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College of Post and telecommunication Gheorghe Airinei

British Traditions and Superstitions

Coordinator: Candidate:

Gabriela Ilie Anca Hurezeanu
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Table Of Contents
• Argument……………………………………………………………...3
• 1.Introduction……………………………………………….………...4
 The meaning of traditions and superstitions for British people..4
• 2.Traditions All !ear "ound British #ol$lore and Customs…….....%
 Christmas in the &'………………………………..……….…(
♦ A Christmas stor)…………………………………….……(
♦ Christmas no*ada)s……………………………....…….….11
• 3.+uperstitions……………………………………….…………….....13
• 3.1.,hat do +uperstitions mean to the British-.....................................13
• 3.2.A strong superstition…………………………………………..….13
• 3.3..ood luc$ or Bad luc$-..................................................................14
• 3.4.+uperstitions for e/er)one………………………………………..1%
• 3.%.The stor) of the bro$en mirror0 the blac$ cat and lots of
good luc$……………………………………………..........................11
• 4.Conclusion……………………………………………………….....1(
• %.Bibliograph)………………………………………………………..22
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Argument
,h) did I choose to tal$ about British traditions and superstitions-
Because I belie/e that the) are a good *a) of disco/ering people and the) help
)ou understand their beliefs0 beha/iour and habits. ,ith their help )ou can
enter the British *orld and become a part of it e/en though figurati/el)
spea$ing.
3/er) nation has its o*n traditions and superstitions. +o0 the British
couldn4t ha/e been an e5ception. The British are one of the people *hose
superstitions and traditions are $no*n *orld*ide and ha/e become 6uite
famous. ,ho hasn4t heard about the tradition of drin$ing tea0 about all the
traditions regarding the ro)al famil)0 about "obin 7ood or the 8och 9ess
monster0 about 'ing Arthur and his $nights0 about Christmas customs0 about
7allo*een or about +t. :alentine4s ;a)-
The British are traditional people. The) actuall) ha/e customs for almost
each da) of the )ear and put a lot of soul into their organi<ation and treat each
of them *ith respect and seriousness. But0 the British people are at the same
time people *ho belie/e in superstitions and in the effect that the) ha/e upon
their li/es. As a result0 the) don4t lea/e their homes *ithout0 firstl)0 ma$ing
sure that the &ni/erse is not against them and something bad ma) happen to
them during the da).
,e can sa) that British superstitions and traditions are a *a) of li/ing
and the) ma) appl) to each of us. The) are for e/er)one no matter their origins0
li/ing conditions0 social status or culture.

1.Introduction
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The meaning of Traditions and +uperstitions for British people
Britain is full of culture and traditions *hich ha/e been around for hundreds of )ears.
British customs and traditions are famous all o/er the *orld. ,hen people thin$ of Britain
the) often thin$ of people drin$ing tea0 eating fish and chips and *earing bo*ler hats0 but
there is more to Britain than =ust those things. ,e ha/e 3nglish and British traditions of
sport0 music0 food and man) ro)al occasions. There are also songs0 sa)ings and superstitions.
,ho *as .u) #a*$es- ,h) does the >ueen ha/e t*o birthda)s- !ou can find the ans*ers
here in our pages on life in Britain.
Superstition is a part of British culture toda). Although superstition *as more ali/e a
hundred )ears ago0 there are still superstitious people around0 both )oung and old. +ome
people though0 clame not to be superstitious0 but it is still a part of them.
+uperstition is a prett) slipper) concept0 and *e need to e5amine *hat *e mean b) it. The
simple statement that a superstition is an irrational belief is 6uite ade6uate for most purposes0
as long as *e don?t en6uire too closel) into the meaning of the *ord ?irrational?. But not e/er)
irrational belief gets labelled as superstition0 so *e need to loo$ a bit closer. One of the $e)
characteristics of superstition is a belief in the e5istence of luc$0 as a real force in life0 and
that luc$ can be predicted b) signs0 and can be controlled or influenced b) particular actions
or *ords. Other $e) elements include a belief in fate0 *hich again can be predicted and
manipulated0 and a belief in fate0 *hich again can onl) be described as magic @ the idea that
people can be harmed or protected b) spells0 charms0 amulets0 curses0 *itchcraft0 and so on.
+uperstitions are also unofficial $no*ledge0 in that the) run counter to the official
teachings of religion0 school0 science0 and go/ernment0 and this is precisel) *h) @ e/en in the
21st centur) @ man) of us li$e to hold onto a fe*0 to sho* that *e are not totall) ruled b)
science and hard fact.
But *h) *ere people so superstitious- It is usuall) assumed that superstition is the result of
fear and uncertaint) @ an attempt to control the parts of life that are in fact be)ond our
understanding or control. This is largel) true0 and there is some e/idence that superstition is
more pre/alent in people in/ol/ed in dangerous occupations0 and increases in times of
particular uncertaint)0 such as during a *ar.
English follore is the fol$ tradition *hich has de/eloped in 3ngland o/er a number
of centuries. +ome stories can be traced bac$ to their roots0 *hile the origin of others is
uncertain or disputed. 3ngland abounds *ith fol$lore0 in all forms0 from such ob/ious
manifestations as the traditional Arthurian legends A*hich *ere originall) strictl) BritonicB
and "obin 7ood tales0 to contemporar) urban legends and facets of cr)pto<oolog) such as
the Beast of Bodmin Coor.
Corris dance and related practices such as the Abbots Bromle) 7orn ;ance preser/e
old 3nglish fol$ traditions0 as do Cummers Dla)s. Dub names ma) preser/e fol$ traditions.
2.Traditions @ All !ear "ound British #ol$lore and Customs
New Year's Day
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9e* !ear?s ;a) is the first da) of the )ear0 in the .regorian calendar. In modern
times0 it is Eanuar) 1. It is a time for loo$ing for*ard and *ishing for a good )ear ahead. It is
also a holida).
Deople *elcome in the 9e* !ear on the night before. This is called 9e* !ear?s 3/e.
In +cotland0 people celebrate *ith a li/el) festi/al called 7ogmana). All o/er Britain there
are parties0 fire*or$s0 singing and dancing0 to ring out the old )ear and ring in the ne*. As
the cloc$ @ Big Ben @ stri$es midnight0 people lin$ arms and sing a song called Auld 8ang
+)ne. It reminds them of old and ne* friends.

St Agnes's Eve 20 January
This *as the da) on *hich girls and unmarried *omen *ho *ished to dream of their
future husbands *ould perform certain rituals before going to bed. These included
transferring pins one b) one from a pincushion to their slee/e *hilst reciting the 8ord?s
Dra)er0 or abstaining from food and drin$ all da)0 *al$ing bac$*ards up the stairs to bed0
and eating a portion of dumb ca$e A pre/iousl) prepared *ith a group of friends in total
silence and often containing an unpleasantl) large portion of saltB before l)ing do*n to sleep.
Candlemas Day (the Christian festival of lights
2nd #ebruar) is Candlemas ;a). This ancient festi/al mar$s the midpoint of *inter0
half*a) bet*een the shortest da) and the spring e6uino5. In olden times0 man) people used
to sa) that the Christmas season lasted for fort) da)s @ until the second da) of #ebruar).
St !alentine"s Day
This *as originall) thought to be the da) on *hich birds chose their mates. There are
man) traditions and tales associated *ith romance acti/ities on :alentines da) includingF
G the first man an unmarried *oman sa* on 14th
#ebruar) *ould be her future husbandH
G if the names of all a girl?s suitors *ere *ritten on
paper and *rapped in cla) and the cla) put into
*ater0 the piece that rose to the surface first *ould
contain the name of her husband@to@be.
G if a *oman sa* a robin fl)ing o/erhead on
:alentine4s ;a)0 it meant she *ould marr) a sailor.
If she sa* a sparro*0 she *ould marr) a poor man
and be /er) happ). If she sa* a goldfinch0 she
*ould marr) a rich person.
%
3ach )ear in Britain0 there are spend around I%23 mil. on cards0 flo*ers0 chocolates
and other gifts for :alentine?s ;a). Traditionall) these *ere sent anon)mousl)0 but no*@a@
da)s it is often made clear *ho is sending each ?:alentine?.
A#ril $ool"s Day
April begins *ith a da) of fun and =o$es @ April #ool4s ;a). 9o one reall) $no*s
*hen this custom began but it has been $ept for hundreds of )ears. April fooling became
popular in 3ngland and +cotland during the 1122s.
The #irst of April0 some do sa)
Is set apart for All #ool4s ;a)H
But *h) the people call it so0
9ot I0 nor the) themsel/es do $no*.
St %eorges Day & England"s National Day
The 23rd April is +t. .eorge4s ;a) . +t. .eorge is the Datron +aint of 3ngland and
also of +cotland. It is said that +t. .eorge once sa/ed a /illage from great danger. The /illage
*ere frightened of a fierce dragon *ho li/ed close b)0 so +t .eorge $illed the dragon.
'ay Day (%arland Day
In Britain0 as in most parts of ,estern 3urope0 Ca) da) mar$ed the end of the harsh
*inter months0 *elcomed the beginning of +ummer0 and optimisticall) loo$ed for*ard to the
bright and producti/e months. #or our ancestors0 largel) in rural areas0 it *as a ma=or annual
festi/al and *as celebrated through out the countr)0 especiall) on the first of Ca) *ith
music0 dancing and games. Traditional Ca) ;a) celebrations included dancing around
ma)poles and the appearance of hobb) horses4 and characters such as "obin 7ood and Eac$
in .reen.

(roo#ing the Colours
J
The official birthda) of >ueen 3li<abeth II is mar$ed each )ear b) a militar) parade
and march@past0 $no*n as Trooping the Colour ACarr)ing of the #lagB. Trooping the Colour
*ill ta$e place on +aturda) 13 Eune on 7orse .uards Darade. 3/ents begin at appro5imatel)
12am and the parade starts at 11 a.m. Alasts appro5imatel) one hourB.
)ammas Day
1st August is 8ammas ;a)0 and *as Than$sgi/ing time A7ar/est timeB in Britain.
The name comes from an Anglo@+a5on *ord 7lafmaesse *hich means 8oaf Cass. The
festi/al of 8ammas mar$s the beginning of the har/est0 *hen people go to church to gi/e
than$s for the first corn to be cut. This celebration predates our Christian har/est festi/al.
On 8ammas ;a) farmers made loa/es of bread from the ne* *heat crop and ga/e
them to their local church. The) *ere then used as the Communion bread during a special
mass than$ing .od for the har/est. The custom ended *hen 7enr) :III bro$e a*a) from the
Catholic Church0 and no*ada)s *e ha/e har/est festi/als at the end of the season.
Cichaelmas ;a) A+eptember 2(B is traditionall) the last da) of the har/est season.
8ammas ;a) used to be a time for foretelling marriages and tr)ing out partners. T*o
)oung people *ould agree to a Ktrial marriageL lasting the period of the fair Ausuall) 11 da)sB
to see *hether the) *ere reall) suited for *edloc$. At the end of the fair0 if the) didn4t get
on0 the couple could part.
'i*haelmas Day
Cichaelmas ;a) is the feast of +aint Cichael the Archangel0 celebrated on 2(
+eptember. +t. Cichael is the patron saint of the sea and maritime lands0 of ships and
boatmen0 of horses and horsemen. 7e *as the Angel *ho hurled 8ucifer Athe de/ilB do*n
from 7ea/en for his treacher).
Cichaelmas ;a) is traditionall) the last da) of the har/est season.
The har/est season used to begin on 1 August and *as called 8ammas0 meaning Mloaf
Cass4. #armers made loa/es of bread from the ne* *heat crop and ga/e them to their local
church. The custom ended *hen 7enr) :III bro$e a*a) from the Catholic Church0 and
no*ada)s *e ha/e har/est festi/als at the end of the season near Cichaelmas ;a).
+un,y Night
Dun$) 9ight falls on the last Thursda) in October and is a +omerset tradition.
+ome time in the Ciddle Ages0 all the men of 7into +t .eorge *ent off to a fair.
,hen the) failed to return that e/ening0 the *omen *ent loo$ing for them b) the light of
pun$ies. Dun$) is another name for a pump$in *hich has been hollo*ed out and has a candle
standing inside it.
Traditionall) on this night0 children in the +outh of 3ngland *ould car/e their
NDun$ies40 Apump$insB into Eac$ O48anterns. Once car/ed the children *ould go out in
groups and march through the streets0 singing traditional Npun$)4 songs0 calling in at friendl)
houses and competing for best lantern *ith ri/al groups the) meet. The streets *ould be lit
*ith the light of the Dun$ies.
9o*ada)s0 on Dun$) 9ight in 7inton +t .eorge0 +omerset0 local children =oin a
procession through the /illage streets0 s*inging their homemade lanterns and going house to
house0 singing traditional Npun$)4 songs and sometimes getting a fe* pennies at the front
door.
-alloween .*to/er 01st (Eve of All -allows
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On October 31st0 *e celebrate 7allo*een0 thought to be the one night of the )ear
*hen ghosts0 *itches0 and fairies are especiall) acti/e.

%uy $aw,es Day ( 2onfire Night & 3th Novem/er
In 9o/ember 1J2%0 the infamous .unpo*der Dlot too$ place in *hich some
Catholics plotted to blo* up the 3nglish Darliament and 'ing Eames l0 on the da) set for the
$ing to open Darliament. The men *ere angr) because the $ing had treated them badl) and
the) didn4t li$e it. The stor) is remembered each %th 9o/ember *hen M.u)s4 are burned in a
celebration $no*n as KBonfire 9ightL.

St Andrews Day & 00th Novem/er
On 32 9o/ember0 +cottish people celebrate +t Andre*4s ;a). +t Andre* is the
patron saint of +cotland.
St Ni*hola"s Day 4 De*em/er
This is the feast da) of +t 9icholas0 Bishop of C)ra in Asia Cinor Ano* Tur$e)B in
the 4th centur) A;. 7e is the patron saint of children.
In the 9etherlands and neighbouring countries of 3urope0 +t 9icholas is said to bring
s*eets and presents to *ell beha/ed children on J ;ecember. This tradition *as imported to
the &+A b) ;utch settlers0 and +t 9icholas e/ol/ed into +anta Claus0 those gift@gi/ing
rounds are preformed later in the month. In this ne* incarnation he subse6uentl) returned
across the Atlantic to merge *ith the British #ather Christmas.
O
Christmas in the !"
The traditional Christmas is not a single da) but a prolonged period0 normall) from
24th ;ecember to Jth Eanuar). This included the 9e* !ear0 thus increasing the festi/al /alue
of Christmas.
A Christmas histor#
The Christmas customs and rituals that *e follo* Christian0 Celtic or "oman-
Actuall)0 the) are a mi5ture of all three.
,e still loo$ at the Christmas season as a time of Pgood*ill to all menP. This custom
goes as far bac$ as "ome. 8ucian Aa third centur) poetB describes the "oman festi/al of
+aturnalia A;ec. 11 @ 24B as Pa time *hen all men shall be e6ual and all resentment and
threats are contrar) to la*P.
The dates of this "oman festi/al actuall) coincided *ith the old Celtic celebration of
!ule so +t. Augustine Areali<ing that it *as much smarter to change the PfocusP of Britain?s
popular Celtic festi/al than to ban itB and the other Christians of the time declared that ;ec.
2% *as the date of Christ?s birth. B) establishing that date0 the) blended all of the Celtic0
Christian and "oman beliefs together into one celebration0 let e/er)one do their o*n thing
and e/er)one *as happ).
B) the time *e get to 12JJ0 Britain *as /er) Christian although man) of the old
Celtic and "oman customs sur/i/ed0 especiall) at Christmas.
One of the most important of these *as the use of lights in home and church. This
*as a left o/er from the old Celtic belief of Ps)mpathetic magicP. The intent being that the
lights *ould encourage the return of the sun after the dar$ da)s of *inter. To this da)0 *e
still use man) candles in church and our religious obser/ances.
;ecorating the church and home *ith e/ergreen foliage Aholl)0 i/) and mistletoeB *as
another custom left o/er from the old beliefs. I/)0 once the badge of the "oman *ine .od0
Bacchus0 *as thought to pre/ent hango/ers and bring good luc$. As mistletoe *as the
ancient s)mbol of fertilit)0 it?s use *as fro*ned on b) the church. 7o*e/er0 7oll) *as
*elcomed as the blood of Christ and the cro*n of thorns.
The nati/it) pla) *as an in/ention of +t. #rancis of Assisi and *as a continental
custom. It made its appearance in Britain in the 12
th
centur) and *as performed in churches
and public places.
In medie/al times0 the celebration *as called the T*el/e ;a)s of Christmas and the
part) ran for all 12 da)s. The celebration began on ;ecember 2% and ended on Eanuar) %. It
*as a time for continuous feasting and merr) ma$ing0 *hich clima5ed on T*elfth 9ight. At
his time of )ear it *as cold outside and there *as little agricultural *or$ to do e5cept caring
for the animals so *or$ could be suspended. +ometimes the festi/ities continued until
Candelmass on #eb. 2. The highlight of this celebration *as the feast0 the la/ishness of
*hich depended on )our place in the social ladder. Can) feudal lords *ere e5pected to gi/e
(
a great meal for their tenants. The) reall) did it up big timeQ ;uring Christmas 12130 the
ro)al famil)?s guests consumed 222 pigs0 1222 hens0 1%0222 herring0 120222 eels0 122 pounds
of almonds and 21 hogsheads of *ine.
On Christmas 3/e0 the *assail bo*l *as passed. The rich *ould fill the bo*l *ith
spiced *ine in *hich roasted apples *ere floated. The bo*l *as then passed from person to
person to drin$ to each other?s health. The poor substituted *ine *ith ale mi5ed *ith
nutmeg0 ginger and hone). This custom can be traced to Anglo@+a5on times0 the +a5on
phrase P*as haileP meaning a toast to another?s health.
At these dinners0 the centerpiece of the feast0 a boar?s head0 *ould be carried into the
hall *ith great ceremon)0 preceded b) the master of ceremonies and follo*ed b) minstrels
singing carols. This *as another ancient custom from a time *hen the boar *as a sacrificial
animal re/ered b) the 9ordic people.

To end the feast0 frument) *as ser/ed. Athe predecessor to Christmas puddingB This
*as a *heaten porridge s*eetened *ith fruit nuts and spices. Christmas pies of the time
*ere meat@based. The centerpiece of the T*elfth 9ight part) *as the T*elfth 9ight ca$e.
The eating of this ca$ed in/ol/ed the cro*ning of the 'ing of the bean and the >ueen of the
pea. ,hoe/er found these items buried in their ca$e *ere cro*ned monarch for the night
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and their orders had to be obe)ed. These people *ere part) animals that had been drin$ing
for da)s so one can onl) imagine *hat *ent on. This idea *as carried into schools0 colleges
and churches b) appointing a bo) bishop *ho *as gi/en temporar) po*er to direct the
merr)@ma$ing.In the /illages0 mummers *ould *ear mas$s or blac$en their faces0 put on
animal s$ins and perform traditional dances0 *hich originated from old Celtic festi/als.
#rom the 1422?s on0 there *ould be a 8ord of Cisrule. This *as generall) a person of
lo* ran$ *ho *as permitted to reign o/er the #east of #ools. This feast included a lot of
music0 dancing0 men dressed up in *omen?s clothes0 drin$ing and undoubtedl)0 a lot of
debaucher).
There *ere man) other traditions and customs during the celebration. I ha/e
highlighted =ust a fe*.
All of this merr)@ma$ing had /er) little to do *ith children *hich is a big difference
from toda). The children =oined in but gifts *ere a matter for adults onl) and *ere
e5changed at 9e* !ear bet*een $ing and courtiers0 landlord and tenants. #ather Christmas
did not e5ist at that time. The medie/al child $ne* Christmas as an adult e/ent. It *as a
time *hen gro*nups could set aside the strict0 oppressi/e rules of their societ) and act li$e
children.
;ecorated Christmas trees0 as *e $no* them0 *ere introduced during the :ictorian
era. 7o*e/er0 the ancient Celtic people *orshiped trees and decorated them throughout the
*inter. The idea being to protect them until the sun returned. Based on stories of the 4
th
centur) ;utch +t. 9icholas0 +anta Claus *as introduced in 9orth America b) the ;utch
colonists.
Christmas no$ada#s
Christmas ;a)0 2% ;ecember0 is celebrated b) Christians as the da) on *hich Eesus
Christ *as born. In .reat Britain0 carol ser/ices ta$e place in Churches throughout ;ecember
and nati/it) pla)s are performed The) are stories of Christ?s birth acted out b) school
children. +ome families ha/e models of nati/it) scene in their houses. Another popular form
of Christmas performances are pantomimes *hich are dramatised /ersions of *ell@$no*n
fair) tales. The) in/ol/e singing0 dancing and encouraging the audience to participate.
Before Christmas0 people send Christmas cards to their friends and famil). The first e/er
Christmas card *as sent in Britain in the 1(
th
centur). Traditional Christmas s)mbols are
+anta Claus0 angels0 holl) or sno*men.
Traditional Christmas decorations *hich include holl) and i/) originate in the Ciddle
Ages. The custom of $issing beneath a spring of mistletoe comes0 probabl)0 from pagan
tradition. A fe* da)s before Christmas families decorate their Christmas tree *ith baubles0
coloured lights0 tinsel and bo*s. +ome people hang a holl) *rath on their front door. It has
been a tradition since 1(41 that Oslo presents 8ondon *ith a large Christmas tree *hich
stands in Trafalgar +6uare in commemoration of Anglo@9or*egian cooperation during the
+econd ,orld ,ar. 3/er) )ear0 there is a program of Christmas carols on Trafalgar +6uare.
Another famous British Christmas tree is the one presented b) the British Christmas Tree
.ro*ers Association. It stands outside the Drime Cinister?s residence at 12 ;o*ning +treet
11
One of the longest preser/ed British Christmas customs *hich has changed o/er
hundreds of )ears is the $issing bough. In the earl) middle ages0 it *as customar) in 3urope
to hang up a small treetop0 upside do*n as a s)mbol of the 7ol) Trinit). This *as not onl)
Christmas tradition but *as also used as a Christian s)mbol of blessing upon the household.
The custom of the 7ol) Bough transformed into a 'iss under the Cistletoe A*hich0 being
e/ergreen0 *as al*a)s used in the ma$ing of the 7ol) BoughB.
The most popular and international s)mbol of Christmas is +anta Claus0 *ho in
Britain is also called #ather Christmas. 7e originates from the :i$ing lore0 *hich *as
brought b) the :i$ings *hen the) in/aded Britain in the O
th
centur). The Anglo@+a5ons0 *ho
at that time inhabited Britain0 The +a5ons *elcomed 'ing #rost0 or #ather Time0 or 'ing
,inter. The) belie/ed that b) *elcoming the ,inter as a personage0 or elemental deit)0 that
element *ould be less harsh to them. The :i$ings brought their god Odin0 the father of the
gods. ;isguised in a long blue hooded cloa$0 and carr)ing a satchel of bread and a staff0 Odin
*as supposed to =oin groups of people around their fire0 sitting in the bac$ground and
listening in to hear if the) *ere content or not. 7e *ould occasionall) lea/e a gift of bread at
a poor homestead. These *ere first customs associated toda) *ith #ather Christmas@he
hooded figure0 the secret /isits0 the lea/ing of a gift. ,ith the 9ormans came +t. 9icholas.
:i$ing and +a5on deities mingled *ith a Christian element to create a saintl) Darish :isitor @
a sort of medie/al social *or$er0 a Pprotot)peP of modern +anta Claus.
A famous stor) b) Charles ;ic$ens0 PA Christmas CarolP0 made man) people all o/er
the *orld associate Christmas *ith :ictorian 3ngland.
On Christmas ;a)?s morning0 British families open their presents together. The
presents are belie/ed to be left b) +anta Claus *ho0 at night0 puts them into a stoc$ing that
each person hangs near the chimne). Then man) British families attend Christmas ser/ices at
churches.

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%& Superstitions
%&'&(hat do superstitions mean to the British)
+uperstition is a part of British culture toda). Although superstition *as more ali/e a
hundred )ears ago0 there are still superstitious people around0 both )oung and old. +ome
people though0 clime not to be superstitious0 but it is still a part of them.
All superstition has gro*n from somethingH there is no smo$e *ithout fire. ,ho *as
the first one to decide that opening an umbrella in a house is bad luc$- ,ho *as the first to
*al$ under a ladder and suffer the conse6uences- ,ho hung a horseshoe the *rong *a) up0
smashed a mirror and spilled the salt- ,ho first branded #rida) 13th as a da) on *hich luc$
*ould run out-
Throughout the si5teenth and se/enteenth centur) life *as ha<ardous0 and the central
feature of da)@to@da) e5istence *as a preoccupation *ith finding e5planations for fortune
and misfortune. "eligion0 diseases and fire might ha/e been the most essential elements in
the bac$ground of the beliefs of superstition. 3/en though *e are not searching for the same
ans*ers toda) superstition is still *ith us as a tradition.
The *ord ?+uperstition? comes from the 8atin ?super? *hich means abo/e0 and ?stare?
*hich means to stand. Those *ho sur/i/ed in a battle *ere called ?superstitions?0 since the)
had outli/ed their fello* *arriors and therefore stood abo/e them.
3/er) generation since the da*n of time has *ritten off superstition as being
nonsensical and about to ?$ic$ the buc$et?. !et taboos $eep springing bac$ to life. ,h) do
primiti/e omens sur/i/e in the Age of +cience- +uperstitions are man)@sidedF sill) and
serious0 illogical and practical0 Dagan and Christian. The ancient omens once touched e/er)
aspect of dail) lifeF in the homeH at birth0 marriage R deathH animalsH and *omen in particular
*ere the centre of man) home@spun rituals. Eoin Alec in a fun debate as $e ?touch *ood? and
a*oid ladders during an e+ploration of ho$ primiti*e rituals are passed on to the ne+t
generation& The# are the ,oldest beliefs in the $orld, and ma# $ell outli*e the ma-or
religions of toda#&
%&.& A strong superstition
Of all birds it is probabl) the magpie that is most associated *ith superstitions.
7o*e/er0 most superstitions regarding magpies are based around =ust one bird. Throughout
Britain it is thought to be unluc$) to see a lone magpie and there are a number of beliefs
about *hat )ou should do to pre/ent bad luc$.
In most parts of the &' it is belie/ed that )ou should salute the single magpie and sa)
S.ood morning Cr. Cagpie. 7o* is )our lad) *ife toda)-L B) ac$no*ledging the magpie
in this *a) )ou are sho*ing him proper respect in the hope that it *ill not pass mad fortune
on to )ou.
In !or$shire magpies are associated *ith *itchcraft and )ou should ma$e a sign of
the cross to *ard off e/il. And in +cotland a single magpie seen near the *indo* of a house
is a sign of impending death0 possibl) because magpies are belie/ed to carr) a drop of the
13
de/il4s blood on his tongue or in another legend because he *as the onl) bird that didn4t sing
or comfort Eesus *hen he *as crucified.
Other things )ou can do to pre/ent the bad luc$ a lone magpie ma) bring include
doffing )our hat0 spitting three times o/er )our shoulder or e/en flapping )our arms li$e
*ings and ca*ing to imitate the magpie?s missing mate.
As the *ell $no*n rh)me POne for sorro*0 T*o for =o)0 Three for a girl0 #our for a
bo)0 #i/e for sil/er0 +i5 for gold0 +e/en for a secret ne/er to be told.P sho*s it is onl) seeing
a lone magpie that brings bad luc$ and groups of magpies are said to predict the future. There
are man) different /ersions of this rh)me *ith some counting as high as 22 birds.
8i$e man) other birds magpies mate for life and this ma) be the inspiration for this
rh)me. And in some parts of the *orld magpies are not associated *ith bad luc$ at all. In
'orea a popular magpie superstition has people belie/ing that that the magpie can foretell
*hen the) *ill ha/e /isitors in the future. In China it is belie/ed that the magpie4s song *ill
bring happiness and good luc$ and in some parts of China the magpie is considered a sacred
bird.
Although it is not $no*n *h) magpies ha/e become associated *ith bad luc$
magpies are members of the cro* famil) and li$e all cro*s ha/e a reputation for li$ing shin)
ob=ects and ha/e the reputation of stealing =e*eller). "ossini *rote a tragicomic opera
entitled )a %a55a )adra AThe Thie/ing CagpieB about a #rench girl accused of theft *ho is
tried0 con/icted and e5ecuted. 8ater the true culprit is re/ealed to be a magpie and in remorse
the to*n organi<es an annual ?Cass Of The Cagpies? to pra) for the girl?s soul.
Another reason for humans disli$ing magpies is that during breeding season the) *ill
sometimes supplement their diet of grubs0 berries and carrion *ith eggs and bab) birds. The)
ha/e also been $no*n to $ill small pets such as guinea pigs. +tudies ha/e sho*n that
magpies raiding nests ha/e no effect on the populations of songbirds of game birds.
3nsure that the breeding birds in )our garden aren?t disturbed b) magpies b) choosing
a bird bo5 that $eeps predators out.
%&%& Good luc or Bad luc)
Good /uc
8uc$) to meet a blac$ cat. Blac$ Cats are featured on man) good luc$ greetings cards
and birthda) cards in 3ngland.
8uc$) to touch *ood .
8uc$) to find a clo/er plant *ith four lea/es.
A horseshoe o/er the door brings good luc$. But the horse shoe needs to be the right
*a) up. The luc$ runs out of the horse shoe if it is upside do*n.

14
On the first da) of the month it is luc$) to sa) Pwhite ra//its6 white ra//its6 white
ra//its0P before uttering )our first *ord of the da).
Catch falling lea/es in Autumn and )ou?re ha/e good luc$. 3/er) leaf means a luc$) month
ne5t )ear.
Bad /uc

&nluc$) to *al$ underneath a ladder
+e/en )ears bad luc$ to brea$ a
mirror.
&nluc$) to see one magpie0 luc$)
to see t*o0 etc..
&nluc$) to spill salt. If )ou do0
)ou must thro* it o/er )our shoulder to
counteract the bad luc$.
&nluc$) to open an umbrella in
doors.
The number thirteen is unluc$).
#rida) the thirteenth is a /er) unluc$)
da). #rida) is considered to be an unluc$)
da) because Eesus *as crucified on a
#rida).
&nluc$) to put ne* shoes on the
table.
&nluc$) to pass someone on the stairs.
%&0&Superstitions for e*er#one
There are man) British superstitions and e/en those *ho thin$ the) are nonsense
often follo* them S=ust in caseL. A good e5ample of this is it is bad luc$ to *al$ under a
ladder0 one could sa) this ma$es practical sense.
Another common belief is that it is bad luc$ to brea$ a mirror0 particularl) a
rectangular one. 36uall) it is bad luc$ to spill salt0 to undo this )ou thro* a pinch o/er )our
left shoulder.
A horseshoe o/er the front door brings good luc$0 but it has to be the right *a) up.
,e touchH $noc$ on *ood0 to ma$e something come true.
Blac$ cats that cross )our path are luc$). To see one magpie is unluc$) but to see t*o
is luc$). It is /er) unluc$) to $ill a robin. As long as there are ra/ens li/ing at the to*er of
8ondon the ro)al famil) *ill sur/i/e.
If )ou drop a table $nife e5pect a male /isitor0 if )ou drop a for$ a female /isitor.
Crossed cutler) on )our plate and e5pect a 6uarrel. 8ea/e a *hite tablecloth on a
table o/ernight and e5pect a death.
Bride and groom must not meet on the da) of the *edding e5cept at the alter. The
bride should ne/er *ear her complete outfit before the da)0 her outfit should consist of
1%
1something borro$ed2 something blue2 something old and something ne$3& The
husband should carr# his ne$ $ife o*er the threshold of their home&
It is good luc$ to sho* a sil/er coin to the ne* moon and to gi/e a bab) sil/er for its
christening.
Children belie/e it is bad luc$ to step on the crac$s in the pa/ement and to spit can
a/ert bad luc$. T*o people *ill spit in their hands and then sha$e hands to seal a bargain.
It is unluc$) to open an umbrella indoors or to pass someone in the opposite direction on a
staircase.
9e/er sit 13 people at one table0 in fact a/oid the number 130 particularl) #rida) the
13
th
& % and 4 are often thought to be luc# numbers&

#esti/als ha/e man) superstitions0 Christmas trees0 !ule logs0 Christmas presents0
decorations and t*elfth night. 9e* !ear4s 3/e has Sfirst footingL and spring cleaning. 3aster
has 3aster eggs0 ma)pole dancing0 Ca) 6ueens0 etc.
Can) people still *ear good luc$ charms0 a +t Christopher medallion or a rabbit4s
foot are the most popular. Certain classes of people0 soldiers0 sailors0 airmen0 actors and
athletes ha/e superstitions uni6ue to them. Actors *ill not mention Cacbeth off stage and
*ish each other Nbrea$ a legL before a performance.
,ishing *ells still collect people4s coins and most people at sometime ha/e searched
for a 4@leaf clo/er0 or bought a bunch of Sluc$)L la/ender from a gips).
There are man) ideas about insects0 particularl) in the home. Blac$ beetles are unluc$)0 bees
and lad)birds are luc$) and must not be $illed. A /er) small red spider is called a Smone)
spiderL if )ou can get it to run across )our palm )ou *ill recei/e mone).
1J
%&5&The stor# of the broen mirror2 the blac cat
and lots of good luc
9i$os *as an ordinar) man. 9othing particularl) good e/er happened to him0
nothing particularl) bad e/er happened to him. 7e *ent through life accepting the mi5ture
of good things and bad things that happen to e/er)one. 7e ne/er loo$ed for an) e5planation
or reason about *h) things happened =ust the *a) the) did.
One thing0 ho*e/er0 that 9i$os absolutel) did not belie/e in *as superstition. 7e had
no time for superstition0 no time at all. 9i$os thought himself to be a /er) rational man0 a
man *ho did not belie/e that his good luc$ or bad luc$ *as in an) *a) changed b) blac$
cats0 *al$ing under ladders0 spilling salt or opening umbrellas inside the house.
9i$os spent much of his time in the small ta/ern near *here he li/ed. In the ta/ern
he sat drin$ing coffee and tal$ing to his friends. +ometimes his friends pla)ed dice or cards.
+ometimes the) pla)ed for mone). +ome of them made bets on horse races or football
matches. But 9i$os ne/er did. 7e didn4t $no* much about sport0 so he didn4t thin$ he
could predict the *inners. And he absolutel) didn4t belie/e in chance or luc$ or superstition0
li$e a lot of his friends did.
One morning 9i$os *o$e up and *al$ed into the bathroom. 7e started to sha/e0 as
he did e/er) morning0 but as he *as sha/ing he noticed that the mirror on the bathroom *all
*asn4t 6uite straight. 7e tried to mo/e it to one side0 to ma$e it straighter0 but as soon as he
touched it0 the mirror fell off the *all and hit the floor *ith a huge crash. It bro$e into a
thousand pieces. 9i$os $ne* that some people thought this *as unluc$). S+e/en )ears bad
luc$L the) said0 *hen a mirror bro$e. But 9i$os *asn4t superstitious. 9i$os *asn4t
superstitious at all. 7e didn4t care. 7e thought superstition *as nonsense. 7e pic$ed up the
pieces of the mirror0 put them in the bin0 and finished sha/ing *ithout a mirror.
After that he *ent into the $itchen to ma$e himself a sand*ich to ta$e to *or$ for his
lunch. 7e cut t*o pieces of bread and put some cheese on them. Then he thought he needed
some salt. ,hen he pic$ed up the salt =ar0 it fell from his hand and bro$e on the floor. +alt
*as e/er)*here. +ome people0 he $ne*0 thought that this *as also supposed to bring bad
luc$. But 9i$os didn4t care. 7e didn4t belie/e in superstitions.
7e left the house and *ent to *or$. On his *a) to *or$ he sa* a blac$ cat running
a*a) from him. 7e didn4t care. 7e *asn4t superstitious. +ome builders *ere *or$ing on a
house on his street. There *as a ladder across the pa/ement. 9i$os thought about *al$ing
around the ladder0 but he didn4t care0 he *asn4t superstitious and didn4t belie/e in
superstitions0 so he *al$ed right underneath the ladder.
3/en though 9i$os *asn4t superstitious0 he thought that something bad *as certain to
happen to him toda). 7e had bro$en a mirror0 spilled some salt0 *al$ed under a ladder and
seen a blac$ cat running a*a) from him. 7e told e/er)bod) at *or$ed *hat had happened.
S+omething bad *ill happen to )ou toda)QL the) all said. But nothing bad happened to him.
That e/ening0 as usual0 he *ent to the ta/ern. 7e told all his friends in the ta/ern that he had
bro$en a mirror0 spilled the salt0 seen a blac$ cat running a*a) from him and then *al$ed
under a ladder. All his friends in the ta/ern mo/ed a*a) from him. S+omething bad *ill
happen to himL0 the) all said0 Sand *e don4t *ant to be near him *hen it happensQL.
But nothing bad happened to 9i$os all e/ening. 7e sat there0 as normal0 and
e/er)thing *as normal. 9i$os *as *aiting for something bad to happen to him. But it
didn4t.
S9i$os0 come and pla) cards *ith usQL =o$ed one of his friends. SI4m sure to *inQL 9i$os
didn4t usuall) pla) cards0 but tonight he decided to. 7is friend put a large amount of mone)
11
on the table. 7is friend thought 9i$os *as going to lose. 9i$os thought he *as going to
lose.
But it didn4t happen li$e that.
9i$os *on. Then he pla)ed another game0 and he *on that one too. Then somebod)
as$ed him to pla) a game of dice0 and 9i$os *on that as *ell. 7e *on 6uite a lot of mone).
S.o on then 9i$osL his friends shouted0 S&se all the mone) )ou ha/e *on to bu) some
lotter) tic$etsQL 9i$os spent all the mone) he had *on on lotter) tic$ets. The dra* for the
lotter) *as the ne5t da).
The ne5t da) after *or$ 9i$os *ent to the ta/ern again. 3/er)bod) *as *atching the
dra* for the lotter) on T:. The first number came out0 for the third pri<e. It *as 9i$os4
number. Then the second number0 for the second pri<e. It *as another of 9i$os4 tic$ets.
Then the first pri<e. It *as 9i$os4 number as *ell. 7e *on all three of the big lotter)
pri<es.
It *as incredible. It seemed that all the things that people thought caused bad luc$
actuall) brought him good luc$.
The ne5t da) 9i$os bought a boo$ about superstitions from all o/er the *orld. ,hen
he had read the boo$ he decided to do e/er)thing that *ould bring him bad luc$. 7e left
empt) bottles on the table. 7e as$ed his *ife to cut his hair for him. 7e accepted a bo5 of
$ni/es as a gift. 7e slept *ith his feet pointing to*ards the door. 7e sat on the corners of
tables. 7e put a candle in front of the mirror. 7e al*a)s left his hat on the bed. 7e al*a)s
left his *allet on the bed. 7e bought things in numbers of si50 or thirteen. 7e crossed people
on the stairs. 7e got on a boat and *histled. And *ith e/er)thing he did0 he got luc$ier and
luc$ier. 7e *on the lotter) again. 7e *on the games of dice in the ta/erna e/er) e/ening.
The things got cra<ier and cra<ier. 7e bought a blac$ cat as a pet. 7e bro$e a fe* more
mirrors0 on purpose. 7e didn4t loo$ people in the e)e *hen the) raised their glasses to him.
7e put loa/es of bread upside do*n on the table. 7e spilled salt. 7e spilled oli/e oil. 7e
spilled *ine.
The more superstitious things he did0 the luc$ier he became. 7e *ent in to the ta/ern
and started to tell all his friends *hat he thought.
S!ou seeQL he told them. SI *as right all alongQ +uperstition is nonsenseQ The more
things I do to brea$ ridiculous superstitions0 the more luc$) I amQL
SBut 9i$osL replied one of his friends0 S;on4t )ou see that )ou are actuall) as
superstitious as *e are- !ou are so careful to brea$ superstitions0 and this brings )ou luc$.
But )ou are onl) luc$) *hen )ou do these things. !our disbelief is actuall) a $ind of
beliefQL
9i$os thought hard about *hat his friend said. 7e had to admit that it *as true. 7e *as so
careful to brea$ all the superstitions he could0 that in some *a) he *as actuall) obser/ing
those superstitions.
The ne5t da)0 he stopped spilling salt0 chasing a*a) blac$ cats0 *al$ing under
ladders0 putting up umbrellas in the house and brea$ing mirrors. 7e also stopped *inning
mone) on the lotter). 7e started to lose at games of cards or dice.
7e *as a normal man again. +ometimes he *as luc$)0 sometimes he *asn4t. 7e
didn4t not belie/e in superstitions an) more0 but he didn4t belie/e in them either.
S9i$osL0 said his friend to him0 SIt *as )our belief in )ourself that made )ou luc$).
It *as )our self@confidence that helped )ou0 not superstitions.L
9i$os listened to his friend and thought that he *as right. But0 ho*e/er rational he
still belie/ed himself to be0 he al*a)s *ondered *hat *ould ha/e happened if he hadn4t
bro$en that mirror...
T73 39;
1O
0&C67C/!SI67
The British Aalso $no*n as Britons0 informall) Brits or archaicall) BritishersB are
citi<ens of the &nited 'ingdom0 of the Isle of Can0 one of the Channel Islands0 or of one of
the British o/erseas territories0 and their descendants In a historical conte5t0 the *ord is used
to refer to the ancient Britons0 the indigenous inhabitants of .reat Britain south of the #orth
British nationalit) la* go/erns modern British citi<enship and nationalit)0 *hich are
ac6uired through a /ariet) of means including b) birth in the &' and b) descent from British
nationals.
Britain is full of culture and traditions *hich ha/e been around for hundreds of )ears.
British customs and traditions are famous all o/er the *orld. ,hen people thin$ of Britain
the) often thin$ of people drin$ing tea0 eating fish and chips and *earing bo*ler hats0 but
there is more to Britain than =ust those things. ,e ha/e 3nglish and British traditions of
sport0 music0 food and man) ro)al occasions. There are also songs0 sa)ings and superstitions.
,ho *as .u) #a*$es- ,h) does the >ueen ha/e t*o birthda)s- !ou can find the ans*ers
here in our pages on life in Britain.
+uperstition is a part of British culture toda). Although superstition *as more ali/e a
hundred )ears ago0 there are still superstitious people around0 both )oung and old. +ome
people though0 clame not to be superstitious0 but it is still a part of them.
3nglish fol$lore is the fol$ tradition *hich has de/eloped in 3ngland o/er a number
of centuries. +ome stories can be traced bac$ to their roots0 *hile the origin of others is
uncertain or disputed. 3ngland abounds *ith fol$lore0 in all forms0 from such ob/ious
manifestations as the traditional Arthurian legends A*hich *ere originall) strictl) BritannicB
and "obin 7ood tales0 to contemporar) urban legends and facets of cr)pto <oolog) such as
the Beast of Bodmin Coor.
Corris dance and related practices such as the Abbots Bromle) 7orn ;ance preser/e
old 3nglish fol$ traditions0 as do Cummers Dla)s. Dub names ma) preser/e fol$ traditions.
Cost fol$lore traditions are no longer *idel) belie/ed. ,hereas some traditions *ere once
belie/ed across the *hole of 3ngland0 most belong to specific regions.
Christmas ;a)0 2% ;ecember0 is celebrated b) Christians as the da) on *hich Eesus
Christ *as born. In .reat Britain0 carol ser/ices ta$e place in Churches throughout ;ecember
and nati/it) pla)s are performed The) are stories of Christ4s birth acted out b) school
children. +ome families ha/e models of nati/it) scene in their houses. Another popular form
of Christmas performances are pantomimes *hich are dramatised /ersions of *ell@$no*n
fair) tales. The) in/ol/e singing0 dancing and encouraging the audience to participate.
Before Christmas0 people send Christmas cards to their friends and famil). The first e/er
Christmas card *as sent in Britain in the 1(
th
centur). Traditional Christmas s)mbols are
+anta Claus0 angels0 holl) or sno*men.
1(
5& Bibliograph#
• 8O9.CA9 ;ictionar) of Contemporar) 3nglish
• "oud0 +te/e0 (he +enguin %uide to the Su#erstitions of %reat 2ritain
and 7reland0 2224
• +tephen "able)0 Customs and (raditions in 2ritain6 8ongman0 1((J
• +impson0 Eac6ueline and +te/e "oud0 A Di*tionary of English $ol,lore0
2222
• ***.*i$ipedia.org
22