I have always found it interesting that so many superstitions seem to be the same or similar across countries

  • walking under ladders brings bad luck
  • breaking a mirror gives you seven (why seven I wonder?) years of bad luck
  • black cats bring bad/good luck
  • touch wood/knock on wood
  • lucky horseshoes (but only if they point upwards)
  • crossing fingers/holding thumbs for good luck
  • opening an umbrella inside a house brings back luck
  • throwing salt over your shoulder
  • Friday the 13th

I have always thought that certain – but not all – idioms and superstitions crossed the seas with ships. Sailors were notoriously superstitious. Some idioms have stayed the same across countries, others are slightly different. There are also geographic differences.

In Sweden many superstitions are the same as the ones I grew up with. For example my mother taught me to always put a coin into a wallet I was giving as a gift, and this used to be common in Sweden as well, though probably not anymore.  Putting keys on a table is supposed to be bad luck. Not many people are superstitious here but I did learn this superstition the hard way…. I had never heard of it before. I am not superstitious at all but I try to be respectful (within reason) of others.

What superstitions are there in your country?

Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

2 thoughts

  1. The superstition that breaking a mirror brings seven years of bad luck comes from Italy. In the XVth century, the first flat mirrors were made in Venice. They were extremely expensive and only very wealthy households could afford them. When one of the servants incidentally broke a mirror then they had to work for free for seven years to reimburse the mirror. After that period of time the master had saved enough money and could purchase a new mirror to replace the broken one.
    Here is where the seven years of bad luck superstition comes from.

  2. We in America also share many of the same superstitions you listed, including NEVER to give an empty wallet as a gift. Many of the subcultures here, like the Italian community, refuse to announce a pregnancy or build a nursery before many weeks and/or months have passed, so as not to harm the birth. Finding a FOUR-leafed clover is very good luck and we say “bread and butter” (God knows why) when two companions say the exact same thing at the exact same time. Interesting….

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