13 Surprising Things You Didn’t Know Were Considered Bad Luck
Even the not-so-superstitious know that breaking a mirror and walking under a ladder can bring bad luck. But there are plenty of other, lesser-known things that also have a reputation for causing misfortune. Not to freak you out, but you’re probably doing some of them all the time.
Carrying bananas on a ship
Sailors have always been a superstitious bunch. And “bunches,” indeed, were actually one of the things that they considered bad luck to have around on the high seas. In the 1700s, many ships that were lost or shipwrecked while travelling between Spain and the Caribbean happened to be carrying bananas at the time, so having one on board came to mean bad news. Whistling on a ship, too, was also said to bring bad luck, because letting loose a whistle was supposed to present a “challenge” to the wind. The wind would supposedly respond in kind by sending a storm.
Check out some more surprising origin stories of common superstitions.
Wishing someone a happy birthday before their actual birthday
Want to make an entire weekend of your birthday that falls on a Sunday? In that case, you might not want to celebrate in Germany. That’s because many Germans believe that wishing someone a happy birthday before the day itself will cause misfortune to befall everyone involved. Instead, they follow a tradition called “reinfeiern,” where they get together the night before someone’s birthday and begin celebrating exactly when the clock strikes midnight. Saying “happy birthday” so much as a minute sooner is a major no-no.
Changing your bed on a Friday
According to an old wives’ tale, if you turn a mattress on a Friday, you’ll be cursed with bad dreams. Another variation says that changing your bed on a Sunday is bad news too, so you might just want to avoid replacing your sheets on weekends.
Or just check out the 25 surprising things your dreams reveal about you.
Renaming a boat
What could possibly be bad luck about getting a new boat?! Well, if you alter its existing name, you could be tempting fate. This legend dates back to ancient times when sailors believed that the name of every single boat was written down in the immutable ledger of Poseidon. If you dared change the name of a boat, you’d incur the sea god’s wrath. If your boat’s name was one that you absolutely couldn’t stand, however, there was a loophole, according to BoatSafe.com. You could successfully “erase” the old name of the boat from Poseidon’s log by removing all traces of it. This meant everything from the bow of the boat to the life jackets had to be free of the old name. If you dared display the boat’s new name before every last vestige of the old one was gone, you’d be pushing your luck big time.
Tuesday the 13th
Maybe Friday the 13th is a bringer of bad luck; maybe it’s just a matter of perspective. While Anglo-Saxon cultures see Friday the 13th as bad news, in Spain, the 13th day of the month is more unlucky when it falls on a Tuesday. In Spanish, the word for Tuesday is “Martes,” which comes from Mars, the Roman god of war, so Tuesday spells trouble. One thing both cultures agree on, though, is that 13 is an unlucky number.
The Czech Republic is the country that consumes the largest quantity of beer per capita, so it makes sense that there would be some unwritten rules and superstitions associated with having a brew. Supposedly, if you pour one type of beer into a mug containing another type, you’re in for some misfortune.
Check out more of the world’s greatest beer cities.
Giving yellow clothes as a gift
Another Spanish bad-luck superstition claims that recipients of saffron-coloured garments will experience bad luck. According to Spanish legend, the sulfurous colour of yellow is related to black magic or, for the more extremely superstitious, even the Devil himself. If you’re feeling really superstitious, you should avoid wearing yellow altogether, but especially if you’re interviewing for a job, taking a test, or doing something else for which good luck would be beneficial.
Complimenting a baby
In Serbia, if you say a baby is cute or sweet, you risk dooming the baby to a lifetime of bad luck. Saying it’s ugly instead will keep it safe in the luck department. So in Serbia, there’s essentially no way for parents to tell if someone actually thinks their baby is funny-looking or if they’re just trying to save it from misfortune.
Saying “Macbeth” in a theatre
In an unusual twist, it’s the popularity of this Shakespeare tragedy that makes its name bad luck. Legend has it that in England when a new play was a flop, the theatre would end the run early and stage a production of Macbeth instead, since the popular show was a guaranteed hit. Therefore, saying “Macbeth” in the theatre was equivalent to tempting fate and implying that the production might fail. Even today, thespians dare not utter the name of “the Scottish play” within a theatre’s walls.
Here are the 10 luckiest wedding traditions from around the world.
Turning over a cooked fish
When eating fish in some regions of China, it’s bad luck to turn over your dinner. Flipping over the fish is said to correspond to the motion of a boat capsizing. To avoid triggering such a disaster, many people in China reach the meat on the underside of the fish with chopsticks instead of rotating it.
Check out these fascinating food traditions from around the world.
Mixing wine and watermelon
Bad news for lovers of watermelon wine: According to Argentinian custom, you’re flirting with disaster by putting these two things together. Not only should you never let these two substances touch one another, you shouldn’t even put them on the same table. This superstition has a few more and less stringent variations, though; some people avoid mixing watermelon with any type of alcohol, while others limit the restriction to just red wine and watermelon. This old wives’ tale warns that the two substances can be lethal together (or at the very least, cause a bad stomachache).
Pointing at a rainbow
In some cultures, including the Navajo tradition, pointing at a rainbow would incur the wrath of the gods. People considered rainbows to be celestial beings, or at the very least, sent by them. So you could ooh and aah at a rainbow all you liked, but if you pointed at one, you would disrespect the deity responsible for it.
Don’t miss these crazy and colourful facts about rainbows.
Cutting a young baby’s nails
According to an old-fashioned Welsh tradition, parents should never cut their baby’s nails before he or she reaches six months-old. The superstition warns that if the baby has its nails cut in its first six months of life, he or she will grow up to have sticky fingers and will become a thief.
Next, learn the real reason why February only has 28 days.
Originally published as 13 Surprising Things You Didn’t Know Were Considered Bad Luck on ReadersDigest.com.