Superstition is really something that is not unique to any one culture. Every culture has its own unique beliefs and superstitions, some of which actually make their way into the culture of day to day life without the people even realizing that their behavior is being guided by some silly old belief dating back to the dark ages.
Some superstitions, though, are just really crazy and out there. Even though that’s the case, cultures still believe them today. It’s not that surprising when you consider the fact that people still believe in religions. The idea of some kind of magical punishment is not really all that impossible to religious people. And so, we still have current generations of children avoiding smashing mirrors, jumping over cracks, and being extra careful on Friday the 13th.
The world has some truly unique and interesting superstitions that may be novel to those who didn’t grow up with them. Some cultures might even take their traditions and superstitions as givens and be surprised to learn that the rest of the world doesn’t share their beliefs. So let’s have a look at twelve of the oddest superstitions originating from countries all around the world.
12. Don’t Say “Cheers” With Water
The next time you’re out drinking with your friends, you may want to tell that one friend not indulging in some alcohol to keep himself out of the toast. Originating in Germany, there is a superstition about toasting with water. If you toast with water, they say you are wishing death to everyone you are drinking with. What a horrible thing! Well, to us, it just seems like a way to pressure your buddy into getting drunk with the rest of you. “Come on, man. Come have a cold one with the rest of us. Don’t be such a stiff. Do you want us all to die? Didn’t think so.”
11. Step In That Dog Poo
Dog droppings seem to be something any sane person would avoid. Who wants to get all that on their shoe just to have to waste valuable time wiping it all off? It’s so irritating. However, that belief is not shared completely by the people of France. In France, when you step in dog poop with your left foot, it’s thought to be extremely lucky. However, stepping in it with your right foot is bad luck. I wonder if anyone purposely tries this. This superstition probably arises due to the fact that France actually has a major dog poop problem. Apparently, the sidewalks in France are just absolutely littered with dog poop, since the owners seem to not care enough to clean up after them.
10. Don’t Sit On A Pillow
A pillow can be just what you need to combat an uncomfortable sitting surface. It can also add a little extra cushion when you have a sore backside or something else. However, in Malaysia, it’s something you may want to forego doing. In Malaysia, it’s believed that sitting on a pillow will cause your backside to become covered in boils, blisters, and other sores. Isn’t that just what the pillow was supposed to be preventing, though? This superstition is believed to rise from the fact that pillows are of course commonly used for sleeping on. You don’t want it smelling of someone’s behind when you go to use it for that purpose.
9. Eat Grapes At Midnight
In America, it’s considered a New Year’s tradition to pop a bottle of champagne and have a kiss with your sweetie to toast the new year. However, over in Spain, they do things a little differently. In Spain, they eat grapes to toast the new year. The particularly superstitious will eat 12 grapes at midnight, which is thought to bring good luck for the 12 months of the new year. It dates back to a tradition that believes it creates a ward that keeps away witches and evil. It’s kind of an interesting tradition, but it leaves us wondering. Why grapes?
8. Don’t Step On A Crack
This popular superstition is known by just about everyone who grew up in North America. Kids are always running around screaming “Don’t step on a crack, or you’ll break your mother’s back.” While a cute rhyme, the penalty is pretty severe. The superstition is thought to actually arise from racism in the Americas, with the original saying being: “Step on a crack, and your mother will turn black.” There are also origins traced to a popular caution mothers would use, saying if their children stepped on cracks, bears would come out and eat them. Why are cracks so threatening? You can trip?
7. Avoid The Number 4
In China and Japan, the number 4 is often associated with death. As such, the elevators, especially those in hospitals, often omit the 4th floor, similar to how elevators in North America may opt to omit a 13th floor. This superstition comes from the Chinese language itself. It’s a play on words in a way. The Chinese character for “death,” and the Chinese character for “four” both have the same pronunciation in the language, “si” in Chinese or “shi” in Japanese. The similarity in pronunciation is thought to give the number a connection to death. In opposite land, the Japanese words for “five” and “yen” put together mean “luck” when pronounced, and so five yen coins are often given to the temples as offerings for good luck.
6. Don’t Chew Gum At Night
In Turkey, chewing gum at night is considered to be extremely disgusting. If you want to chew some gum after dinner, you may want to opt for brushing your teeth instead. Why’s that? Well, according to Harry Oliver, author of Black Cats and Four Leaf Clovers, in Turkey it’s believed that if you’re chewing gum at night, what you’re actually chewing is the flesh of the dead. Even if your breath stinks, eating the flesh of the dead would probably just make it stinkier, so it’s not advised. Who would’ve thought that doing something as simple as chewing some gum would turn you into a zombie?
5. Tuck In Your Thumbs When You Pass A Graveyard
In Japan, it’s considered extremely bad to pass a graveyard with your thumbs exposed. Some Japanese people are so superstitious about this, they will be caught tucking them into their hands or pockets just to avoid the possible downside. The downside to this one is pretty morbid if you think about it. It’s said that if your thumbs are exposed, you will not be able to be with your parents when they die. Pretty strange, huh? It comes from the Japanese word for “thumb,” which translates directly into “parent finger.”
4. Friday The…17th?
Friday the 13th is one of the most common superstitions in the western world. The story is believed to have come from the fact that there were 13 disciples at the last supper before Jesus’ death on a Friday. However, across the pond in Italy, it’s actually Friday the 17th that is to be feared. This is because the Roman numeral for 17, XVII, can be re-arranged to make the Latin word VIXI, which translates to “my life is over.” It really is truly amazing how many different word games there are that can lead to superstitions of death. Some conspiracy theorists might say it isn’t actually coincidence after all.
3. Pass A Newborn Through A Cheese Rind
This superstition dates back to the time of Medieval England. In those days, expectant mothers would make what was called a “groaning cheese” at the beginning of their pregnancy. This was a large wheel of cheese that matured all while the baby was maturing in the womb. Then, when the time of birth, also referred to as the “groaning time” came, the cheese was then shared amongst the family. When nothing but the outer rind remained, the baby was passed through it on Christening day. It was thought to bring a long and prosperous life to the new little one.
2. Keep A Tight Grooming Schedule
In India, if you are superstitious and want to take care of your personal hygiene, you have to be extremely regimented and keep a tight schedule. Since it’s considered bad luck to wash or cut your hair on a Thursday or Saturday, you’re stuck keeping your hair unwashed and smelly after a hard day at work. Moreover, if you want to clip your nails, you’ll have to wait until it’s not Tuesday or Saturday, as it’s bad luck to do it on those days. Oh, and you can’t do it at night period. So make sure you get your clipping done before sundown.
1. Running A Fan Will Kill You
This superstition comes from South Korea, where it’s believed that running a fan in a closed room while sleeping will lead to your death. The only way around it is to open a window. A lot of people are also said to believe in and follow this superstition. People in Korea are actually said to be surprised to learn that other cultures don’t believe this. In the modern day, “fan death,” arising from the popularity of this superstition, has become a meme. There are similar beliefs in Japan as well. It’s said that running an air conditioner all night while sleeping will lead to “air con sickness.” Most people do it anyway in summer, but this one actually has some truth to it, since the drastic temperature changes between outside and inside the room can lead to sickness.