No matter where you travel, you’re bound to run across unique superstitions held by locals. In Spain, there’s no shortage of intriguing superstitions passed down from generation to generation. Although many people don’t know how these superstitions got started, many Spaniards continue to cling to them in the 21st century. Let’s take a look at 15 of the most fascinating Spanish superstitions.
#1 Avoid toasting with water
Recent statistics show that Spaniards drink about 3 gallons of alcohol per year. With such a pronounced drinking culture, it’s no wonder many superstitions have evolved around the art of toasting. One thing you never want to do in Spain is make a toast with a non-alcoholic beverages. Apparently, if you toast with water, it will curse you to seven years of bad or no sex.
#2 Remember to keep eye contact while toasting
If you tend to look at your drink when making a toast, then you’d better break that habit before visiting Spain. In Spanish culture, it’s considered bad luck if you don’t make eye contact with everyone involved in a toast. A few other European nations like France, Germany and Italy also have this superstition.
#3 Don’t pass the salt shaker
Another easy way to get bad luck in Spain is if you hand a salt shaker to someone. This might have to do with salt’s ancient status as a symbol of purity and incorruptibility. So, what should you do if someone asks you to pass the salt? Simple: place the salt shaker on the table in front of the person who was asking for it.
#4 Please no sharp gifts
Even if your Spanish friend is really into scrapbooking, think twice before getting some fancy scissors for her birthday! According to Spanish tradition, giving a family member or friend sharp objects like knives or scissors will “sever” your relationship forever.
#5 Put your right food forward
At least since Petronius’s time, the left foot has symbolized “bad luck” in Western culture. Even in contemporary Spain, if you walk into a room with your left foot first, then you’ve just doomed yourself to bad luck. You can, however, quickly get rid of this curse if you make the sign of the cross three times.
#6 .. and no yellow coloured clothing either!
Because of its association with sulfur, yellow is often linked with black magic and the Devil in Spanish folklore. Unsurprisingly, giving a bright yellow gift to a Spanish friend is a major faux pas. It’s also considered unlucky to wear yellow clothes while in Spain.
#7 ‘Mucha Mierda’
Just like “break a leg” in English, Spanish actors have a superstitious expression for good luck: “mucha mierda,” which roughly translates to “a lot of poop.” To understand this custom, we have to go back to the days when the aristocracy rode in horse carriages. The only way for old Spanish acting troupes to make money was to attract wealthy aristocrats. So, the higher the pile of excrement by your theater means the more horses are parked there, which also means there are probably more wealthy people in your audience!
#8 Counteract evil with cacti
Spaniards don’t put pots of cacti by their windows just because they grow well in the Mediterranean region. Spanish folklorists believe these plants are ideal for trapping evil spirits. Just as the cactus absorbs air moisture, so too can it absorb any malicious ghosts trying to enter a Spanish home.
#9 Tuesday the 13th is unlucky
Like Americans, the Spanish also have a fear of the 13th…but not Friday. On the Spanish calendar Tuesday the 13th is considered the unluckiest day of the year. In Spanish, Tuesday is “martes,” which refers to the god Mars. The combination of the unlucky number 13 and the Greco-Roman “God of War” was apparently too much for the Spanish to bear.
#10. Mind where you sweep!
When you’re cleaning up in Spain, be sure to never sweep the feet of a single woman or a widow. If you do so, then you’ve just cursed that person to a life of spinsterhood. Like many other Spanish superstitions, this belief has its roots in witchcraft.
#11Don’t put your bag on the floor
No matter where you travel, it’s important to keep your valuables close by. In Spain, it’s extra important to ensure your purse has a chair of its own when going out. In Spanish culture, placing your purse on the ground symbolizes that you will lose all of your money.
#12 Cats only have 7 lives
Depending on where you are in the world, cats have either nine or seven lives. In Spain, as well as other nations with past Islamic influence, cats are supposed to have seven lives.
#13 Christmas Lottery
Many Spaniards have superstitions about the Spanish Christmas Lottery, which remains the largest and oldest drawing in the nation. Sometimes called “El Gordo” (“The Fat One”), only 99,999 tickets are sold per year, which means ticket buyers have a 1:7 chance of winning a small prize. Many Spaniards travel all across the country to ensure they get their lucky numbers before the big drawing. There are also superstitions about certain lottery kiosks such as Madrid Town Hall and Sort’s Bruja Ora Bar.
#14 Don’t share your lighter with more than 3 friends.
Some Spaniards consider sharing your lighter with more than three friends to be unlucky. This might have to do with the “white lighter myth” that claims the deaths of musicians in the 27 Club like Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison all had something to do with a cursed white BIC lighter.
#15 Don’t leave your hat on your bed
In Spanish folklore, spirits were supposed to inhabit a person’s hat. Therefore, if you place your had on your bed, it’s easy for these spirits to be transferred into your furniture and, supposedly, give you nightmares.
When traveling in Spain, just place your hat on a hat-stand!