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Superstitions - Are They the Same Around the World?

Would you decline to stay on the thirteenth floor of a hotel?  Have you crossed your fingers when you were anticipating a response to an inquiry?  Have you ever walked out of your way to avoid a black cat or a ladder?  If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, then you are probably at least a little superstitious.

Superstitions are believed to influence chance, either positively or negatively.  Most Americans can recite the superstitions that are most common in the United States (see below)

Although the precise origin of most superstitions is unknown, they usually stem from folklore or religion. Although the number of different superstitions is enormous, let’s look at some from various countries around the world.


Good Luck


Back Luck

China, India

Color red


Magpie means death is nearby


Horse shoe

Origin unknown but common practice in European countries

Celebrating happy events ahead of time, e.g. baby shower




Never cross arms when shaking hands in a group or toasting

Various religions

Number 7

Scandinavia & Christianity

Number 13

Germanic countries


China & Japan

Number 4


Chimney sweeps

Philippines – a number of actions may cause a person to die

An owl near a sick person or cutting one’s finger nails at night

Native American

Dream catcher


Open an umbrella inside


Sky color "red in the morning fisherman’s warning, red at night fisherman’s delight"


(Feng Shui)

The door of one’s house cannot face a window (goodness can escape)

Some stones are considered lucky including jade, pearls and garnets.

Whether something is considered good luck or bad luck can also change. Did you know that before Hitler’s influence the swastika was considered good luck in both Hinduism and Buddhism?

Some people will admit to being superstitious, while others refer to such beliefs as absurd, yet there are still others who deny believing in superstitions, but who might still cross their fingers, knock on wood or break a wish bone it the situation seemed to call for it.  While some are superstitious and might do something extra to bring good luck or more care might be taken when encountering something considered to bring bad luck; the actions are harmless.  However, in Africa there is an “anti-superstition” campaign because superstitious are used to oppress, ostracize or killing the perpetrators.

As written by Leo Igwe in ‘An Anti- Superstition Campaign Manifesto for Africa’:   In Angola, Malawi, Nigeria, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda and the Congo, etc those accused of witchcraft are murdered, tortured or banished by family members. In Angola and Tanzania, Africans continue to kill each other for ritual sacrifice and to secure human body parts for the production of charms and other fetish objects. Unfortunately the superstitions and beliefs behind these savage acts have gone challenged. Hence the harmful effects, their dark and destructive consequences have become daily, common and recurrent experiences and reality in Africa.

The strength of beliefs in superstitions varies by person, country and culture.  Why not learn more about the superstitions in the country in which you are living.

I wish you a bit of the Luck of the Irish!  shamrock

Elizabeth Vennekens- Kelly                                                                                                            Co-chair, Sharing Cultures Team



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