Traditions and Superstitions: Silliness from Around the World

It does not matter how rational some people are. When it comes to money matters, if they hear a superstition or tradition, they will likely follow. Why tempt fate by breaking the rules of some arcane science from unknown ages, right? All this came up yesterday afternoon when my friend gave me some money to settle some old shared expenses. Since I had a lot of stuff in my right hand, I extended my left hand to receive the money. But she insisted that I put down the stuff and receive the money in my right hand because “money received with your left hand won’t stay with you”. I couldn’t help but remember what seems to be another universal superstition – “if the palm of your right hand itches, you will come into some money and if the palm of your left hand itches you will lose some”. I don’t understand why over the ages and across cultures the left hand receives such step-sisterly treatment!

In the evening when I was randomly browsing, I decided to look up to see if I can find something on the Net for this downgraded treatment of the left hand (yes, I was that bored!). I wasn’t much successful to this end, but came across some pretty amusing superstitions and traditions from cultures across the world. Here are some for your light weekend reading.

Europeans and the “penny in the shoe”

Across Europe in many countries, a penny is inserted in the bride’s shoe to start her off in a life of prosperity. It is believed that this tradition may have started in Britain (source) based on this wedding rhyme

“Something old, something new
Something borrowed, something blue
And a silver sixpence in her shoe.”

In the US, it looks like the first two lines of the rhyme are traditionally followed, but not really the “penny in the shoe” part.

It seems like this custom is quite common across several European countries though. For instance, in Sweden (source), the mother of the bride gives her a gold coin to go in her right shoe, and her father gives her a silver coin to be placed in her left shoe. This way the parents are assured that the daughter will never go without. In Hungary (source), it is customary for the new bride to dance a “money dance.” The male guests “pay” to dance with the bride by either pinning money to her dress or dropping money into her shoes which are in the middle of the dance floor.

Germans and “the lucky penny” or "Glueckspfennig"

Millions of Germans believed (source) that their team made it to the 2002 soccer world cup finals because of a "lucky" penny, or "Glueckspfennig". Before each match the penny was buried in the ground on the play field and many believed that this was responsible for the 8 straight undefeated matches that the German team had. Pity, the lucky penny did not help the Germans win the finals, the one match that really mattered :)

Jamaicans and “wishing on the new moon”

In Jamaica (source) apparently there is the belief that when you see a new crescent moon, if you hold up a coin and wish for money, in the month that follows, as the moon increases in size, so will the money you have. That seems easy enough – I should try that. Of late it seems like I am only losing money each month – maybe the moon can help reverse that trend :)

Chinese and “the number 8”

In the Chinese culture, the number 8 is considered very lucky (source) since the word used to say “8” sounds similar to the word used to say “fortune”. Additionally, two 8’s together is supposed to bring double the joy. Some people believe in this so much so that they will base their investing decisions on the occurrence of the number 8 in the ticker symbol or the value! (source - subscription required). Wow, I thought that the stock market here in the US was unpredictable – can’t imagine what it must be like for a rational trader in China!

Indian subcontinent and “is it the good time yet?”

In India and Sri Lanka, the general masses believe a lot in astrology. The astrological charts predict for each day, which hours are the best times to do business (“gulika kala”) and which are the worst (“rahu kala”). During the rahu kala, people avoid doing anything auspicious or major money transactions (source). I wonder if they take into account the different time zones while following this - for instance, if you want to buy something on Ebay, do you go by the Indian time or the American time? :)

Russians and “when you receive some gifts you should give back some money!”

In Russia, it is believed to be inappropriate to give anyone a sharp object (like knife, scissors etc) as a gift. Also, you cannot give your hot girlfriend a cute puppy (or a pig or a snake or any other animal that she fancies) as a gift. If under some unavoidable circumstances you must give these items as gifts, then the receiver of the gifts should give you back some symbolic money so the invisible forces that made these rules can view this as a trade and exempt you from untold misfortunes in the future! Also, if you gift someone a purse make sure it has some symbolic money in it so you don’t inadvertently curse them with poverty. And while we are at it, while in Russia – don’t whistle indoors! Russians believe that this will result in you “whistling away all the money”! (source)

Japanese and “the snake skin in the wallet”

Japanese believe that a snake is a symbol of good fortune. So they believe that if you carry a piece of snake skin in your wallet, you wallet will never go empty and you will become rich (source). All I have to say for that is “EWWWW!”. No offense, but “EEEEWWWWW!”

Latvians and “don’t place the dinner knife vertically”

Apparently, in Latvia it is believed that if you place the knife on the dinner table vertically next to the dinner plate, the person sitting in that seat will lose all his money. Even in restaurants, the knives are placed horizontally above the dinner plates (source). Now that’s a strange one, don’t you think?

There were many more smaller ones I came across, but after a while they stopped being funny anymore - there is only so much silliness you can take in one day :)

Do you follow any traditions or superstitions for no reason?

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staged4more said...

Well, I work in real estate. And people believe that by sticking St. Joe into the backyard, the home will sell. Really?! But believe it or not, I have seen those statues sold at local real estate boards.



Alan said...

Cool list!. I really enjoyed it. Yes believing in something is a powerful thing, doesn't matter what it is. If you believe it, its true.

ispf said...

Cindy: That's a new one for me. I had never heard of it before! I wonder why the backyard and not the front yard - after all it is the front door that people walk in through and I would think it would be easier to work the magic on them as they enter :)

Alan: Thanks. Yeah, you are right - believing in something is quite powerful! Sometimes, it may seem a little silly to others, but if you really believe, what does it matter what others think?