.
The legend comes from when Cossack soldiers drove Napoleon back at the start of the nineteenth century. The soldiers realized they were being charged per empty bottle left on the table while stationed in France, so they hid empty beer, wine, and vodka bottles under the table to save themselves some money!
Rwanda: Eating Goat Meat
In the east African country of Rwanda, women are discouraged from eating goat meat in traditional communities.
Why? Because eating goat’s meat is said to grow facial hair and course obtuseness. Skeptics believe that Rwandan men created this superstition so they could have the meat all to themselves!
Spain: Eating Grapes on December 31st
Every country has its own New Year’s celebrations, be it sipping champagne, setting off fireworks, or kissing that special someone to welcome in the new year. But in Spain, it’s all about the grapes.
Spaniards willingly stuff twelve grapes in their mouths at the stroke of midnight to bring luck in each of the twelve months of the new year.
Turkey: Chewing Gum at Night (and Hungary)
Chewing gum at night in Turkey is a big no-no! Legend has it that gum chewed at night turns into the flesh of the dead.
Nobody really understands where this bizarre superstition originated from, but few want to test it out in case it’s true!
United Kingdom: Touching Wood (US: Knock on Wood)
People in the UK are likely to make a statement about something they hope will happen in the near future or possibly tempting fate before touching wood (knocking on wood) to bring good luck.
This superstition has a religious origin, as people historically touched the wood of the cross around their necks as a way of hoping God would intervene and bring them good fortune.
United States: Finding Lucky Pennies
“Find a penny, pick it up, and all day long, you’ll have good luck.” We’ve all heard this famous rhyme, but why is finding a penny said to be lucky?
In ancient civilizations, metals like copper were seen as gifts from the gods to protect people from evil. Not convinced? A more straightforward explanation is that finding money on the ground, even if it’s a solitary penny, is a sign of good luck.
The Cultural Importance of These Superstitions
While many of the superstitions introduced here may seem totally bizarre to you, don’t forget that touching wood or finding a penny on the ground will be equally strange to people from different parts of the world!
Whether we believe them or not, the reality is that these superstitions are an essential component of a country’s cultural identity and play an important role in the daily lives of the citizens who believe them.
If you’re a keen traveler, you won’t be surprised that the Chinese are very apprehensive of the number 4 or why your Russian hosts appear to hide empty vodka bottles under the table! Superstitions are a wonderful aspect of culture and contribute to making countries in different parts of the world unique and interesting.
What are your family superstitions and why?