Superstitions That People Around the World Still Believe

Jun 04, 2021Roshanak

Most people have probably heard the phrase “knock on wood,” which is supposed to ward off bad luck ... but this is not the case worldwide. Did you know that Friday the 13th is not scary in Spain? Bad luck actually comes on a different day there. Did you know that sailors are not supposed to bring bananas on a boat? But if you’re American, you might want to start thinking about a rabbit on the first day of every month—the shocking reason goes back to 600 B.C., and you won't believe what it is!

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DON’T WISH HAPPY BIRTHDAY BEFORE THE DATE

Most people would never tell you “Happy Birthday” before your actual date of birth unless you had a party to celebrate on a different day due to convenience. However, it’s terrible luck to do it in Russia. But it’s not as unlucky as not calling the phrase “white rabbit.” Can you guess why? It's more than you imagine!

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TUESDAY THE 13TH IS REALLY UNLUCKY

Friday the 13th has always been the subject of superstitions in North America. But in Spain and some Latin American countries, Tuesday the 13th is actually the worst day. You won’t catch any bride scheduling their wedding that day. It apparently originated due to Greek and Roman mythology, as Ares and Mars dominate Tuesday. Both of them are gods of war. Yikes!

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DON’T STICK YOUR CHOPSTICKS IN RICE

If you’re familiar with Asian food, you have probably eaten with chopsticks many times before. However, you might not be aware that you should never stick your utensils in a bowl of rice. It’s bad luck in Japan because the chopsticks look like the number four, which is said to bring dark times. Meanwhile, one superstition about rabbits is that they can communicate with the other side ...

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STOPPING SWEEPING PEOPLE’S FEET

In Hispanic culture, you cannot sweep over anyone’s feet, or they will never find love. People don’t usually pass a broom over someone's foot, but you might accidentally do it yourself. It’s better to use a vacuum if you’re still single. It's better to be safe rather than sorry!  

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DON’T OPEN UMBRELLAS INDOORS

Umbrellas are universal, but in many countries such as Canada, the U.S., and even the United Kingdom, you’re never supposed to open them indoors. It would help if you didn’t leave them open to dry off as most people do after a rainy day. There are several theories of this superstition’s origins, and one goes back to ancient Egypt. Apparently, doing so could anger the god Ra. Others believe it started because umbrellas used to be bigger and difficult to open. So, you could break something ...

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NEVER CHEERS WITH WATER

In Germany, you are never supposed to cheers with water, as this means that you wish bad luck to the person you’re drinking with. This goes back to Greek mythology, which states that the dead drank from the River Lethe in the Underworld to forget their past lives. So, Greeks would toast the spirits with water to wish them well in their journey to the afterlife.

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ITCHY NOSES ANNOUNCE A COMING FIGHT

According to Irish lore, if you have a sudden and unexplainable itch in your nose, you might have to get ready for a fight. Apparently, you can ward off any coming trouble by asking someone next to you to slap your hand, and you have to slap them back. Try it! 

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DON’T PUT YOUR SHOES ON THE TABLE

You probably think that this is just common sense because it’s dirty. But in Britain, it’s considered bad luck because it represents the death of a loved one. Many years ago, this was how they announced that someone in the family had passed away. Nowadays, people don’t do it because it’s rude.

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BURN SAGE TO WARD OFF EVIL SPIRITS

In some parts of Canada, people believe that you’re supposed to burn sage when moving to a new home. This wards off evil spirits and people use sage for that purpose in many cultures worldwide. Apparently, you’re supposed to light up a bunch and go from room to room, removing any bad presence.  

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PATTING A SAILOR’S POMPOM

Have you ever seen a French sailor’s hat? It’s a white beret with a red pompom on top, and it’s totally chic. Meanwhile, it’s believed that you have to pat or gently touch the pompom to get good luck. But you should probably ask the sailor for permission first. 

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NEVER WASH YOUR NEIGHBOR’S DIRTY DISH

Sometimes, neighbors will bring each other special food they made for you or leftovers to be nice. Commonly, you would eat the food and wash the dish they brought over before returning. However, Canadians believed that cleaning that plate in your house is bad luck. Therefore, you have to return it dirty.

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ITCHY HANDS ANNOUNCE MONEY TROUBLES

Many superstitions have to do with general bad luck, but many have to do specifically with money. In Turkey, it’s believed that if your right hand itches, you might come into some money. However, if your left hand itches, you will lose money. You should never walk under a ladder—find out why! 

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NEVER WALK UNDER A LADDER

You are probably familiar with the superstition of walking under a ladder as it’s believed in Canada, the U.K., and the U.S. You cannot pass under one because it’s bad luck. Its origins go back to ancient Egypt, as they believed that the space between a ladder and the wall housed evil and good spirits. Walking by it would anger these beings.

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NEVER PUT TWO MIRRORS OPPOSITE EACH OTHER

Have you ever placed two mirrors facing each other? It creates an infinite reflection, which looks pretty cool and somewhat magical. However, it would help if you never did that in Mexico. They believe that doing so opens the door to the dark side, and nobody wants that.  

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BIRD POOP IS GOOD LUCK

No one likes it when birds poop on their car, and it’s even worse when it’s on you. However, Russians believed you would prosper if bird excrement falls on you or something you own. Therefore, please don’t be angry the next time it happens. In fact, you might consider parking your car under a tree if you’re having too much trouble lately.

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IF YOU RECEIVE A SHARP OBJECT, GIVE A PENNY

Some cultures believe that if you ever receive something sharp, like a blade or a knife, it severs the relationship between you and the present-giver. To cancel this bad juju, you need to give a penny (or a coin in your local currency) in return, and all will be well again. 

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OWLS BRING BAD LUCK

According to Egyptian lore, if you ever hear an owl’s hoot, you will get bad news soon. Meanwhile, Italians believe that if an owl enters your home, everyone inside will eventually die. But they are so cute, and many people have owl pets. If nothing has happened to them, you can rest assured that this belief is not 100% accurate. 

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NEVER KNIT OUTSIDE

Many people like knitting, but people who love it normally work on their projects during the winter. However, you should always work with your needle indoors, especially if you’re in Iceland. According to one of their superstitions, knitting outside can lengthen winters. No one wants that.

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NEVER WHISTLE INSIDE THE HOUSE

Some people love whistling while they work around the house, but not in Lithuania. They believe that whistling indoors is an invitation to the dark side. That’s a little scary. Meanwhile, Russians believe that doing so brings bad luck with money. Whether you believe it or not, it’s best to take no chances! 

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NEVER GET A HAIRCUT ON TUESDAYS

Some cultures have superstitions about cutting your hair, and they have to do with the moon’s rotation around Earth. But in India, you should never get a new hairstyle on a Tuesday because it brings bad luck. The origins are not clear, but it’s best to avoid anything that brings misfortune.

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DON’T SLEEP WITH YOUR HEAD POINTING NORTH

There are all kinds of beliefs when it comes to sleeping. Most people think that your head should be away from a door in case of intruders. Meanwhile, Japanese folks think you should not direct your head north because that’s how the dead are normally buried. Next up—yellow flowers are not great everywhere.

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YELLOW FLOWERS ARE BAD LUCK IN MARRIAGE

Russians have several superstitions when it comes to flowers. For example, you should give friends and family an odd number of flowers because even numbers are used for funerals. Meanwhile, a bouquet of yellow flowers represents sadness, deception, and breakups. It also means that you hope this friend is unfaithful to their spouse.

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PREGNANT WOMEN HAVE TO EAT FISH

Pregnancy cravings are completely, but women have learned many ways to control them and continue eating healthy. However, there’s a superstition in Canada that if an expecting woman wants to eat fish, she HAS to. If she doesn’t, her baby will be born with a fish-head! Next up—Friday the 17th is also pretty scary!

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FRIDAY THE 17TH

While many cultures think that Friday the 13th is bad luck, Italians think it’s all about Friday the 17th. You shouldn’t celebrate anything on that particular day, but if you have to go somewhere, don’t wear purple! However, if you are doing all of these things, you can cancel your bad luck by touching your privates.

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KNOCK ON WOOD TO AVOID JINXES

“Knock on wood” is a pretty popular phrase, and people use it to ward off any jinx. This superstition comes from medieval times as churchgoers would tough wood directly from Jesus’ cross. Apparently, touching this piece of a tree made you closer to Heaven, and therefore, it was lucky.

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DON’T CUT YOUR NAILS AT NIGHT

Most people groom their nails whenever they have time. However, some people from Turkey, India, and South Korea believe it’s bad luck to do it after sunset. In Japan, they believe that doing so can bring death. This superstition developed due to lack of medicine, as sharp objects brought about “darkness,” i.e., infections.

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WEDDING BELLS ARE GOOD LUCK

Wedding bells have always been positive in most cultures because they sound when a couple gets married, but the Irish take it a step further. Some brides wear bells on their dresses to prevent evil spirits from damaging a marriage. Next up—no asymmetrical food for pregnant ladies! 

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PREGNANT WOMEN SHOULD NOT EAT ASYMMETRICAL FOOD

As mentioned earlier, some cultures that pregnant women should give in to some of their cravings. However, Korean women believe that they cannot eat weirdly-shaped food because it will make their baby look ugly. That’s pretty funny. Maybe, everyone should listen to that and see what happens.

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NEVER SIT AT THE CORNER OF A TABLE

You might have sat in the corner of a table because there were too many guests and not enough space. However, Russians and Hungarians don’t do this because it brings bad luck. Apparently, the person in that corner will not get married as a result. Luckily, this misfortune seems to last only seven years.

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WARD OFF THE EVIL EYE WITH A NAZAR

Many cultures worldwide believe in the “Evil Eye,” which is when someone you know is actually jealous of your fortunes and envies them. In Turkey, they ward against these terrible looks with the “Nazar boncuğu.” You might have seen these amulets as it features an eye in blue and white. You might also see them in Egypt, Iran, Morocco, and even many Latin American countries.

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DON’T WALK BACKWARDS IN PORTUGAL

Many cultures believe in this superstition, but it’s particularly significant in Portugal. They believe that if you’re walking backward, you’re showing the devil exactly where you’re going. That’s why you might see many moms scolding their kids for doing it. Next up—a purse never goes on the ground!

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DON’T PUT YOUR PURSE ON THE GROUND

In many South American countries and even the Philippines, it’s believed that you should not place your purse or wallet on the ground. Aside from potentially dirtying your accessory, they think it brings bad financial luck. Meanwhile, Russians think that it could lead to infertility in women.

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THE THUMB RULE AT HAGIA SOPHIA

Many places worldwide are thought to be lucky, and one of them is the Hagia Sophia museum in Turkey. It used to be a church and a mosque. But during the Byzantine Empire, Justinian I was apparently cured of a headache after touching a column with a thumb hole on one side. Now, people go there to place their thumbs on it, as they believe it’s healing.

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NEVER SAY THE SAME WORD AT THE SAME TIME

Have you ever played the game “Jinx” when you and a friend said the same word at the same time? One person says “jinx,” and the other cannot speak for a while. In Italy, they believe that you will not get married if this happens. However, there’s a way to counteract this bad omen: touching your nose!

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THE SEVENTH SON BECOMES A WEREWOLF

This might be one of the strangest superstitions on the list. But Argentinians believe that the seventh son of a family will become a werewolf unless adopted by the country's president. Two Russian immigrants brought this custom in 1907, as the Tsar would normally be the godfather to all seventh sons.

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NEVER SING AT THE DINNER TABLE

The dinner table is a sacred spot for many cultures, and it’s a wonderful way to connect with people through food. However, you cannot be too happy while eating in the Netherlands because they don’t allow singing. They believed that if you sing, you’re inviting the devil. It’s almost like thanking him for your meal.

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DON’T WEAR A RED OUTFIT DURING A STORM

This superstition is a bit of a fashion-downer because nothing looks as great as red under the rain. Check out pictures on Instagram if you don’t believe us. But in the Philippines, they think red attracts lightning. So, you should not walk the streets in red if you want to remain safe from a bolt! Next up—the reason why you should think of rabbits!

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START SAYING “RABBIT” AT THE BEGINNING OF THE MONTH

In many parts of Britain and North America, it’s apparently customary for people to say “rabbit rabbit” or “white rabbit” on the first day of the month. Apparently, it brings good luck for the next 30 days. The superstition goes back to 600 B.C. when people believed that rabbits were connected to the underworld because they lived underground. Additionally, people also believe that a rabbit’s foot brings good luck.

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DON’T LOOK INTO BROKEN MIRRORS

Many Western cultures believe that a broken mirror will bring you seven years of bad luck. For some, it’s just an inconvenience having to pick up broken glass, but these beliefs go back to ancient Rome. They believe that life renews itself every seven years. Essentially, it’s like starting from scratch. So, if you broke a mirror and saw your image reflected on it, you’ll have to wait seven years to end for the misfortune to end.

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AN AWKWARD SILENCE IS AN ANGEL PASSING BY

No one really likes awkward silences because they normally happen when you’re not familiar with someone and have nothing to say. However, some people believe that they happen for a reason. This superstition began thanks to Portrait of the Artist by Dylan Thomas. One line reads: “A host of angels must be passing by … What a silence there is!”

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DON’T TAKE BANANAS ON BOATS

Can you imagine not being able to bring bananas on a boat? Most people have no idea this superstition existed at all. Apparently, it goes back to the 1700s when officials discovered that all capsized or lost ships were carrying bananas. So, it’s a symbol of danger, although it seems like many folks don’t pay mind to it.

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EATING YOUR GRAPES DURING NEW YEAR’S EVE

According to Spanish culture, you’re supposed to eat 12 grapes at midnight to celebrate the New Year. Naturally, this superstition/tradition is followed by many Latin American countries. In some areas, you have to eat them during the last 12 seconds before it’s midnight. They bring good luck!

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THROWING SALT OVER YOUR SHOULDER

Finally, you might have heard of throwing salt over your shoulder to ward off bad luck. This superstition stems from Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Last Supper, where Judas has apparently spilled salt. People started believing that it brought the devil. But if throwing it over your shoulders can blind him.

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These superstitions are so interesting, but it's almost impossible to determine how some of them started in the first place. Let us know which of them you believe in. If you liked this article, share it with your friends that always talk about warding off bad luck. See you next time!

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The information in this article is fictional and created for entertainment purposes only.