Did you know that there are a fair amount of German superstitions? How many German superstitions are you already aware of? How do they differ from your own?
I will attempt to cover a few of the most popular German superstitions in this article. Plus, I double checked with my wonderful German friend Tessa, from TG Languages, who has given me her stamp of approval.
We have all believed in one superstition or another during our lifetime. I remember crossing my fingers as a child, because only then my desires would come true. I also remember my mother’s precautions…
“Never leave your bag on the floor or your money will walk away.”
“Don’t sweep the broom over anyone’s feet or they are condemned to never marry.”
And countless others!
Superstitions – “Aberglauben” in German
In Germany, like in most countries, superstitions abound. They can even become such an integral part of our daily routine, that we do certain things out of habit. Even forgetting that we do it based on superstitious beliefs.
So, make sure you are well aware of them. Otherwise, you might have eyes glaring at you for causing years of bad luck. This is preventable, so here are a few to remember:
Here We Go!
1. Do not wish someone a “Happy Birthday” before their actual birth-day. It is considered bad luck! When the clock strikes midnight, on their big day, you can yell it out at the top of your lungs. But not before then!
2. Knocking on wood three times is a familiar superstition the world over. The exact origins are unknown, but this article from History.com provides several explanations. One traces the belief back to ancient pagan cultures, who believed Gods resided within trees. Knocking on tree trunks were supposed to rouse the Gods to offer protection. It could also have been a way to thank the Gods for unexpected good fortune.
3. When Germans raise their drinks to toast, they say “Prost”, but they also look each other directly in the eye while clinking their glasses. If you don’t, you will have 7 years of bad sex. Do you really want to risk that?
4. Also, when toasting, never, ever toast with water. This is a superstition dating back to Ancient Greece. According to Greek mythology, the dead would drink from the River Lethe on their journey through the Underworld, in order to forget their past lives. Since then, the Greeks would toast to the dead with water to symbolize their voyage. Germans adopted this superstition and they take it very seriously. You are basically wishing death upon your drinking buddies.
5. Have you been invited to a housewarming party yet? If so, you know it is typical for Germans to present their hosts with bread and salt. It symbolizes abundance, meaning they will never go hungry in their new home.
6. Just make sure you don’t spill the salt, for this can bring you 7 years of bad luck. This superstition stems from a time when salt was a precious commodity. Due to its high cost, it was even used as currency. So make sure you handle with care!
7. Poor black cats have always been associated with the supernatural or witchcraft the world over. They are also a cause for concern for the superstitious in Germany. But what many of the new generations forget is that the sighting of a black cat can result in good or bad luck. It depends!
The saying goes:
“Schwarze Katz von rechts nach links, Glück bringt’s. Schwarze Katz von links nach rechts, was Schlecht’s.”
“Black cat from right to left brings luck. Black cat from left to right brings bad luck.”
8. It is actually considered good luck if you break something made of porcelain or ceramic, especially on your wedding day. “Scherben bringen Glück”! The loud smashing sounds are supposed to ward off evil. Just make sure you keep the good, expensive porcelain away from the happy couple.
9. Make sure you DO NOT break a mirror. That will cost you 7 years of bad luck. It is believed that the person’s soul being reflected back when the mirror breaks also breaks into pieces. This damaged soul is less able to protect you from more bad luck. You will have to wait seven years for your soul to heal.
10. This one is new to me and you may also wonder why you start seeing pigs around New Years Eve. It is popular to gift “pigs” made out of marzipan, but you can also find pigs made out of porcelain, glass, etc. For the ancient Greeks, Romans and during the Middle Ages, owning a pig was a sign of wealth. To this day, they continue to be a symbol of “Good Luck”.
I have a lot of fun discovering new superstitions. I would love to hear from you. All types of superstitions are welcome, feel free to share them on Instagram. Thanks for reading.
“Superstition is the poetry of life.”– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Similar Articles on German Culture:
Tips for Learning German – What Finally Worked!
20 Beautiful Bavarian Walks Near Munich
10 Most Popular German Authors of the 18th-20th Century
4 thoughts on “10 Popular German Superstitions”
Hey, thanks for the interesting article – and here’s an amendment I hope some will find helpful: it’s considered bad luck to give an expecting couple baby clothes before the child is born. I learned this the hard way when trying to organise an American baby shower for a German friend!
Wow, thanks Kathy! That´s a very important one to know! Thanks for sharing.
Have a great weekend!
As a German growing up in Eastern Europe, Im not sure if Nr. 5 an 6 (bread and salt) are “German” superstitions, I believe they originate more in the East.. On the other hand, bread and salt symbols should be known worldwide.. And by the way: do not walk under a ladder, especially not on Friday 13th 😉
Yes Guenter! It is sometimes difficult to determine the origins of some superstitions, but it seems this “bread & salt” tradition originated in Slavic cultures and from there extended into neighboring countries. And definitely do not walk under any ladders on that very superstitious day! Thanks for the comment!