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The Luck of the Irish - Happy St Patrick's Day!

Today many people around the world are celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day, or the Feast of Saint Patrick, as others may know it. Saint Patrick’s Day was made an official Christian feast day in the early 1600s, in commemoration of Christianity arriving in Ireland as well as to celebrate the heritage and culture of Ireland in general.

As a celebration of Ireland and all things Irish we have done a little research into luck, the supernatural concept largely associated with Ireland, and superstitions from countries all over the world

Starting with Ireland themselves, the Irish believe that owning a four-leafed clover will bring you good luck in racing and witchcraft will have no power over you. There are some rules though. To avoid a witch’s spell being cast over you, you must have the four-leafed clover on you. You may not pass the clover onto another owner and you must certainly not show your four-leafed clover to anyone.

In Spain, not everyone shares a new year’s kiss when the clock strikes 12. Those who are superstitious believe that eating grapes at midnight will bring them a year of good luck. As well as this superstition, like the unlucky Friday 13th that we here in the UK have all heard of, the Spanish believe that Tuesday the 13th is unlucky.

Moving from Europe to South America, many Argentinians avoid the name Carlos Menem, as saying the name is supposed to bring bad luck to he/she who says it and to those who are around him or her. This reminds us of the old English superstition that it’s bad luck to say ‘Macbeth’ behind the scenes of a play. The only difference between these superstitions is that Carlos Menem is real as well as alive, but Macbeth is simply the lead character of a supernatural 17th Century play.

From Argentina to Africa, Egyptians view opening and closing scissors without cutting anything as frightfully bad luck. However, in Egypt it is also believed that scissors left underneath a pillow can cure a person of bad dreams.

Like we were all told when we were younger “eating bread crusts will make your hair curly”, women in Rwanda are told not to eat goat’s meat as it will cause them to grow beards!

In Russia, it is believed that bird poo landing on yourself, your car or your property will bring good luck and many riches. Apparently, the more birds involved, the richer you will become, so next time you fall victim to a seagull’s waste, count it as a lucky moment.

Over to Asia now, in China, the number 4 and all of its iterations (1, 24 etc) are considered to be really unlucky, as the Chinese pronunciation of the number is extremely similar to that of the pronunciation of the word ‘death’. Add this superstition to the western belief that the number 13 is unlucky, entering a sky scraper’s lift in China is going to cause a hugely confusing experience.

Here at home, most people have heard that if a black cat crosses your path it’s bad luck, but did you know why? This superstition derives from the medieval association of cats to witches. Witches could morph or transform into cats, thus a black cat crossing your path may just be a witch.

Also, we’ve all heard of the lucky horse shoe, but do you know the reason as to why it’s lucky? The belief stems from the fact that horse shoes have 7 – a lucky number – holes and are made of iron, so it can supposedly ward off evil spirits that are trying to haunt your dreams.

Whether you are superstitious or not, it is worth being aware of these different culture’s beliefs. You never know, the next time you receive bad luck could be due to having put your shoes on the table, or due to the fact that you live in flat 13 of the 4th floor...

Let us know about your superstitious beliefs and traditions on Twitter using the hashtag #mysuperstitions