Wishing For A Lucky New Year? In Denmark, You Want Many Broken Dishes!

superstitions, evil-eye charms:

Good Luck, Bad Luck, No Luck?

There is a line from a song that says, “If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all.”

Do you ever feel that way? Many people around the world do!

As I have traveled around the world, I found countries near and far all have their fair share of superstitions and luck beliefs. What’s more, they will likely tell you that if unlucky things happen, it’s because you sat on a cold stone, didn’t spit after hearing terrible news or failed to toss water after someone.

Or maybe you haven’t been tucking a “nazar” or evil eye charm inside your suit jacket or coat.

Superstitions, Nazar, Lucky charms
Photo by Curious Expeditions

The nazar is an eye-shaped amulet
believed to protect against the “evil eye“.  In ages past, people held similar superstitions like horseshoes, garlic, wolf’s tooth, dried thorn, lead, stones; but the crystal blue eye has always been the most popular one. Few parents would let their child out without a nazar pinned to their clothing for protection from evil spirits.

I had forgotten many of these luck sayings and superstitions until we were having dinner last night and my daughter Caryn reminded me of something I used to hear all the time in Baku: “Don’t put your purse on the floor- it’s bad luck!”

Funny how things we used to hear in daily life abroad just stay tucked there quietly in our memories until something stirs that thought again. In fact, reminiscing with Caryn brought back several sayings that I always thought were interesting. See if any of these superstitions can help you start off your new year just right.

The first part of this list is things you don’t want to do (bad luck follows in some form):

If you want good luck,  don’t

sew your clothes while wearing them; something bad will happen.  (In my case this would certainly be true- I’d most likely stick myself with the needle!)

sit on a stone wall if you’re a female, as the cold of the stone will keep you from having children. (It worked for me- I had no children while I was in Azerbaijan… wink!)

–  sit at the corner of a table– you will not have children for 7 years. An alternate meaning: Girls who sit at the corner of the table, will not marry. Men/boys who sit on the corner will have a wife with a bad disposition (again, no children- seems to be a preoccupation).

set your purse or handbag on the floor– evil can get into it. (That must be a euphemism for pick pocket?)

shake hands across the threshold of a doorway. It allows bad luck to flow in and good luck to escape.

–  it’s said that if a pregnant woman smells food, she must taste it.  If you crave sweet things, you’ll have a boy; sour food means a girl. A lot of red meat will result in a boy baby;  mainly vegetables, a girl baby.

– If a pregnant woman eats eggs, the baby will be naughty.

– Any particular food cravings may result in a birthmark on the baby in the shape of the food.

– Trips to the zoo are limited too, it’s bad luck to look at bears, monkeys, or camels. It is said that if you look at a person often, the baby will resemble them.

Avoid the cold- don’t

drink cold water as it will give you “angine” (tonsillitis).

eat ice cream in the winter, it will make you ill.

Nearly every illness will be attributed to cold drafts, and this means many will not use air conditioning in summer, and bundle babies even on the hottest days. Cold floors are repeatedly the culprit, and women should avoid walking barefoot to avoid infertility, miscarriage, and just unpleasant gas. Mothers-to-be should wear slippers to avoid lectures. After birth, the mother should continue to stay warm while breastfeeding, as cold milk will result in a stomach ache.

Keeping bad luck away is hard work

Keeping bad luck away is hard work

Additional beliefs

– Bread is seen as a sacred substance of life, do not throw it on the ground or on to the street. When a bit of bread is dropped on the floor it is kissed and put to the side.

-When a family member or friend leaves for a long journey, toss a pot full of water after them. This is said to wash away bad luck and ensure they will return again safely.

Bouquets must always have an odd number of flowers (like 11, not a dozen roses); thus, never give 4, 6, 8 flowers to a person. Bouquets with even numbers are for funeral ceremonies or cemeteries.

Never give yellow roses either, as the color yellow signifies parting.

In the oldest national holiday of Azerbaijan, Novruz, children leave bags or small caps outside the front door of houses. They knock on the door and hide and, upon return, their caps have been filled with candy and small Novruz gifts by the home owner.

As part of Novruz unmarried girls also throw black coins, which are a symbol of bad luck, into a water-filled jug during the daytime in order to find their perfect match. In the evening, before sunset, they pour this water with the coins outside.


One year when we had a group of scientists visiting the oil company offices where I worked in Houston, I learned hard way how to give instruction for finding the men’s room. I told my guest to “go through that door and ‘go to the left’- you’ll find what you’re looking for.” The gentleman blushed and stammered, “I’m sorry, I can’t do that.” Puzzled I asked his chief what that was all about. As the senior leader laughed about the episode, he explained to me that I had just told the young man to have an affair!

Apparently if you describe a man as ‘going to the left‘, he will be guilty of being unfaithful.

Here a similar one from China-

“In China, never give a married man a green baseball cap. In this part of the world, wearing a green hat suggests that your wife or girlfriend has been unfaithful. Either this man will become alarmed, shed a few tears or become very angry. I think you’ll agree that none of these options are particularly pleasant ones.”  Evelyn, Toronto, Canada

Turning the corner in the New Year…

Things You Can Do To Bring Good Fortune To 2014

Similar to the Nazar (Evil Eye) for warding off bad luck, in the United States we have a Southern tradition of eating black eyed peas on New Year’s Day as something that can continue good fortune throughout the year.

“Each pea has an eye in it and there’s a sense of looking into the future and bringing good luck to people who eat them,” said William Ferris, a professor at the University of North Carolina and co-editor of the Encyclopedia of Southern Culture. The good-luck ritual includes shelling the peas and throwing the husks in the road, he continued. Southerners also believe eating collard greens early in the New Year will bring money and prosperity.”

(Note: In Texas, a perfect New Year’s Day supper would be Black-Eyed peas with hot, buttered cornbread, and steamed greens on the side… mmm, mmm!)

Special value is given to the food served on New Year’s Eve in the Czech Republic.

It must be ensured that no animal meat ends up in the pan. Why? Because they once had legs, and the luck would hop or fly away! Fish dishes are just as unpopular, due to the fear that luck could swim away.

This is why the Czechs will often eat lentils or soup with small peas. According to tradition, a person can thus ensure a good financial situation for the entire coming year.

Shoe throwing – on the 24th, girls throw shoes over their head (like a wedding bouquet these days) and if the tip of the shoe faces the door, the girl will get married within a year.

Sailing boats– In one half of a shell of a walnut, you place a small candle and you let them float.  The owner of the boat that is going towards the center, is off into the world the coming year.  The owner who’s boat is near the edge will stay home another year.

Superstitions and luck sayings, cultures and beliefs

Hoping for Marriage? Collect 9 ends of Vanocka

Collecting ends of a Vanocka – If you collect 9 ends of a Vanocka (a traditional Christmas sweet bread with almonds) you will get married within a year.

Lighting Matches – You stick three matches into an apple, each symbolizing a potential suitor.  The one that burns the longest represents a future husband.

Apple cutting – After dinner, you split an apple in half, if the shape in the middle is of a 5 or a 7 tip star all will gather in health next year.

In Spain, the ritual on New Year’s Eve is to eat twelve grapes at midnight; one eaten at each tolling of the midnight bells. The tradition is meant to secure twelve happy months in the coming year.

One of the more unusual good luck signs is this one from Denmark.

“In Denmark it is a good sign to find your door entrance heaped with a pile of broken dishes. Old dishes are saved year around and thrown at the doors of friends’ homes for good luck.

Finding a big pile of broken dishes on the morning of January 1 means you have lots of friends and that you’ll have good relationships throughout the year.” (Or, maybe just that it was one heck of a New Year’s Eve party!)

In any case, I hope you enjoyed this and found lots of fun conversation starters.

Best Wishes,  and … May You Have Many Broken Dishes For The New Year!

10 thoughts on “Wishing For A Lucky New Year? In Denmark, You Want Many Broken Dishes!

    • Hi Alice- Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed this one too.

      I’m with you, there’s something about those little charms. Plus all my favorite memories of Turkey and friends there are wrapped up in the colors and stories that these bring back whenever I see them. Glad you can relate and are kind enough to share your thoughts back and forth!


      • You’re welcome. I enjoy the conversations.
        Have you written about Turkey? That area also holds an attraction for me. My favorite poet lived in that area hundreds of years ago.


      • Funny you should ask!

        I am in the process of collecting my photos to choose the ones I want to write about. My daughter went with me for one of several trips, so we are sharing photos & ideas. I’ve spent lots of time in Istanbul and took my daughter on a tour of the western coast from Bergama to Efes. It’s one of my favorite places on earth- lots of friends there.

        Who is your favorite poet that you mentioned?


      • I can’t wait to hear what your write and see your photos. Your daughter is very fortunate to have been taken on such a tour. It seems it could be easier to travel with someone what knows what they’re doing and where they’re going.

        We don’t know anything much. We just go. This is intense; both stressful and delightful.

        The poet? Jalal ad-Dīn Muhammad Rumi (I had to look up the whole name). I stumbled across translations by an American poet from the University of Georgia, Coleman Barks. Mr. Barks also does readings and recordings. I was fortunate enough to go to a reading in Santa Cruz just before I left the country.

        Rumi’s words call across the centuries and speak deeply to my heart.


  1. I don’t consider myself superstitious at all but once, in my office in London, I put my purse on the floor under my desk. One of the ladies that was there said, “Oh, you should never do that, you will lose all of your money”. Another lady agreed with her so I put my bag in a drawer. (I believe both of these ladies were from Africa.) Anyway, while I don’t really believe that putting my bag on the floor will bring bad luck, I have never again been able to put it there. I always think – “Oh, that’s silly, but just in case…” 🙂


    • It’s funny how those things stay with us, isn’t it? I never have sorted out where those “beliefs”started but they seem to be widely understood.

      I agree with you about the “just in case…” You’re right, even if you don’t buy into it all, we still don’t want to tempt fate, as it were!

      Wishing you the all the best in 2014!


  2. Pingback: Speaking For Others: Is A Scone A Cultural Touchstone? | Life Lessons

  3. Pingback: New Year’s Traditions 10 Day Countdown of the Weird & Wonderful | Life Lessons

  4. Pingback: What’s The Most Interesting Tradition You’ve Discovered Abroad? | Life Lessons

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