Three weeks into the New Year and it’s already Friday the 13th. What did we do to deserve this? Is it an omen for the trajectory of the year? Probably not! because we mark time with the Gregorian calendar, it’s impossible to avoid Friday the 13th. The good news, though, is that we’ll never have more than three in a year, as was the case in 2015. This year there are only two: January and October’s. Yes it is a superstitious belief.
What is superstitions?
A widely held but irrational belief in supernatural influences, especially as leading to good or bad luck, or a practice based on such a belief. Most people are at least a little superstitious. Whether that be placing trust in lucky numbers or trying to avoid bad omens, different cultures have incredible stories behind their superstitions. Thinking that trimming your nails at night will bring bad luck is a common belief in India, for example, while many people in the US see pennies as a sign of good luck.
In honour of the spooky day, here are 15 superstitions from around the world, some more common than others:
Fear of Friday the 13th:
Fear of Friday the 13th may be the biggest superstition of all time. There are many reasons why 13th is considered an unlucky number, and some say Friday is a bad day because that’s when the Crucifixion took place. It also used to be the day for hangings. No one is exactly sure how fear of the combined date took root. It’s been suggested that 13 is an unlucky number because it is one more than a perfect dozen – Judas’ appearance at the Last Supper, making 13 men, is often cited. So strong is the superstition that some hotels skip 13 when naming floors. There is even a name for fear of the number: Triskaidekaphobia.
Trimming your nails at night.
There are several grooming-related superstitions in India, Turkey and South Korea including the belief that it is bad luck to trim your finger or toenails after dark, at least according to superstitions. Historically, people typically tried to avoid using sharp objects at night to avoid hurting themselves in low light, according to US News. It is also considered bad luck to get a haircut on a Saturday in India.
One Japanese superstition even claims you could have a premature death. Historically, knives or other sharp cutting tools would be used to trim long nails. Darkness plus sharp objects and a then-lack of medical access could have equalled deadly infections.
It’s a common superstition not to open an umbrella indoors, although its origin is unclear. It’s been said that doing so might be an insult to the sun, or to the spirits already protecting you at home. Some people believe the umbrella superstition comes from ancient Egypt, where the umbrella was primarily used for protection from the hot rays of the sun. Legend has it that ancient Egyptians believed that opening an umbrella indoors away from the sun was a disrespectful act that would anger the sun god, who would then take out his anger on everyone in the house in which the umbrella had been opened.
Others believe the umbrella superstition has a more modern and practical source. The first modern umbrellas were not all that safe. Built with hard metal spokes and spring triggers, they could be dangerous to open. In fact, opening one indoors could pose a danger to people and fragile objects nearby.
Shoe on Table Superstition
It may be unlucky to place your shoes on a table. Various legends hold this will bring a day’s bad luck, a quarrel with a mate and even death. It’s also been said that you can undo this curse by putting the shoes on the floor again before putting them on. A man should never put a pair of shoes on the kitchen table. If he does, he can expect a quarrel before the night is through. If a woman puts her shoes on the table, expect a pregnancy within the family. Another belief common in the North of England is that the tradition relates to the coal mining industry. When a miner died in a colliery accident, his shoes were placed on the table as a sign of respect. By extension, doing so was seen as tempting fate or simply as bad taste.
In the world of theater, putting shoes on a dressing room table is considered by some to bring the risk of a bad performance, just as “Break a leg!” is considered good luck. Also described as an old wives’ tale, the superstition may date back to medieval times. Some sources ascribe the origin to the fact that criminals were hanged while still wearing their shoes. It may have something to do with death, and the idea of placing a new pair of shoes on the table would signify that someone had just died, or you would have bad luck for the rest of the day, quarrel with someone or lose your job.
Sitting at the Corner of a Table:
According to Hungarian and Russian superstitions, and surely others as well, sitting at the corner of the table is bad luck. The unlucky diner will allegedly never get married. Some say the bad luck only hangs around for seven years, but as with most superstitions, why chance it?
In Russian culture, corners have always played an important role. Traditional Orthodox Russian homes had a special icon corner, called the “red corner”, because the word “red” also means beautiful in Russian. The Red Corner was a home altar, where the family stood in prayer each morning and each evening. The icon area was draped with a cloth with embroidered ornaments. A candle glowed. Upon entering the house, visitors first acknowledged the icons as representatives of God’s presence in the family. They gave a respectful bow, making the sign of the cross, and sometimes offering a short blessing or prayer, before going on to greet the members of the household. Nowadays, there are still “red corners” with icons in some houses, though it’s not as widespread as it was before.