By Sun Lee Chang
Northwest Asian Weekly
Whether you collect good luck charms by the dozen or pluck that rare four-leaf clover, it’s hard to ignore the many superstitions out there that will hopefully shift the winds of fortune in your favor. Many traditional cultures are steeped in age-old superstitions. Across Asia, there are a whole host of interesting ways to keep the bad luck at bay and usher the good in. From losing your baby teeth, to which direction your house should face, here are a few superstitions you might or might not have heard of before:
1. Forget the tooth fairy — throw your baby teeth on the roof! For as long as I can remember, my mother would throw my tooth onto the roof as soon as it fell out. I found out later that we were not the only ones doing this and, in fact, this was done traditionally to try to improve one’s luck.
2. Don’t wash or cut your hair the last or first day of the year. Do you pride yourself on washing your hair every day or getting a fresh new haircut for the New Year? Don’t even think about it! It is believed that doing so could also wash away or cut into your good luck allotment in the coming year.
3. Keep your umbrella closed when you are inside your home or office. Do you ever leave your umbrella open to dry inside? Well, if you venture into a Korean home, it is probably wise not to do so. It is a very common superstition that opening an umbrella indoors is sure to bring back luck.
4. Whatever you do, avoid the numbers 4 and 13. Just as there are lucky numbers, people in many Asian countries believe these two numbers are ones to avoid, as they are the opposite of lucky.
5. Never clip your fingernails or toenails at night. I think this superstition was born of a time when Korea had very little electricity or power at night. Practically speaking, it would probably not have been the best idea to cut your nails when you could hardly see what you are doing and risk injury.
6. Avoid drinking ice water when you are expecting. This is one superstition I had no problem ignoring, as I can’t stand tepid water. I think the idea is that you want to maintain temperature equilibrium in your body for your baby, so keeping things at room temperature would help maintain a better balance.
7. Stop shaking your legs or tapping your feet! My little brother would get in trouble for this all the time. He would shake one of his legs as a nervous habit while sitting at the dinner table or on the couch. My parents would tell him to stop or he may not be successful. To this day, I think about what my parents said about leg shaking when I see someone do so at a business meeting.
8. Get the crows away from your house. My father would stop eating to shoo away crows if they got too loud or if he saw them on our house. Much like the Western superstition of black cats, the crows were thought be a harbinger of bad luck.
9. If you are thinking about giving gifts, don’t give away fish symbols. I had this idea of giving away fish-shaped charms for our wedding favors many years ago. Thankfully, I chose something else. Apparently, we would have been giving away our good luck.
10. Who needs a housewarming gift? Throw coins, instead! The first time my in-laws came over to our new home, my mother-in-law started throwing coins from a cup on the floor. I had no idea until my husband explained to me later that this was a way to usher in good luck and fortune into our home.
While there is certainly no guarantee of success, why not stack the deck in your favor when it comes to superstitions? (end)
Sun Lee Chang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.