By Amanda Cardini, Co-editor
Although St. Patrick’s Day didn’t originate in America, the holiday is widely celebrated throughout the U.S. by the Irish, kids and beer-drinkers alike. Every year on March 17, everything from apparel to alcohol turns green, and shamrocks are adorned for luck. Aside from the luck of the Irish, Americans have their own funky traditions of luck. Horseshoes, rabbit feet and the number seven are just a few ways Americans try to put the odds in their favor. But other cultures have very different, sometimes entirely opposite, opinions of what constitutes good luck.
Alejandra Molina (MAGAM ‘19) – Mexico
In Mexico, veladora candles (large white candles with a saint depicted on them) are lit, and supposedly once the wax melts they bring good luck, or whatever wish you asked for will come true. A prayer is used to ask the saint for luck or well wishes on things like a test or safe travels. Martes Trece (Tuesday the thirteenth) is a day associated with bad luck. For New Years, to get luck for the entire year, we wear red, which also symbolizes love. Another luck tradition is walking around your house with a suitcase so that you will have a lot of travel in the new year.
Alex Komerdelj (MAGAM ‘19)- Serbia
One experience I had when I visited Serbia during the winter was chopping down an oak tree. We each took a part of the tree, such as the oak leaves, and burned the rest of it in a giant bonfire. I still have the leaves and keep them at home for good luck. We do this for good luck for the year.
Zhuowen Chen (MAGAM ‘19) – China
In China we think six and eight are lucky numbers. They have a special meaning in China and are considered really lucky. We don’t use black, white and green colors; white and black are considered unlucky. Green is a special color for men not to use because it means their wife or significant other is cheating, but this is kind of a joke. Some people will flip a coin for luck, believing that landing on a specific side is lucky. Wishing someone luck is pretty direct. We just say “good luck” or “I wish you well.” We also wear red undergarments in our animal year of the lunar calendar. For example, I was born in the year of the rooster, so on every rooster year I wear red in order to keep bad luck away. I also keep something red on me at all times. But, writing your name in red pen is considered unlucky!
Yun Chen (Jenny) Li (MAGAM ‘19) – Taiwan
When I was little my grandmother would give me an undershirt to wear under my clothes every day. She would take it to the temple for them to stamp it with a red mark to give me luck. In Taiwan we believe in different kinds of luck; one is for winning money, one is for love and another is for education, meaning that you have good teachers and meet the right people for your career. You can tell which kind of luck you have from daily life. I’m really lucky when it comes to opportunities, and my mom is lucky with money. Another tradition is for when you are by the ocean; you collect stones and put them in a pile with the biggest one on the bottom, creating a tower. Then you make a wish before putting the top stone on. We also believe that you can use up luck on certain things, so you need to be careful and save it for important things that you care about!
Taiki Sone (MAGAM ‘19) – Japan
In the New Year in Japan, we go to the temples and shrines and wish for something good to happen by praying to the gods. While we are there we also pull fortune cards that tell us how we’re going to do this year with education, money, love and travel. We carry a good luck charm that we get from the temple as well. It’s a small envelope that you can’t open. You can also go to the shrines and temples for any important occasion, and the priests will do a ritual to take off the bad things. We also believe in different levels of luck, from best to worst, with medium levels in between. The multiples of 12 are seen as good numbers, and we especially celebrate every 12th birthday because of this. But four is a bad number because in Japanese the word for “four” also means death. Because of this there are no fourth floors in hotels in Japan.
Beliefs about luck vary by culture, with numbers, colors and rituals meaning different things depending on where you are. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to boost your luck no matter what part of the globe you call home!