DNA and heirlooms aren’t the only things passed on from generation to generation.
Although superstitions are often dismissed as wishful thinking, immigrant parents often give their children connections to their homelands through these supernatural warnings.
And these superstitions can influence everything from little habits to major life decisions — they can even control where immigrants live. One Toronto suburb, for example, banned the number four from new street addresses, after Chinese residents complained about the unlucky number impacting real estate sales.
With so many superstitions from culture to culture, we've rounded up some common ones second-gen Canadians are still told to believe by their family members.
When immigrants come to Canada, these are the superstitions their kids grow up hearing:
If You’re Coming Home Late, Walk In Backwards
Where it’s from: Caribbean nations and Guyana
Stumbling home after a wild night or heading back from a night shift is scary for anyone, but some say walking in backwards helps you see any evil spirits, called “jumbies,” who are following you.
If jumbies don't give you the heebie jeebies, there's also a practical side to this superstition. For anyone travelling in the dark, watching your back dissuades strangers from following you home.
Don't Cut Your Nails At Night
Where it’s from: In Asia, particularly in Japan, the Philippines, and India.
Nocturnal hygiene gets gruesome with this belief. For many children of immigrants, they are told this superstition will bring bad luck. People were warned not to do it or else a spirit would chop their head off. Yikes.
Cutting nails at night could have been a real hazard in bygone times when electrical light wasn’t available and nail clippers were more like shears, Speaking Tree notes.
Eat All Your Rice Or Your Spouse Will Be Ugly
Where it’s from: China
Clearing your plate has romantic consequences. Those growing up in Chinese households know that for every grain of rice left over, there will be a pock mark on their future spouse’s body. It’s incentive for children to finish their food, but blogger Easily Amused also suggests societal standards for beauty are alive and well.
Don’t Stab Your Chopsticks In Your Meal
Where it’s from: Japan, China, Korea
For second-generation kids from Asian countries, utensil eating etiquette has intense taboos. Eating chopsticks in east Asia comes with a set of rules and making a mistake spells doom for anyone hungry and unaware.
One of the most pervasive superstitions is the misfortune that comes when someone sticks their chopsticks upright in their meal. Doing so makes the chopsticks resemble incense sticks, which are offered to mourn the dead, FluentU.com notes. A show of disrespect to long-gone ancestors does not equal a happy dinner — it might also infuriate any living relatives as well.
Dream About Poop? Buy A Lottery Ticket
Where it’s from: Korea
Fecal fantasies sound like nightmares, but in Korea it's a blessing when shit happens. Poop in dreams is said to be a sign that obstacles will be evacuated, signalling that the dreamer should take advantage of their newfound luck with gambling, Soompi reports.
The Evil Eye Is Legit
Where it’s from: Everywhere
As ubiquitous as air and known by many names, the evil eye has been warded off by many, including those of Islamic and Jewish faiths and natives of Asia, Persia, and the Middle East, Chicago Tribune notes. Even the ancient Romans quivered in fear when faced with the menacing glare, which comes from various sources for many cultures and can result in bad crops, collapsed buildings, death, and famine.
People with mean looks, unusual eye colours, and visible ocular disabilities like crossed eyes were thought to be prone to giving the evil eye, which can say a lot about how conformity was policed in various cultures.
To combat the evil eye, talismans like the hand of fatima, or hasma, are frequently given to keep loved ones safe. A far crueler remedy to the evil eye includes insults, since the eye is said to be attracted to admiration, flaunting, and compliments. In Europe, spitting on the ground or in someone's face after complimenting them was standard practice.
Don’t Step On Paper
Where it’s from: India
Whatever you do, don't hit the books. Or at least, don't hit them with your feet. Stepping on paper of any kind is seen as disrespectful, since it can represent money or knowledge. Stepping on books in particular shows rudeness towards the wisdom they impart (and possibly a dirty bedroom floor).
For anyone who has grown up with parents strict on studying, this superstition shows that they probably came from a culture that values self-improvement and keeping one's belongings clean and organized. Yay multi-purpose beliefs! Bad luck from stepping on paper can be negated by touching the offended paper to one's head: this works because the reverence of one's head cancels out the feet touching, since the foot is seen as an unclean and lowly body part, the University of Southern California's Folklore archives note.
Born And Raised is an ongoing series by The Huffington Post Canada that shares the experiences of second-generation Canadians. Part reflection, part storytelling, this series on the children of immigrants explores what it means to be born and raised in Canada. We want to hear your stories -- join the conversation on Twitter at #BornandRaised or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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