When cracking an egg, serving noodles, or pouring a pot of tea — all seemingly innocent actions — you might be surprised to learn that there are some longstanding superstitions behind them.
Superstitions have been around for as long as we have, often stemming from cultural and religious beliefs at different times and different places in history. In some ancient societies, lucky charms were worn around the neck to ward off evil spirits, or rituals were performed to protect one’s home from the devil.
For some, they may just be spooky superstitions; but for others, they’re based on a cultural belief and are taken seriously. And some of the freakiest superstitions just happen to involve food.
We’re not always sure where superstitions come from. Oftentimes when something happens that can’t be explained, people try to tie events together, creating superstitions; many probably grew out of what used to be called "old wives' tales" or religious beliefs. Some cultures adhere to some pretty wild superstitions about food and drink involving the devil, witches, evil spirits, scorpions, and really bad luck.
A few of them — including the belief that bad luck comes from spilling salt — may sound familiar. But others — like that chewing gum at night means you’re chewing the flesh of the dead — may give you the creeps!
Since the spookiest season is upon us, we’ve shared some of those freaky superstitions so that you know how to ward off the devil and avoid the Evil Eye, and to never to bring a banana on a boat.
1. The devil sits on your loaf of bread
Beware of the devil lurking near your loaf of bread. It's been said (mostly by the Irish) that if you don’t cut a cross into the top of the dough before baking it, the devil will sit on your loaf... or so goes one of the origin stories for Hot Cross Buns. Other superstitions around bread say that you should only cut one end of the loaf, otherwise you’ll free the devil and he’ll fly all around your house. Watch out for holes in your loaf, as they've been said to symbolize a coffin and indicate that someone is going to die soon, and keep your loaf upright, since an upside-down loaf reportedly brings bad luck.
2. Smelling basil
Whatever you do, don’t sniff basil. According to ancient Greek superstition, smelling basil might make a scorpion appear in your brain.
3. Crushed and hard-boiled eggs
Always crush an eggshell after it’s cracked. If not, a witch will supposedly use the pieces to build a boat, set sail, and cause terrible storms at sea. A superstition believed to have originated in England says that after boiling an egg, you have to push a spoon through the bottom of the empty shell to let out the devil, who likes the sulfurous smell of yolk because it reminds him of home.
4. Spilling and sprinkling salt
One of the most universal food superstitions is that it’s bad luck to spill salt. If you do spill the salt, it’s recommended that you throw a pinch over your left shoulder to blind the devil and prevent him from stealing your soul. In Hungary, salt is also thrown on the entrance of a new home to keep evil out.
5. Stirring Christmas cake
Each family member should take a turn stirring the Christmas cake mixture, or bad luck will befall them — this applies mainly to unmarried girls, who, legend says, will remain alone for another year if they miss their turns.
6. Garlic to avoid the evil eye
According to European folklore, you should always carry a piece of garlic with you to avoid the Evil Eye, which will give you bad luck.
7. A noodle for your life
In Chinese culture, a long noodle represents a long life. If you cut noodles before serving them to someone, it’s said that the life of that person will be cut short.
Check out even more freaky food superstitions.
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