A look at some French superstitions

It seems that every country has its own set of culturally inherited superstitions. They might have governed actions more in years gone by (before scepticism, science and common sense got involved) but superstitions are still an important part of a nation’s culture, no matter how absurd they might seem.

Some superstitions are warnings. Others tell you what to avoid. A few just offer strange explanations for everyday events.

According to us Brits opening an umbrella indoors, walking under a ladder or stepping on cracks in the pavement can bring about doom and disaster. Weirder still is the notion that if you spill salt you should throw some over your left shoulder and into the eye of a handily positioned devil.

But, whilst undoubtedly odd, those really aren’t the strangest beliefs out there. If you’re planning on emigrating to France you might find it interesting to know what strange set of superstitious beliefs hold sway in your new nation…

The French are famed for their bread but if you tried handing them an upside-down loaf you might find they throw it back in your face. Apparently handing someone a loaf of bread upside-down (or placing it on the table upside-down) brings both the giver and the recipient hunger and bad luck.

Another old French superstition is that if a pregnant woman sees an owl at any time during her pregnancy then her baby will be a girl. Again, no explanation is offered for why such a random connection would make sense but it’s something some women still believe. So if you’ve secretly got your heart set on having a baby girl maybe you should try standing outside at night and waving a mouse in the air.

Don’t be surprised if your French neighbours stock pile their lottery tickets on Friday the 13th. Although in Britain that iconic date is heralded as one of general bad luck in parts of France it’s considered to be a fortuitous day.

13 isn’t always a lucky number in France though – having 13 people around a dinner table is meant to be very bad luck indeed. Keep party invites lower or higher if you want to avoid upsetting your more superstitious French guests.

Your luck is also said to take a knock if you cross a stream carrying a cat. Perhaps that’s the reason why you never see anyone doing it…

If you like thunderstorms then have a go at singing the night before All Saints Day. For some reason warbling a ditty on Halloween is said to bring on stormy weather. (Note: The superstition doesn’t specify whether the singing has to be good or bad.)

Not many people give their friends knives as gifts but the practise must have been popular at some point because there’s a French superstition about it. Giving a friend a knife indicates that you want to ‘cut’ your friendship with them. If you really, really want to give them a knife then they have to give you a coin first. Only by ‘buying’ the uninspiring gift from you can the bad luck be averted and your friendship be saved.

Nailing a horseshoe over a doorway is a common method of bringing good luck to a home but there is some debate between nations as to which way up the horse shoe should be hung. For the French hanging it upside down is lucky, hanging it right way up is ludicrous.

This superstition is a bit icky and by far the oddest of all. In some cultures (including British culture) being hit by bird’s droppings is good luck, but in France its dog poo which contains the luck bestowing powers. If you step in dog poo with your left foot, good luck (as well as a bad smell) will follow. Beware stepping on it with your right foot though as this means there’s even worse luck to come!

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