1. Pass a Newborn baby through a rind of cheese, quick!
Origin: Medieval England
Why: Upon learning of their pregnancy, expectant mothers would often make a 'groaning cheese', which would mature for nine months as the baby grew in their tum. Once the baby was born, the family would throw the medieval equivalent of a fondue & wine party to polish off the wheel of cheese. When only the circular rind was left the baby would be passed through, thus blessing the little one with a long and prosperous (and smelly) life.
2. Tuck Your Thumbs in When Passing a Graveyard, for Crying Out Loud!
Why: The Japanese word for thumb translates literally as 'parent finger'. Thus when walking through a cemetery, or when a hearse passes by, one is advised to tuck both thumbs into their pockets in order to protect their own parents from death. Make sense? No? Well then, this is going to be a long list.
3. Never, ever light three cigarettes with the same match. Ever!
Origin: The Crimean and First World Wars
Why: Soldiers believed that if three comrades lit their cigarettes with the same match, the last one would be killed. The belief went that when the first soldier lit his cigarette, the enemy would see a light; when the second soldier sparked his, the enemy would be able to recognise the soldier as a foe; when the third brought the light to his face, the enemy would shoot.
4. God Help You if a Broken Clock Chimes in Your House!
Why: Ancient tradition dictated that when somebody died at home, the clocks in the room of their death should be stopped. So conversely, if a clock considered 'stopped' or 'broken' was ever to chime, it was understood as a sign that someone in the house was about to die.
5. Don't You Dare Enter a New Home with an Old Broom!
Why: It is believed by many (crazy people) that the dirt from your old house holds in it your house's negativity, and if you (are cheap enough to) bring a dirty broom to your new home, the negativity will surely come with it.
6. Please, God, Tell Me You Haven't Turned that Loaf of Bread Upside Down!
Why: Italians believe that flipping a loaf of bread upside down will bring terrible luck to the flipper. This is connected to religious beliefs, as the Body of Christ is believed to turn into bread, thus making bread holy. Apparently the idea of turning bread (Jesus) upside down is considered impolite, but we say that if bread (Jesus) wants to lie face-down, and perhaps take a nap, let bread (Jesus). Carbs will make anyone sleepy after all.
7. Just Eat Some Damn Grapes at New Year, Won't You!
Origin: Spain, 1895 (est.)
Why: At New Year, superstitious Spaniards will shun a potential kissing partner in favour of eating twelve grapes, one on each chime of the bell. Apparently each grape eaten on cue wins a month of good luck.
8. A Friend Gave You That Knife?! Oh God, Pay Them Immediately!
Why: There is a common belief that by giving a knife as a gift, one is essentially 'severing' the friendship between giver and receiver. Consequently, those of a superstitious persuasion will ensure that a knife is only offered in exchange for some kind of symbolic payment, usually a coin.
(Hammer can vouch for this superstition. We recently gave a stainless steel kitchen knife to our friend for his birthday, and- for superstitious reasons- demanded the knife's entire RRP in return. This angered our friend, who refused. And he has since stopped answering our calls... Oh, cruel Fates!)
9. Don't Even Think About Chewing Gum After Sunset!
Why: The Turkish believe that chewing gum after dark becomes a much more sinister act, as the gum is said to turn into the flesh of the dead.
10. If You Want to Nail This Meeting, You Better Pray You Meet a Goat on the Way into Work!
Why: Because of its historic connection with debauchery, lust and the Devil, the goat is considered to absorb all evil and harmful forces which cross its path. Somewhere along the way, people started to believe that encountering a goat before an important meeting would cleanse one of all the negative energy he/she may be channelling at the time.
Take it from us though: remember to part company with the goat before you enter the office, or your new-found good luck won't count for diddly squat.
11. Please, Please Just Poo on Me!
Why: If a bird poos on you (or your property), the Russians believe it will boost your wealth. And the more it poos on you, the richer you get.
Just look at these guys for proof; they're more excrement than man!
12. I Demand You Stop Kissing that Baby!
Why: Many Nigerians are of the opinion that kissing a baby on the lips promises to make the baby into a drooling adult one day.
An alternative way to make a drooling adult is to show them this.
13. Put Down The Knitting Needles and Step Away From the Porch!
Why: Knitting on one's doorstep is said to lengthen the winter in Iceland, so it is expressly forbidden in polite society. However, if you don't care about polite society and are a fast enough knitter, you could create an eternal winter and satisfy a perpetual woolly hat-demand, which may, in time, bring home more money than a poo-covered Russian oligarch. Just a thought.