Superstitions have been a part of human culture for centuries, and France is no exception. Even with forgotten origins, French superstitions influence how many people live their lives. From food to furniture, there are many superstitions that the French hold dear. Here are some of the most interesting and bizarre French superstitions that persist today…
1. Step in dog poop with the left foot
This might sound unappealing, but it is believed to bring good luck in France. So watch your step, as the right foot stepping in it doesn’t bring the same good fortune...
2. A branch of a fir tree on a new building
In certain areas of France a branch of a fir tree decorated with flowers and ribbons of all colours is placed on the ridge of a new construction. Tradition dictates that it is generally the youngest member of the team who is in charge and the installation of this bouquet marks the end of the construction and symbolizes the good work of anyone who participated in the work. It is said to protect the house from any damage and to bring good luck to its owners.
3. Lily of the Valley on May 1st
Le muguet is a good luck charm for all the year, and a sign of love and appreciation from the gifter to the recipient.
4. Hold a gold coin while flipping pancakes
If you want your family to be rich then make sure to hold a gold coin in your hand while flipping pancakes, if you successfully catch the pancake you’ll soon find riches.
5. Bring the table into your home first
When moving into your new home in France, make sure the table is the first piece of furniture you bring in or you’ll be in for bad luck…
6. Bread upside down on the table
Placing bread upside down on the table is believed to bring bad luck in France. This dates back to the Middle Ages when bakers had the habit of reserving a loaf of bread for the executioner. The bread would be placed upside down so that customers would know that it was intended for the executioner. Careful how you unpack your groceries next time, that baguette shouldn’t be upside down!
7. Chrysanthemums are a sign of death
These flowers are strongly associated with funerals in France and it is customary to lay them on graves on All Saints’ Day (November 1st).
8. Spilt salt
In France, spilling salt on the table is considered to bring bad luck, so be careful next time you’re seasoning your food!
9. Wearing green on stage
Legend has it that Molière died shortly after the performance of Le Malade Imaginaire during which he’d worn a green costume (it was actually red, but through repetition, superstition took root).
10. A black cat crossing your path
Did you know that Napoleon supposedly saw a black cat cross his path before his defeat at Waterloo? Need I say any more?
11. Eye contact while clinking glasses
When toasting with a glass in France you might hear «Dans les yeux!» as it’s important to maintain eye contact due to a superstition that dates back to when poisonings were commonplace. If your fellow drinker struggled to hold eye contact it might mean they were attempting to deceive you, and so you’d also clink the tankards/glasses with vigour to ensure any drops of poison they might have put in yours would also fall into their drink.
12. Gifting a knife
This one isn’t too difficult to comprehend the reasoning behind it, but in France you should never give someone a knife (even a swiss army one!) as it’s seen as bad luck unless exchanged for a coin.
You didn’t think we’d write a list of 13 superstitions surely?! Just to be safe we’re stopping at twelve!
As in other cultures, horseshoes, four-leaf clovers, shooting stars and crossed fingers are also signs of good luck while walking under a ladder, breaking a mirror and Friday 13th are said to bring bad luck in France. These are just a few examples of French superstitions, but there are many more which are deeply ingrained in French culture, and they are often based on religious beliefs or historical events. Good luck!
Lead photo credit : © Elinor Sheridan