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Readers Respond: What Is Your Favorite Old Wives' Tale?

Responses: 7


Eastern Europeans are a superstitious lot. We believe in omens, fortune telling, and old wives' tales. Some are bizarre and some are laughable and some, have actual basis in fact. In my Polish family some of the old wives' tales I grew up with were that if a bird landed on a home's windowsill, there would be a death in the house. Likewise, if you didn't see your shadow at the Christmas Eve wigilia table, you wouldn't live out the year. When silverware dropped on the floor, it meant company was coming -- a man if it was a knife or fork, and a woman if it was a spoon. What are the old wives' tales you grew up with?

Old wives tale

Put a coin in a purse or wallet that you give for a gift.
—Guest Kedi

Old wives tale

Leave by the same door that you entered, or it would be bad luck.
—Guest Kedi

Herrings and Silver

On New Year's Eve, as midnight strikes, you are to hold a silver coin and eat herring. This will bring prosperity to the family.
—Guest Joanne Maffenbeier

Black Crow

I've heard an old wives' tale that if a black crow would fly in an open window it means someone in the family would die. Well, a month before my 92-year-old father died in 2005, a black crow DID fly in through an open door. The crow cawed a bit in my direction then flew out the same door he came in. I thought of the omen at the time and my father did die a month later in June 2005. Go figure.
—Guest Jeanette

Flowering Trees

If a flowering tree bloomed a second time later in the year, there would be a death in the family soon. It seems a lot of these tales concerned death. We're a Lithuanian family.

Men First!

The first person to visit a house on New Year's Day had to be a male in order to bring good luck to that home. My mother would insist that my brother and father be the first ones to enter with "Happy New Year" greetings. Women came in last.

Dropped Silverware = Company's Coming

In my Polish family, whenever silverware dropped on the floor, it meant company would be showing up soon. If a knife or fork fell, we could expect a man. If a spoon fell, for sure it would be a woman!

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