Whether you believe it or not, you or someone you know probably feels a little skittish around Friday the 13th. It’s so pervasive in Western cultures that there’s even a 23-letter word dedicated to a fear of the “holiday.” But much like Taylor Swift has flipped the script and dubbed it her lucky number, we’re turning today into a special 13% discount off our Thai Rice Chips.
This concept of lucky versus unlucky and how seemingly random objects can wield special powers got us thinking about superstitions we grew up with among our families—some from our parents, some from pop culture, and some we adopted without even asking (we avoid Saturday haircuts, for example).
Here, we’re breaking down seven of our favorite superstitions, from gecko sounds to electric fans:
Don’t leave those chopsticks sticking out
You’re eating your rice and enjoying some light dinner conversation, but whatever you do, do not leave your chopsticks sticking out of the rice bowl. Many people in China and Japan believe that the sticks in this position look similar to incense poked into ashes during a funeral, which is all sorts of inauspicious. Instead, lay them flat on the bowl in between bites.
Geckos are a bad omen
Sure they’re cute, bug-eyed, and the star of funny insurance commercials, but in Thailand, it’s considered unlucky if you see a gecko before leaving your house during the day (at night is a-OK). The omen? You’ll be in store for something unsavory, they say.
Skip that haircut on a Saturday and Tuesday...and Thursday...and Wednesday
Some regions of India believe that getting that trim or cutting your nails on a Saturday will upset Saturn, or Shani, in Hindu culture. But before you go strategizing your next appointment, let’s complicate things further by letting you know that some Indians also believe it’s unlucky to trim your nails and cut your hair on a Tuesday (lest you want to upset Lord Hanuman) or Thursday (Lord Vishnu won’t be happy). And, wait for it—many people in Thailand believe it’s unlucky to get your hair cut on a Wednesday, considered a holy day. In Vietnam, haircuts can have a negative impact no matter the day of the week; some believe it causes memory loss and is a bad idea before big exams. Plus, you could end up looking like this guy.
Bet on number 8—but not on number 4
Whether it’s a wedding date, lottery ticket, or bid on your first home, many Cantonese speakers pay very close attention to the numbers involved. That’s because in the dialect, almost every number (except zero and seven) has a dual meaning. For example, the number two sounds like the word for “easy.” So why should you bet on the number eight? The Cantonese word for “eight” sounds like the word for “prosperity,” while the number four sounds like “death.” In fact, on August 8, 1988—also known as 8/8/88—there was an uptick in weddings, events, and lottery ticket purchases in U.S. cities with large Chinese populations, including L.A. and San Francisco. Show me the money, indeed.
Turn off your fan before bed
Koreans call it “fan death.” Those who prescribe to this superstition believe that the stale air stirred up by an electric fan can cause you to choke on carbon dioxide in an enclosed space. The belief is said to date back to 1927; a piece published in the Korean newspaper Jungoe Ilbo said these fans could cause nausea, facial paralysis, and even asphyxiation. Some people thought it was less about health and more about control, believing that “fan death” fear started as a move by the South Korean government to cut down on electricity use in the 1970s.
Keep those books away from your feet and off the floor
Knowledge is sacred, and books are the tools to get knowledge. That’s the idea behind this Indian superstition, which believes that touching books with your feet or letting them sit on the floor is disrespectful. We’re guessing this Pinterest-favorite decor idea wouldn’t fly with believers.
Get lucky with red
Many Asian cultures believe that red = lucky, not to mention happiness, celebration, and fertility. That’s why you’ll see Indian and Chinese brides wear red for their weddings, communities across Asia pass out red, cash-filled envelope gifts during Lunar New Year, and the red segment of the Korean flag representing yang, or brightness. And did you know, dang means red in Thai? We like to think every bite of our Dang Bars and Thai Rice Chips is downright auspicious.