Ukrainian superstitions: Why we knock on wood 3 times?
It’s not common for modern Ukrainians to believe in superstitions but some are already in our genes. Consciously or not we do follow them:
“Don’t whistle inside the house – you will lose your money”
Seriously, have you ever heard a Ukrainian whistling inside the house? Just think about. First time I’ve heard people whistling inside the house was when I started travelling and hosting foreigners. And it rasped my ears! Although I realised that it was not me who would lose money. Joking!
“Don’t give anything across the doorstep”
It means that a person who gives and a person who is given should be on the same side of the door – outside or better inside the house. It’s common to ask “Please, cross the doorstep line” or to say “It’s not allowed to give across the doorstep.” So if you give something across the doorstep and another person is staring at you waiting for something – you know which step to take!
“Return is a bad superstition”
When Ukrainians forget keys at home, they don’t go back but call home-mates for the keys. If you see someone on the 4th floor throwing keys through a window to a person on the ground it’s for that reason.
But there is a hint on how to avoid bad luck if it happened for you to return. Just look at yourself in the mirror after you came back. In such case you would get even more luck than before. And if you give a smile I believe it would be doubled.
“Sit down for the road”
If Ukrainian is leaving the house for several days, it’s a tradition to sit down. Simply sit down on anything. All the travellers and those who accompany them to the airport or bus station sit for a minute or 5 seconds. Some people pray, some make a silent wish for a good trip. It’s common to say: “Let’s sit down for the road!” after everyone took the baggage and wore coats. And people look for the available space at the entrance to sit.
In fact, this tradition helps to calm down after the preparations and remember if anything was missed.
“Don’t take the rubbish out after sunset”
I haven’t met a Ukrainian that would take the rubbish out in the evening on purpose. If he or she goes for a walk, then maybe, but on purpose… My granny was always saying, “Don’t take the rubbish in the evening,” when I was intending to do so, “I will do it in the morning.” So I was very surprised in Buenos Aires where all the people take the rubbish out in the evening. Really? They didn’t know my granny. And they had a different garbage collecting system.
“Knock on wood 3 times and spit over the shoulder not to put a jinx”
Ukrainian don’t like to speak about good things that happened or might happen. It’s supposed that telling good things frighten away the luck. So after Ukrainian told something good or something he puts hope on, he knocks on wood 3 times and spits over the shoulder (in pretense). For example, a student says: “I’ve answered all questions and probably passed the test.” Then he adds “Tfu tfu tfu” while turning his head left and knocks on table 3 times. Normal situation.
“Don’t give a knife or an animal as a present”
It’s not allowed to give knives and animals as a present for free. You need to pay at least 5 coins for such present, otherwise it brings quarrels or bad fortune to an animal.
There are much more of Ukrainian superstitions, but sometimes it’s hard to notice them for the locals. Travelling and getting to know other cultures help a lot to understand which are superstitions in our behavior.
Get more about world’s superstitions and read “7 Indonesian myths you wouldn’t believe”.