What ethnic customs / superstitions doe you follow/do?

Okay, another useless trivia thread that I hope you’ll contribute to. :slight_smile:


When you cook (Japanese food), your ingredient count must be an odd number, but not 9. - In Japanese (and I know China, and believe Korea and most other Asian cultures) four is bad because it sounds like die and 9 sounds like torture. So when I cook Japanese foods like sukiyaki, I always have to have an odd number of main ingredients (seasonings don’t count), except 9.

Never stick your chopsticks straight up or stuck in your food, especially rice (I think this is also true for China and Korea also). In Japan, chopsticks in food, particularly rice is calling for the dead to eat. I’ve heard the Chinese version is because it resembles the incense which are placed straight up in a bowl of rice. I’ve been corrected, sometimes not so politely not to leave my chopsticks in my rice.

I’ve talked to other Japanese and suspect this may be unique to my family. Never ever go out or work on New Year’s day and avoid anything that my harm you. The logic is if you get hurt on the first day of the year, it set’s the luck for the rest of the year.

One my unrelated Aunties even goes as far as not cooking on New Year’s Day, she and her family eat the food prepared the night before (we always ate heavily after midnight as it’s the first meal of the year) and all cooking stops completely at 11:59pm. I’ve gone out only once in my life on New Year’s Day and that was because my Taiwanese friends insisted we have coffee. I returned home and took a nap to ward off any of the potential bad luck that may have clung to me on my outing. :stuck_out_tongue:

I never eat pieces of candies or cookies in 4’s. This is my own personal quirk I started subconsciously years ago. Since four is a bad number in Chinese and Japanese, if I eat things like pieces of candy or cookies, I’ll either stop at three or eat five or more. If I have to eat something in four pieces, I’ll space it out.two now and two later. Oddly I only consciously do this with candies and cookies, rarely anything else.

Never buy a woman shoes, especially if she’s a friend - I was told this by a Chinese friend and she told me buying a Chinese woman shoes means you’re telling her to run away. I asked a couple of Korean friends and they confirmed it’s the same in Korean. I don’t know it’s true for Japanese women also. Oddly, I bought a Filipino friend a pair of new tennis shoes and a few months later she had to move to another Island because her work and I’ve never seen her since. Hmmm…

Never give a friend a knife -It means you want to cut the friendship. If you do give a friend knife, they have you give you a token amount, e.g. a dime so they’re buying it from you. I think this a regional belief.

Aswang - The Filipino Vampire. Okay, not a custom or superstition to follow/do, but it’s so ubiquitous, I’d love to hear your thoughts. The most common story I’ve heard is that the Aswang will silently fly up at you during the night (usually when you’re facing someone) and tear you body in half. Every Filipino immigrant I’ve asked (regardless of region they came from) swears it not a legend and a few have claimed to have seen it flying at night

In Spain it’s considered a regional belief from Albacete, a place famous for its knives. Who got it from whom shall be left as a mystery from the ages.

I do keep the olive branch from one Easter Sunday until the next: I don’t hang it from my balcony since I don’t have one. The superstition is the idea that hanging it from the balcony will keep lightning away.

I don’t think is a Filipino thing - I know people in the UK that do this (giving a token payment for a knife).

I have a gecko ornament on the wall by the entrance to my front door, which I think of as Italian custom - bringing good luck to the house (southern Italian anyway). I just like it. I guess it’s the same idea as hanging a horse shoe above the front door (I don’t know if this is British or more widely spread).

Not just British, it’s also done in Belgium and throughout North-Western Europe at least.

Same in some parts of the US. My grandomother’s family, for example. You would have to pay at least a penny for a gift knife. (Also you should not hand someone an open pocket-knife, but that’s probably good sense.)

Do you believe in the Fuji Eggplant Hawk?

Maybe they should try Sylvania lightbulbs–they seem to do wonders for Thais.

Interesting that the knife superstition is so widespread. The reason I thought it was regional is because my Dad gave out hundreds of cheap knife sets as a door opener and gifts to friends (he ran a door to door vacuum sales business, LOL, no comments please, he was too honest and never made big money) and only one set of friends brought it up.

As for Fuji, Eggplant, Hawk, I’ve never heard of that specifically, but I do recall that the first dream (first anything actually) of the New Year is important and has significance on how your year will be. I’ve never had anyone else tell me they stay in on New Year’s Day other than my extended family. In Japan, some stores actually have Black Friday like sales on New Year’s Day.

When a mother gives birth, she and the baby aren’t supposed to leave the house for a month to allow the mother time to recover and to prevent the baby from catching an illness. I heard about it in the 60’s and 70’s when maternal hospital stays were at least a week or two. I know some Chinese and Koreans follow this custom too. There’s even a Fresh Off The Boat episode about it.

My cousin’s wife brought her baby to her in-laws two days after birth and everyone was absolutely shocked. The baby had some kind of medical complications and passed away after a few months. There were whispers that it was bachi (karma) because she broke the rules. Oddly, it’s okay to visit the mom and baby during the first month.

The wife of a Filipino guy I knew withheld sex for a year because of tradition. I’m 99% sure it wasn’t tradition that made her refuse.

The knife one is very widespread.

How about if you give someone a purse (in the UK sense of little leather or fabric thing for money) or a wallet or similar, you must put some money in it. It need only be a token amount, just like the kind money.

How about, if you eat a boiled egg, when finished you need to bash a little hole in the remaining shell. This is in order to ensure that “witches” or malevolent (and magical) people cannot use the eggshell as a boat to go and cause trouble for sailors at sea. Obviously. :smiley:

Always wish a polite good morning to magpies.

Again, interesting about the money in the wallet thing. I though it was an Asian only thing. At least in my circle, it’s also usually a small amount, must never be more than $100, and must always be a single bill, ideally as new and crispy as possible. Giving more than $100 or a single bill implies the receiver is poor and an insult. If you want to give more, it must be done separately

“When you believe in things that you don’t understand, then you suffer…” - S. Wonder

I posted this somewhere else on these forums, but if someone gives you something in a dish or container that’s to be returned, you must put something in the container when you return it. It’s must be something small in value or else it would be considered a gift and must fit in container, even if it means removing the top. The first time parents (who were second generation) received an empty container from a non-Japanese family, they looked at in confusion and it was a topic on the way home. Thank goodness for disposable containers!

The aswang is more a regional, rural belief. I know lots of Filipinos who just laugh at aswang stories.
“The presence of aswang stories is also becoming rarer, especially since most of them are situated in the Visayas region. Since the population is higher in the regions in Luzon, we get fewer stories about them. With the onset of modern technology too, less and less people believe about aswang and their threats to the human race.”

Also, “tear the body in half” is not what the aswang does to the victim. Instead it’s an ability of one type of aswang, the manananggal, that can cut itself in half and then go flying with just its upper half to drink victims’ blood.

The beauty and complexity of Hawaii is that because of the close interactions of multiple cultures, our beliefs often get blended together. I understand that the legend of the Aswang is primarily rooted in the Visayas region and Mindanao, but if I talk to someone from another region and they jokingly dismiss it as a Visayan myth, they get serious and closed mouthed when I ask for more details. Often ending with, “It’s real”, though it’s presence may be limited to Visayas or Mindanao.

I view it like the boogeyman, I first heard about it during a spooky storytelling time, but it’s inappropriate to discuss during casual conversation or you may bring his/her/its presence upon you.

When if first started selling cellphones (VoiceStream which became T-Mobile), custom numbers were easy to get. Despite their insistence of not being superstitious, I’ve never had a Japanese or Chinese (unless they’re third or more generation Americanized) customer accept my offer to try and get them a number ending in 4444 (which sounds like die, die, die, die)!

That must be a family thing because my wife’s family tradition is making mochi on New Year’s. Lots and lots of mochi, with a lot of people pounding and turning during the mochitsuki. Anyone who gets in the way will have an unlucky new year, though.

As for my family, there aren’t enough Magyars around to have a “custom.” All we have left are a couple of superstitions.

Yep. Comes up in lots of SD threads when you google for them, too. Here is one.

Aaah, come on Nava, you don’t really think it works, do you ;)? It must be like me sometimes knocking on wood…

A couple superstitions believed by my grandmother’s family were:
Curing asthma in a child by standing them against a tree and driving a nail above their head: when the kid grows past the nail, their asthma is cured. That one seems pretty widely spread.
Something was supposed to be cured in babies by tying a mole’s foot on a string around their neck. I think that with my grandmother it was colic, but there are many other options.

There is a great series of books on North Carolina folklore in the public domain. (I suspect that these books were the inspiration for the book of superstitions read by Barney in an episode of Andy Griffith.) Volumes 6 and 7 are especially relevant.
Also, lingyi, I think that you would be interested in the work of Yanagita Kuino if you aren’t already familiar with him. Some of his books (as translated by Fanny Hagin Mayer) are free legally on-line (such as here and here) and his most famous (but not free) book Tono Monogatari was recently republished in English. (If you can read Japanese you probably have lots more on-line options.)

Leaving and entering by the same door; seriously bad luck to enter by say the front door and exit from the basement. Not having your house keys or a key-ring of any kind in your pocket while you are in your own house; I get inside and the keys go right on a small stand just inside. (sections of Siberia and pretty much all the kin)

Thank you for the links to the books. When I was young I voraciously read any book on Hawaiian and Japanese forklore I could find and I look forward to reading these. I also enjoy watching Asian horror anthologies and will likely find the origins of many of them in these books.

Relatives of mine live in an area of Toronto with a growing Chinese population. The house next door to them, #4 on their street, was for sale and a friend who was a real estate agent in the area said that he was sure that the buyers wouldn’t be Chinese. The house was bought by an Indian family.

Quite a number of the Filipinos I know (some of whom are Visayan) are definitely not aswang-believers. I asked them about it when I was doing a research paper. If you could call them anything aswang-related it would be aswang-scoffers, since they laugh at people who believe in aswang.

Here’s one that I found someone else following. I was new in the workplace and was standing in my office doorway
when someone introduced a colleague. I held out my hand and he said “No! not in the doorway!” and walked into my tiny office to shake hands and then explained that it’s bad luck in Russia and Eastern Europe; he was an older Russian gentleman.
“If, for example, you’re invited over to someone’s house, wait until you are inside to greet him or her. Russians believe that shaking hands or greeting each other over the threshold is bad luck.”