60 Common Superstitions That People Around The World Believe
Where would we be without our little superstitions?
Many call superstitions an irrational belief in the supernatural, actions that stem from ignorance or fear of the unknown. But these “irrational” acts are actually more normal than you may think.
What are common superstitions and why do people believe them?
Everyone has common superstitions or little rituals they do to feel safe or to take back a sense of control. Superstitions are the general belief in supernatural forces; these stem from a desire to influence unpredictable factors.
While many superstitions stem from an individual’s own experience and beliefs, superstitions also find deep roots in culture and tradition.
For example, psychologists have actually found that during periods of deep uncertainty, people turn to superstitions to reduce stress and anxiety.
In a study looking at Germany between the period 1918 and 1940, scientists found a potential link between economic threat and higher indexes of belief in the supernatural.
Superstitions can also give their believers a sense of security: carrying charms, wearing certain clothes, visiting places associated with good fortune, preferring certain colors over others, and favoring a certain number are all examples of how superstitions make us feel safe.
Superstitions are everywhere, whether we realize it or not. They help us feel secure in a risky decision, or they might even encourage you to make an impulsive choice. No matter what, these little habits we practice in our everyday lives are here to stay.
Here are 60 common superstitions around the world that people believe.
1. Never place two mirrors opposite of one another.
To me, there’s nothing creepier than a mirror, or your own reflection for that matter. According to Joshua Partlow, “Washington Post” Mexico bureau chief, putting two in front of each other opens a threshold for the devil.
2. Never shake hands or kiss across a threshold.
In Moscow, if you kiss or shake hands with someone across a doorway, across two different rooms, then your lover or friend will become your mortal enemy.
3. Never allow the broom to touch the feet of anyone you know.
In Afghanistan, according to Tor Khan from Bethesda, MD, if you sweep the floor and your broom touches the feet of a loved one, one of your parents will die.
4. Don’t go home right after a wake.
In the Philippines, you usually make a pitstop after a wake to “shake off” the bad spirit, whether that be a fast food place or even just a coffee shop.
The idea is that you need to keep the bad spirits away from your house and that you can’t let them come in.
5. Never stick your chopsticks straight up.
In China and Japan, poking your chopsticks straight down into your food is a huge taboo. Not only is it rude, but it makes the utensils look like incense sticks that are used at funerals.
Sticking your chopsticks down into your bowl invites death, so make sure to be mindful of how they are placed.
6. Whistling indoors invites evil.
In Lithuania, it is forbidden to whistle indoors, because the noise is believed to summon demons.
7. Don’t ‘cheers’ with water.
Sometimes, when you’re the designated driver, it is necessary to cheer with a cup of free tap water. But in Germany, if you cheer with water, you are actually wishing death on the people you are drinking with.
8. Keep your shoes off the table.
Not only is it gross, but in Britain, it is considered bad luck because it symbolizes the death of a loved one.
9. An itchy hand might be telling of your financial future.
In Turkey, an itchy right-hand means you will come into some money, while an itchy left-hand means you’ll lose out big time.
10. Don’t flip over a cooked fish.
In some coastal regions of China, it is bad luck to flip over a cooked fish, as many believe this will lead to a ship capsizing. Instead, many families will use chopsticks to pick the meat from the bottom of the fish when they are finished with the top.
11. Don’t place bread upside down.
In Italy, it is considered bad luck to put bread upside down, either on a table or a basket. The most popular explanation is that the bread represents the body of Christ, and so it needs to be treated with respect.
12. Don’t put your keys on the table.
More vulgar than superstitious, in Sweden people don’t put their keys on the table. That’s because, during the olden days, sex workers would put keys on the table in public areas to attract clients.
13. Tuesday the 13th, not Friday the 13th, is bad luck.
In Spain and in other Spanish-speaking countries, it is Tuesday the 13th, not Friday the 13th, that gets people nervous. Martes, or Tuesday in Spanish, comes from the Roman god of war Mars, which ties the day to violence, death, and bloodshed.
14. Don’t sit at a table corner.
In Hungary and Russia, sitting at the corner of a table will mean bad things for your romantic life. The unlucky person who comes in late and has to squeeze into the side, according to superstition, will never get married.
15. Don’t have seven children.
According to Argentinian legend, there’s a superstition that the seventh son will turn into a werewolf… unless the president of the country adopts them, of course.
16. Wear a lot of bells on your wedding day.
Irish brides wear bells on their wedding dresses to ward off evil spirits that try to ruin their special day. Better hope that slim a-line dress can fit over 50 discrete wedding bells!
17. Don’t sing at the dinner table.
Singing in the Netherlands during dinner means that you are singing to the devil and praising him for your food.
18. Don’t enter a room with your left foot.
In Spain, walking into a room with your left foot will bring you bad luck. Instead, lead with your right foot.
19. Don’t open umbrellas inside.
A fairly universal superstition, it is bad luck to open an umbrella before you head outside because bad luck will “rain” on you. This came from the British in the 18th century when waterproof umbrellas were told to cause injury if opened inside the home.
20. Hide your thumbs when passing a graveyard.
In Japan, it’s common practice to tuck your thumbs in when passing by graveyards to protect your parents. This is because the Japanese word for thumb loosely translates to “parent-finger,” so hiding it protects them from death.
21. Knock on wood for good luck.
We usually say “knock on wood” to ward off bad luck, but this very popular saying is said to have originated in Europe. Many churches claimed to have pieces of Jesus’ cross, so knocking on wood is said to bring good luck.
22. Don’t chew gum at night.
When you chew gum at night, according to Turkish legend, it turns into the flesh of the dead.
23. Spill a lot of water.
Spilling water behind someone, in Serbia, actually brings them a lot of good luck! People will often spill water behind a loved one who is about to go on a long trip or a job interview to wish them luck.
24. Avoid the number four.
Four, in China, sounds similar to the character used for death. Four is a popular omen; people will avoid having children, getting married, or having big trips on days ending in that number.
25. Don’t give someone you like yellow flowers.
Yellow flowers in Russia symbolize death, separation, and infidelity. So avoid these flowers like the plague if you want to make a good impression on someone for a first date.
26. Don’t sleep in a room with a running fan.
In South Korea, many will not sleep in a closed room with a fan on. It is commonly believed that prolonged exposure to a running fan will cause hypothermia and asphyxiation.
27. Don’t put empty bottles on the ground.
Placing empty bottles on the ground is considered good luck in Russia, so don’t be shy about leaving your empty beer bottles on the ground when you’re done with them.
28. Throw salt over your shoulder if you spill it.
If you have butterfingers, don’t fret. While it may seem it would cause a bigger mess, throw the spilled salt over your shoulder to get some good fortune on your side.
29. Give a penny if you’ve received something sharp.
Don’t give something sharp to someone you are trying to start a relationship with. But if you do receive a knife set or scissors as a present, give the gift-giver a coin as a present in return.
30. Don’t sleep with your head facing north.
According to Japanese superstition, sleeping with your head in this direction is bad luck because that’s how the deceased are laid to rest.
31. Avoid sleeping with your head to the west.
In Africa, the same superstition exists if you sleep with your head facing west.
32. Don’t play with scissors.
Don’t idly play with scissors or it will bring bad luck, according to Egyptian folklore.
33. Step in dog poop with your left foot.
It might seem gross or unlucky, but stepping in dog poop is actually considered good luck in France if you do it with your left foot.
34. Bird poop brings good luck.
You might’ve heard this after an unfortunate picnic date, but a bird pooping on you actually will bring you good luck.
35. Owls are bad luck.
There’s a superstition in Egypt that if you see or hear an owl, terrible news is coming. They also bring death if you bring them into your home.
36. Knitting outside can bring longer winters.
If you’re in Iceland, keep the knitting inside, unless you like the cold weather. There’s a superstition that doing your needlework on your front porch will keep the temperatures freezing.
37. Don’t play with yo-yos.
Syria banned yo-yos because they are believed to cause droughts.
38. Don’t get a haircut on a Tuesday.
Getting a haircut on Tuesdays in India will cause bad luck.
39. Pregnant women should give into their cravings.
There’s a Canadian superstition that expectant mothers who crave fish but don’t eat it will end up having a baby with a fish head. So, make sure not to deny your body what it wants.
40. Don’t walk under a ladder.
This superstition dates back to medieval Europe: walking under the ladder symbolizes gallows and death.
41. Be careful of Full Moons.
Full Moons, other than their obvious associations with werewolves, bring bad luck, especially near hospitals.
42. Go to the hospital on Wednesdays.
Whether it be a major surgery or a routine checkup, going to the hospital on a Wednesday means good luck and good health.
43. Don’t wear red during a storm.
In the Philippines, people believe that red attracts lightning. So if you don’t want a nasty surprise on a rainy day, make sure to stay away from this bold shade.
44. A horseshoe is good luck.
In many cultures, a horseshoe is an incredibly lucky symbol. If you find one with the open end pointing towards you, you will have an especially great day.
45. Black cats are bad luck.
In the Middle Ages, people believed that black cats were witches. Even worse, people thought that these cats could turn their owners into demons after seven years.
46. Don’t return home for something you forgot.
In Latvia, it is bad luck to return home with something you forgot, so if you forgot your keys at home, tough luck! You can look into your mirror before you leave to neutralize the bad omens.
47. Don’t just sneeze once.
In India, it is bad luck to sneeze only once — that’s why you should force a second one.
48. Bad things happen in threes.
In the United States, some believe that if something terrible happens to you, the terrible thing will happen to you two more times. Make sure to keep an eye out.
49. Don’t comment on a particularly cute baby.
In Thailand, you shouldn’t comment on a person’s cute baby, as many families believe it will take the beauty away.
50. Never sit with 13 people at a table.
Thirteen to a table is similar to the ratio in The Last Supper, and we all know how well that story went for all of its dinner guests.
51. Don’t step on a manhole cover.
While we have to worry about cracks breaking our mother’s backs, in Sweden, the thing to look out for is manholes. If you step on one with a letter A, this will bring you a broken heart, a much deeper pain as we all know.
52. Don’t trim your nails at night.
Many cultures believe that cutting your nails after sundown is a big taboo. One Japanese superstition believes that it causes premature death.
53. Don’t jump over kids.
You think jumping over your six-year-old nephew will make you a big hit at the family reunion, but all you will do, according to Turkish superstition, is curse the child to be short forever.
54. Don’t kiss babies on the lips.
If you do, you will curse your baby for a lifetime of drooling.
55. Keep your bananas off a cruise ship.
Fishermen don’t bring bananas on boats, as it brings bad luck out on the open seas.
56. Carry an acorn to gain immortality.
Want to be young forever? Many women in Ancient Britain kept acorns in their pockets to ensure a forever youthful complexion.
57. Don’t let your purse touch the ground.
In Brazil, people believe that if you put your purse on the ground, you will become penniless. Better work out those arms, because you can’t let that tote rest on the floor for even a second.
58. Don’t announce your last drink of the evening.
In Cuba, if you declare that it’s your last drink of the night, some believe that you are tempting fate and that it will truly be your last drink of the night, and forever. Don’t tempt fate! A common way to mitigate this is to knock on wood after you say a particularly daring statement.
59. Don’t give clocks as gifts.
Not only is it a lame gift (well, actually, depends on the clock), but according to Chinese culture, the phrase to describe giving a clock has a similar pronunciation to the phrase of attending someone’s funeral.
60. Add your sugar before your coffee.
Want to start your morning off right? When making your cup of morning coffee, put your sugar in before your coffee to get your daily dose of good luck.