Are you superstitious? A superstition is a common belief in a supernatural cause for something. These beliefs aren’t explained by science or logic.

Many superstitions are related to good or bad luck. For example, many Americans believe that it’s good luck to find a penny on the ground — but only if it’s heads-up (that is, the side with a face is on top).

Good luck

Here are some other things and actions that Americans connect to good luck:

  • The number 7: In casinos, you can win money from a slot machine if it shows three 7’s.
  • 4-leafed clovers: Clover is a wild plant that usually has groups of three leaves. Once in a while, four leaves grow together. Some people will search for these and pick them for good luck.
  • Horseshoes: In the past, a person might nail a horseshoe over the door of their house for good luck. It was important that the ends of the horseshoe point up. This practice is not common today, but Americans still recognize the horseshoe as a symbol of good luck.
  • Rabbit’s foot: Some people carry real rabbits’ feet, often on key chains, for good luck.
  • Knocking on wood: Americans often knock on a table or other object made of wood when they talk about something that they hope will happen.
  • Fingers crossed: Crossing the forefinger and middle finger is a common gesture to wish for good luck.

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Bad luck

On the other hand, Americans have some common superstitions about things that bring bad luck:

  • The number 13: Many older buildings don’t have a 13th floor because of this superstition. Also, when the 13th day of a month falls on a Friday, this is considered an unlucky day. (Perhaps you have heard of the horror movie “Friday the 13th”.)
  • Black cats: If a black cat crosses the path in front of you, many Americans think you will have bad luck.
  • Ladders: Another action that brings bad luck is walking under a ladder, according to a common superstition.
  • Breaking a mirror: Specifically, an American superstition says that if you break a mirror, you will have seven years of bad luck.
  • Opening an umbrella indoors: Don’t do this around superstitious American friends; they believe you will cause bad luck.
  • Spilling salt: This is a sign of evil, according to old European beliefs. However, you can cancel the bad luck by throwing a little bit of the salt over your left shoulder.

You will find that many Americans are not at all superstitious and think that these ideas are foolish. However, knowing about superstitions may help you to understand the behavior of some people.

Superstitions vary widely from culture to culture. What is a common superstition in your culture?