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Salt Over The Shoulder - Food Superstitions From Around the World

By Edited Sep 23, 2015 2 3

Superstitions are present all over the world. In these modern times, a lot of them are just harmless fun. Most people do not even realize they are participating in a superstitious act because it is something that has just been passed down through generations. Of course, there are some who realize it but they do not know why they are doing it. While there are superstitions about everything, a decent number of them involve food. Food is life, a gift from whatever deity you worship, so it is something that will keep you safe and alive.

cross in the bread

Cross in the Bread

Frequently in loaves of baked bread (not in the mass produced processed stuff) you will find a little 'x' on the top of the bread, baked right in there. This is not just an 'x' but it is a cross. Cutting a cross into the bread dough before baking it assured that the devil or demons could not sit on it. Them sitting on the bread would cause it to spoil or be cursed. There is some debate on where this superstition stems from. I have heard Greece, Great Britain, and Italy but have yet to find an consensus.

bread bubbles

Bread Bubbles

Another bread related superstition is that if you found a hole in the loaf of your homemade bread while you were cutting it, it symbolized death. The hole was akin to a coffin buried in the ground. This superstition was given more power perhaps by the high rate of mortality in ye olden days. You never knew when or what of your loved ones were going to be dropped into the ground by. Today with our processed pre-cut bread, we often forget this superstition.

rice at weddings

Rice at Weddings

Rice is traditionally thrown at weddings as the bride and groom leave the church. Of course, this act is a superstition and not just a fun way to pelt the groom right in his face as hard as you can. Throwing rice over them is an act that is said to bring wealth and prosperity to the newly married couple. This is something practiced in a lot of places around the world, for example in India they throw rice at them because it is a staple food and there it is thrown to wish them to always have full stomachs and never go hungry. This is a dying tradition as it have been proven that rice is very unhealthy for birds. Now many weddings throw birdseed or blow bubbles.

christmas cake

Christmas Cake

There are numerous superstitions about Christmas, but one such food superstition involves the Christmas cake. It is said that when baking the Christmas cake on Christmas Eve everyone must has a stir of the batter or else bad luck will befall them. Once the cake is baked, everyone eats it save for one piece. That piece must be saved and eaten on Christmas Day. This piece is left for Santa, as in many countries you want to keep Santa happy or he might just kill you.

long noodle long life

Long Noodle

In many Asian countries it is believe that the longer the noodle, the longer your life. Because of this superstition, noodles are cut long or in the case of some noodle shops, not cut at all. Cutting the noodles is akin to cutting your life in half. You may want to recall this superstition when you are breaking spaghetti in half to get it to fit in the pot.

egg with two yolks


There are a couple different superstitions involving eggs. If you crack open an egg and it has two yolks, it is considered very lucky for obvious reasons. However if you crack open an egg and it has a spot on the yolk then it is considered bad luck. However, if you have no yolk at all, you have reached the pinnacle of bad luck.

Farmers throughout Europe also used to take eggs and plant them in their fields for a bountiful harvest. Knowledge of agriculture tells us that this superstition is fed by science. Planting an egg in the ground is probably some fairly good fertilizer, like how Native Americans planted corn in the ground with fish. So of course this superstition lived on because it probably worked.

wish bones

Wish Bones

This primarily an American and British superstition, but if it is practiced in your country I would love to know. For most, this is just harmless Thanksgiving or holiday fun. However when you grab an end of the wishbone and someone else grabs the other end, you pull and whomever ends up with the biggest bit is awarded with good luck. Most people believe themselves to be not superstitious, but it would be very rare if you have not indulged in this one at least once in your life.



Garlic is used frequently in superstition, like eggs. Of course it was widely believed to ward off vampires and various other spooks. However in Greece, carrying around a piece of garlic is also said to ward off bad luck that can befall you if someone gives you the evil eye. Though, to be honest, carrying around a piece of garlic may cause you to get a few more evil eyes, but it will at least prevent bad luck.

Garlic is also said to be a source of vitality. Greek and roman soldiers ate garlic before battle and Greek athletes consumed copious amounts before sports. Egyptians gave their slaves a daily ration of garlic as they believed it to give energy and strength.

However, garlic is not always seen as good. In Mohammed's writings, it is said that when the devil's left foot touched the Earth as man was ejected from the Garden of Eden, garlic sprang forth from the Earth. If you are curious, onion sprang forth from where his right foot touched.



Of course, the spilling the salt superstition is one of the oldest ones there is. In Leonardo Da Vinci's painting of the Last Supper, it depicts Judas spilling the salt. Once you spill the salt, the only way to reverse your bad luck is to throw it over your left shoulder to cleanse the evil spirit. Do not throw it over your right shoulder, though. It is believed that your guardian angel dwells over your right shoulder.

Salt is used as a cleanser in most superstitions. People would sprinkle it in new homes, sprinkle it on a doorstep is someone unwanted came visiting and they wished them not to come again, and throw it over their shoulders after funerals. They even sprinkled it in the coffins of the dead to prevent zombies.

It is also believed that you should never pass the salt at the table. There are many a clever rhyme for it such as "Help to salt, help to sorry" or "pass the salt, pass the sorrow".



May 1, 2013 5:57pm
Hi--Great fun and...informative article. As a history buff I especially liked it and certainly learned from it. Incidentally, when I was a youngster, I could never wait to grab the "wishbone" and break it with someone else to see whose wish would come true. Great memories of the kitchen in my grandmother's house. Anyway, bravo...good work...great topic--two thumbs and a rating. Keep up the good work!
May 3, 2013 6:24am
I don't have a salt shaker so I grab a pinch of salt when I need it...if ever it seems to be too much, it goes over my left shoulder...something from my family we've always done. Also the wishbone but usually only for Christmas turkey...The Christmas cake thing brings up a vague memory of my mum telling me to stir the cake mix too. My parents are English :-) In China, they have a special "bowl of noodles superstition" for birthdays...you should always eat a bowl of what is called birthday "long life noodles" complete with fried or poached egg on top, obviously for long life!
May 3, 2013 5:19pm
Amerowolf, I was fascinated by your article! These superstitions will really get you wondering if they could be true. The cross or x in the bread made me think hard. If you believe in God, I do not think that you would want to take a chance and not put it on it. I never knew that throwing rice at a married couple was supposed to mean prosperity. I learned a lot from your article. Thank you!
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