Friday, July 13, 2012

Unlucky 13?

Today is Friday 13th, probably one of the most superstitious days in the year.

I'm quite used to the English superstitions, having grown up with them (not that I adhere to them of course) but German ones?  Now that's a whole new ball game, here's a few I bet you haven't heard of...

  • bury your (dead) dog under your doorstep, his ghost will guard your house.
  • knock on wood to prove you're not the devil, because he's allergic to oak (it's considered a holy tree don't you know) this is why when Germans gather together around a table, rather than greet everyone individually they knock on the table.  The first time I saw this happen I was very confused, and couldn't understand how knocking on a table equated to saying hello.
  • do not walk between two old ladies, really unlucky.  Little old ladies are considered to be evil...
  • setting a loaf of bread upright on the sliced off surface brings bad luck, oops, I always do this, it stops the cut end going stale.
  • never toast someone's health with water, it means you wish them dead.  I'm unlikely to do this by accident as I'm usually found with a glass of wine in my hand but why does water indicate a death wish?  We are after all 60% water* so surely by toasting someone with the substance that is so familiar to their body you're encouraging life...clearly not in Germany.
  • spitting on each others left shoulder.  Yes really.  Whilst British and American thesps tell one another to 'break a leg' for luck, the Germans spit.  Nice.  They also say 'toi, toi, toi', better than spitting I guess.
  • bread and salt are the perfect housewarming gift.  This gift ensures that the household will never go hungry, they may dehydrate but starve no.
  • tanz in den Mai.  The 30th of April is a day that people have to dance from the evening all the way into the early hours of May 1st, otherwise the Devil will rule the world.  I knew there had to be a logical reason for the parties that are always advertised for April 30th, I knew it couldn't just be a 'joys of spring' thing.
  • when building a new house, the roofers have a ceremony of raising a green wreath over the highest point of the house when finishing the roof timbers.  A sprig of this wreath is supposed to be nailed in the attic later.  It prevents the roof from ever caving in.
  • never give a German a knife as a gift, a fork or spoon is fine, but a knife is a big no,no. It means that you're wishing all in the household dead.  This surprises me because lots of the little boys (under 10's) seem to have knives for whittling and disemboweling (joke) so where do they get these knives from if they're not gifts?  Steal them?  Find them?  Borrow them?

I could go on, but I wont.  And I know there are lots of equally bonkers superstitions in the U.K. but it's always interesting to explore another culture's foibles!

So enough of the hocus pocus and gobbledegook, Friday 13th (of July) is also my mom's birthday, so happy birthday mom, I hope your day is wonderful and that no black cats cross your path...

* I thought it was higher than that, but google says no.


~Karen said...

Great post, Verena! I learned a few new ones! And a very happy birthday to your Mom :)

Jayne said...

I'm not superstitious (at least not too much!) but I avoid walking under ladders & don't cross the path of a black cat etc....altho' I hasten to add that if my ear(s) are burning, I'll lick a finger & cross the ear(s) so that whoever is gossiping about me will bite their tongue!

Germans do have some very, very strange superstitions by the sounds of it! Please don't bury your beautiful dog under your doorstep though!

Hope your mom had a wonderful birthday :-)