Publisher’s Perspective

Chad Koenen

I am not sure if I have ever met a person who is more superstitious than I was in my younger days. Whether it was where I sat during a football game, or parking in a certain spot at school, I made sure my ducks were in a row in order to have the best luck possible.

In fact, I could write a book about all of the strange things I did growing up to make sure that I never tempted fate. I would often get dressed the same way, put my socks on my feet in the correct order (everyone knows you put your socks on last, and only Barbarians put their socks on before their pants). 

One time during my senior year of baseball I went over a month without washing my undershirt and my long black cotton socks. After all, I was on a hot streak and clearly my shirt, that I doubt my wife would even use as a rag today as there were so many holes in it, and my socks, which I am not embellishing at all when I tell you they could literally stand up on their own they were so stiff from all of the sweat and dirt, had a lot to do with my good fortunes. 

Over the years I have become less superstitious, you know with all the work involved in keeping each superstition straight (I mean who can keep track of the different ways we can negate our carefully planned superstition). However, judging by the various smells coming along the sideline of a few football games this fall, I have little doubt many of the players still hold onto some of these time honored traditions of not washing socks, undershirts or headbands. That being said, can we please make sure you are washing your underwear though, as a parent I think we should all let the one about not washing your underwear die off. 

But there are a lot of time honored superstitions that we should be aware of as we head into the snowy and icy part of our year. After all, I’ve fallen on the ice too many times to take any unnecessary risks. 

You know the saying about the luck you would have if you find a penny and pick it up and all day you will have good luck? That is, of course, unless the penny is heads down, then your luck will be bad all day long. In fact, I have even taken it a step farther. There was even one time I found a $10 bill that was face down and kept walking by, if only for the simple fact I was concerned about having bad luck all day.

I really believe there is something to beginner’s luck. I have to look no farther than my fantasy football team with a group of my high school friends. Every year in which we make some kind of a big change in how we draft, or change the positions we can have on our roster, I do amazing. The next 5 years or more, my team will be terrible. This goes back some 20 years, with the exception of this year when we had a set of confusing changes that I am still trying to figure out, so maybe my beginners luck is running out. 

Walk under a ladder and you might find yourself with a host of bad luck issues, not to mention one heck of a safety hazard. Personally, I still won’t walk under a ladder after accidentally tipping one over in college, which sent my friend falling 10 feet to the ground. 

Do you have a rabbit’s foot? If so, you might have a quick and easy way for some luck. Talismans and amulets are a time-honored way of fending off evil. But don’t have rabbit’s feet in threes as another superstition states that bad luck comes in threes. 

Say something that might bring bad luck? Maybe you should knock on wood. An old wise tale states if you knock on wood after tempting fate, you will erase all that is wrong. According to folklore, the fixation on wood comes from old myths about good spirits in trees and from an association with the Christian cross. 

Another one of my favorite superstitions will be a staple following your Thanksgiving meal in a few weeks, as children and adults alike will have a tug of war over the turkey wishbone. According to legend the first-century Romans used to fight over dried chicken wishbones, which they believed were good luck. If they accidentally broke them, the person with the longer part of the bone had their wish granted. 

And of course we all remember the time honored tradition of jumping on the cracks on the sidewalk to break your moms back. That one is kind of mean if you really think about it. 

Here are a few other unique superstitions from across the globe. 

India has a number of superstitions, like if you leave the house before being swept, you’ll never have a successful day. If you cut your nails or shave on a Tuesday or Thursday, or wash your hair on Saturday, you’ll invite bad luck.

In Afghanistan, never allow the broom to touch the feet of anyone. If you do, one of your parents will die. 

A German superstition declares that if you cheer with water you’re actually wishing death upon the people you’re drinking with.

If you’re in Iceland, keep the knitting inside the house. There’s a superstition that doing your needlework on your doorstep will keep those temps frigid.

I personally used to always hold my breath when I passed a graveyard, try explaining that one to your friends on the bus to baseball games. Turns out I may not have been too far off. In Japan, you must tuck your thumbs in to protect your parents when passing a graveyard. The Japanese word for thumb translates as “parent-finger,” so hiding it protects them from death.

Women in ancient Britain often kept acorns in their pockets to ensure a youthful complexion.

Finally, in Cuba if you declare it’s “el ultimo,” or your last drink, then you’re tempting fate, and death with shortly follow. In my eyes that means you can just stay out all night long and never worry about tempting death. But if you do declare “el ultimo,” make sure to do so while knocking on wood, with a rabbit’s foot in your pocket, preferably just one or two so it isn’t divisible by three, but not after shaving on Tuesday or Thursday, while making sure there isn’t a ladder nearby. I mean otherwise you might have bad luck.