I am not a superstitious person by any means, but when I look at the calendar on a day like yesterday and realize that it’s Friday the 13th, I can’t help but take notice and think for just a fleeting moment that maybe this day will bring me bad luck. It’s the same when I see a black cat cross my path or spill a little salt on the table, and I KNOW I’m not the only person who has stepped on a crack in the sidewalk and thought for a split second, “Did I just break my mother’s back?”
Superstitions are an interesting part of the culture in any country. While I was a little worried yesterday because it was Friday the 13th, here in Spain where I’ve had the pleasure of living this year, everyone around me was very relaxed (as usual). For them, that day doesn’t mean much. It is Tuesday the 13th that strikes superstitious fear into their hearts.
So in honor of all the unlucky days on the calendar, whether it be Friday or Tuesday the 13th or some other day, here are 12 of the less common but equally fascinating superstitions that people around the world believe in. I would write about 13 superstitions, but that would just be asking for bad luck.
In South Korea, sleeping with an electric fan on is thought to kill the person sleeping in the room. The “fan death” superstition is so widely believed that electric fans are often sold with timers to turn off after a certain number of minutes.
If a friend or loved one is going off on a journey or is on their way to a job interview, spilling water behind them is believed to bring them good luck for the tasks or challenges they are sure to face.
For some inexplicable reason, the number 39 is associated with prostitution. The Afghans unlucky enough to have a phone number or license plate that includes the number 39 will do everything possible to change it lest they face never-ending amounts of ridicule. Even 39-year-olds prefer to describe their age as “40 minus one” just to avoid saying the number 39.
Sweeping the feet of a young, unmarried woman in Haiti is one of the worst things you could do to her. Superstition states that this simple act condemns the single girl to a life of solitude in which she will never get married. It is a superstition commonly believed throughout the Caribbean.
When walking by a graveyard in Japan, it is customary to tuck the thumbs away in a fist or in your pockets. The Japanese word for thumb literally translates to “parent finger” so hiding the finger away when passing a graveyard or when a hearse drives by is believed to protect the parents from death.
Usually a bird leaving its droppings on your house, car or even on you is reason enough to have a bad day. In Russia, however, it is a sign that good luck and wealth are on their way to you.
Need to freshen your breath after a nice dinner in Turkey? Well, skip out on the chewing gum. Superstition states that chewing gum at night is like chewing on the flesh of the dead.
While tall buildings in many countries avoid having a thirteenth floor, in China they are avoiding the fourth. The Chinese word for the number four sounds similar to the word for “death” making it an unlucky number in the country. On the other hand, the word for the number eight sounds like the word for “fortune” and many Chinese try to plan important life events to include the number eight.
Although Shakespeare’s ill-fated character Juliet Capulet did not have a happy ending to her love story, people from all over the world still flock to the courtyard in Verona where she supposedly lived to grab the right breast of her bronze statue believing that it will bring them good luck in their love lives.
While some people are busy swapping spit when the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, the Spanish are stuffing their mouths with 12 grapes. Eating the grapes quickly within the first minute of the New Year ensures good luck in each month of the year.
In Sweden, there are two types of manholes found on the streets. Some are marked K for kallvatten (clean water) while others are marked A for avloppsvatten (sewage). The Swedes have changed their meanings, however, to stand for kärlek, which translates to love, and avburten signifying heartbreak. With these new definitions in mind, people can often be seen avoiding stepping on the manholes marked with an A.
Tuesday may seem like a random day to close a hair salon or barbershop, but in India that is almost always the case since a Hindu superstition dictates that cutting hair on this day is bad luck. Many Indians also have the superstitious belief that cutting your nails after dark on any given day will bring you bad luck.