Mind that ladder, don’t step on a crack, and for heaven sakes, do not let a black cat cross your path! Friday the 13th, of any month, is full of superstitions in the west, and 13 is thought to be an unlucky number. Just why we get extra antsy when the 13th day of the month falls on a Friday, of all days, has been lost to the mists of time.
In honour of the day, here are 13 superstitions you might want to keep in mind for extra luck.
Get a lucky rabbit’s foot
No, you can’t just go to the SPCA animal shelter and ask for a lucky rabbit. In the old days, people believed that having a rabbit’s back foot was very lucky. We think it was pretty unlucky for the rabbit.
Don’t walk under ladders
Well, that’s just sensible. Ladders usually mean there are workmen above and a good chance something will fall on your head. There’s also a chance that you knock the ladder over and cause the worker to fall. Hmm, better just walk around.
Don’t sit at the corner of a table
Thankfully most tables in Hong Kong are round, which means we don’t have to worry who sits where, like Westerners do. But the idea that the people who sit at the corners are not going to get married might have something to do with the fact that the corner position of a table is an awkward one, which is why it’s only used in emergencies and usually by less powerful people.
If you spill salt, throw a pinch of it over your left shoulder to ward off bad luck
In the old days, salt was a precious commodity, so spilling it was bound to cost a bit of money. It was used to clean and preserve things, and was seen as having almost spiritual powers. We’re not sure why throwing extra salt away over your shoulder, would make it any better. Just make sure someone isn’t standing behind you.
Don’t whistle indoors
People who whistle indoors are said to be whistling for the devil or whistling up a storm. So, best to avoid that today.
Don’t open your umbrella indoors
It’s not hard to see that opening a big, sturdy brolly inside could poke someone in the eye, or knock over Mum’s expensive vase. Why take the risk? Plus, it’s always best to avoid that awkward “how do I get through the door?” moment.
Find a lucky horseshoe
Well, specifically if you are being plagued by goblins, and the horseshoe is made of iron. These days, horseshoes are more commonly made of steel, aluminium and even plastic, so make sure if you find one, that it is made of iron. That’s because goblins and other pesky little creatures fear iron. As to which way up you need to keep your horseshoe: have the open part at the top so all the luck doesn’t fall out the ends.
If someone sneezes, say “bless you”
Okay, this isn’t just on Friday the 13th. Many Westerners consider it good manners to bless a person who sneezes. In the old days, people believed that the soul left the body during a sneeze, and blessing the person prevented any evil spirits from taking over their bodies.
Don’t cut your nails after dark
If you do, you could be cutting your life short. We suppose this one came about before electric lighting made it possible to cut your nails pretty much any time – just not, ever, in public. Eons ago, a simple cut could prove fatal because people didn’t know much about keeping things clean and sterile.
Don’t step on any cracks
“Step on a crack, you’ll break your mother’s back,” or so the rhyme goes. Children often avoid cracks in the pavement or anywhere, really. And that’s not a bad idea, especially when it comes to unexplained cracks in the ground that could be hiding sinkholes or worse.
Avoid black cats
Well, the idea of this one is that the cat crosses your path, that is, walks across the direction you’re walking in. Many cultures are suspicious of black animals, especially cats and dogs, as they believe them to either be witches in disguise or evil spirits. You don’t need us to tell you they’re not unlucky at all and that being kind to animals is a sign of true strength.
Get out of bed on the right side
No, really, get out of bed on the right. Okay, so the expression goes that someone who is having bad luck “got out of the wrong side of the bed that morning”. And generally the left is considered to be “bad”. But most people are happy to deal with this superstition by getting out of bed the same side they got into it – which is kind of what you’re forced to do if you live in Hong Kong.
Don’t break a mirror
Mirrors used to have all sorts of superstition around them. It was only about 200 years ago that the modern mirror was invented by a German chemist named Justus von Liebig, and they used to be only affordable for the very wealthy. Before then, people mostly looked at their reflections in highly polished metal surfaces … which might explain some of their fashion choices. Still, when modern mirrors first came out they were very expensive, needing both glass and silver, and weren’t mass-produced. So, breaking one was really bad luck. But people believed all sorts of things about mirrors, which would be a whole new article!