Grandma’s family superstitions 

January 11, 2024   ·   0 Comments

One morning in the late 1960s as I got a bit older, I had graduated from cereal and milk and was having a ‘big boy’ bacon and eggs breakfast at the table with Mom and Dad. We usually drank tea with breakfast back then, and I was old enough that Mom would let me have a cup of tea with them at breakfast every morning if I wanted. 

I liked milk in my tea and grabbed the milk to add to my tea. I went to stir the milk into my tea after adding it, but I didn’t have a spoon. So rather than get up to get a spoon, I took my knife and began to stir the milk into my tea with my knife. 

When my Father saw what I was doing, he was horrified!

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING!?” he said to me. I was surprised at the way he spoke to me. I knew what I was doing was certainly bad manners, but it was just us, so I didn’t think it was that big a deal. But it was a huge deal to my Dad. 

One of the family superstitions that Dad had grown up with was that stirring your tea with a knife was bad luck. And I really heard about it from him that day in so many words! 

Needless to say, from that day on, I’ve never done that again. 

We all know about the most common bad luck superstitions, like walking under a ladder, having a black cat cross your path, opening an umbrella indoors, tossing a pinch of salt over your left shoulder to ward off bad luck if you spilled, and seven years bad luck for breaking a mirror.

But our Grandmother passed on other unique superstitions to our family that linger on to this day:

Grandma always said if you receive a calendar for the upcoming year, don’t open it before the New Year because if you do, it’s bad luck. 

Grandma always said never tell anyone your dreams before breakfast, or they will come true.

Grandma always said if you backtrack to get something you forgot, it’s supposed to be bad luck. (If this is true, then I must be the unluckiest person in the world!) 

In our family, if someone gave you a sharp item as a gift, like a knife or a pair of scissors, you had to provide the gift-giver with a penny in return so the sharp object that was given to you wouldn’t cut your friendship with the gift-giver. (Nowadays, with the penny phased out, we go to the family spare change jar and give each other a nickel or a dime instead.) 

Our grandparents always had a horseshoe nailed on the doorframe over the entrance to their home for good luck. The horseshoe was always pointed tips up so the luck wouldn’t run out. 

Those ones were specific to our family. Maybe you know some of them yourselves. But our family also acknowledged many other superstitions that were common to many other people as well. 

It’s bad luck for the Groom to see the Bride before the wedding ceremony. 

Lighting three cigarettes on the same match is bad luck. That came from the First World War when a battlefield sniper could usually get a bead on you in the dark by the time the third person lit their cigarette off the same match. The third person usually bought it. (This could be the origin of the ‘Bad luck coming in threes’ superstition as well.)  

While these ones are relatively obscure, dropping a utensil on the floor usually meant that company was coming. A dropped fork meant a man, a spoon meant a woman, and a knife meant a child. 

And of course, there are the good luck superstitions as well. The lucky rabbit’s foot (although losing it was not so lucky for the rabbit), the four-leaf clover, the ‘See a penny, pick it up, and all the day you’ll have good luck’ expression, making a wish on a wishbone, and crossing your fingers, to name a few. 

Superstitions will never go away. No matter how evolved and enlightened we become, they will always have a deep-rooted place in our subconscious. As long as we relegate them to our past and don’t let them rule our lives, we can live a progressive and enlightened life and strive to achieve a better future. 

Knock on wood!   

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