Money & Power

Ghost Month and Other Money Superstitions Practiced Around the World

Who says only the Chinese believe in money superstitions?
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Ghost Month is upon us, and those observing Chinese traditions have a long list of things they don’t plan on doing beginning August 1 to 29—from opening a business to buying a house to starting a new job.

This four-week period is the seventh month of the Lunar calendar and known as the Hungry Ghost Festival. The Chinese believe the gates of hell are opened during this time, releasing hungry ghosts to roam the earth for food and drink until they are called to return on the last day. To avoid bad luck, many Chinese prepare food offerings to appease the ghosts. They also shy away from making any decisions that involve money, choosing to err on the side of caution.

Chinese or not, many people tend to adopt this prudent streak during this time of the year. But did you know that money superstitions are not only for the Chinese? Across the globe, people from different cultures hold different beliefs about money. Well, they did say money makes the world go round, and all these urban legends can make you dizzy.

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Read below to see what you may already know and possibly discover something new.

1. A purse on the floor is money out the door.

Photo by UNSPLASH.

This is one of the more popular money superstitions, and it appears to also be of Chinese origin. Whether you own a designer bag or not, never place it on the floor or your money is said to flow away from you. The old Chinese proverb roughly translated states: ‘a purse on the floor is money out the door.’

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Some argue it makes sense because your bag usually holds many personal things that are valuable from your cash to your credit cards even a spare pair of earrings so keep it close to your chest. For the more practical ones, they explain that putting it down will keep it from their sight, making them easy targets to pickpockets.

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2. When gifting wallets or bags, do not forget to add a dash of cash.

Photo by UNSPLASH.

Receiving a gift of a new bag or wallet is nice, but if you open it and find it empty, the Greeks advise you to ask the giver to place some money for good luck. It does not have to be a bill as even coins are welcome. As wallets and bags normally contain cash, getting a new one with some money in it is supposed to bring both the giver and the receiver good luck.

This one is said to be quite a popular custom in Greece as they believe money attracts more money. The inverse is true for them as well, that is never empty out your pockets, wallets or bags or bad fortune will fall on you.

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3. Find a penny, pick it up... and all day long you’ll have good luck!

Photo by UNSPLASH.

Who can resist picking up a loose coin in whatever the denomination? Good luck or not, we all take time to bend over and collect it. But if you’re superstitious, you would look to see if it’s heads up before you take it. If it shows tails, walk away as they say you are picking up bad luck.

Some add this belief can be traced to Irish folklore but it has spread so widely that it’s actually anybody’s guess. It’s fairly harmless unless you’re a germophobe so go right ahead.

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4. Toss a coin in a fountain and your wish will come true.

Photo by PIXABAY.

Once you’ve picked up that coin, usher in more luck by tossing it into a fountain.  Wherever you are in the world, coming across a fountain gives you a chance to say a wish and make it come true with the flip of a coin. If you visit one of the most famous fountains in the world, Fontana di Trevi in Italy, there is even an art to it: You must turn your back to the fountain and throw the coin using your right hand over your left shoulder if you wish to return.

Dropping coins started in the old days as a way for people to thank the gods for the gift of clean water and ask for good health. That eventually evolved into the modern-day practice of throwing money into wishing wells and fountains. 

Fountains around the world have become such profitable coin banks they need to be swept regularly. In the case of the Fontana di Trevi, city workers clean the bottom every night and collect thousands of dollars a day, reaching over a million dollars a year!

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5. Welcome the new year with money in your pockets.

Photo by UNSPLASH.

It’s always a good thing to have your pockets full of money but more so during New Year’s. At the turn of midnight, make sure your wallets, bags, and your purse have coins and bills to attract good fortune for the next 12 months.

This is said to be a Latino tradition, where having money in your hand when the clock strikes 12 will ensure prosperity in the coming year. The French take it a step further and wear clothing with polka dots on January 1, believing the coin-like shapes will bring them blessings for the new year.

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6. Pay with your right hand, and receive money with your left.

Photo by PEXELS.

Hindus in South Asia practice the “no money exchange via left hand” rule. They are taught from an early age that the right hand is for good and pious deeds such as when you pay respect to your elders. The left hand is for unclean tasks like picking up dirt from the floor.

And because they associate money as one of the good things (one of their popular deities is Lakshmi considered the goddess of wealth), they largely use their right hand when dealing with cash. The custom is reportedly old, and has somehow evolved to using the right hand to hand over cash, and the left to receive it. 

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7. Know your wealth corner so prosperity can find you.

Photo by UNSPLASH.

If we're talking about superstitions, we have to talk about feng shui, an ancient art and science that dates back over 3,000 years ago in China. Feng shui can mean many things to many people, but the literal translation is wind water.

Simply explained, feng shui is the art of placement—where practitioners use energy forces to harmonize individuals with their surrounding environment. The practice has many followers because it is believed to unlock riches in your home, office or any location. 

This superstition, grounded on feng shui, dictates the southeast corner of your property is considered your “wealth area.” Locate the spot and begin decorating it with trinkets that symbolize money accumulation. A trip to feng shui stores or downtown Binondo will show you a wide array of options, from wealth vases to Chinese coins. Stashing money in your wealth corner is also believed to bring a positive impact on your financial life. 

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8. GR8 riches come with the number eight.

Photo by UNSPLASH.

You may think the love affair with the number 8 also started from China but it actually came from its East Asian neighbor, Japan. In Japanese numerology, eight is considered the luckiest number. Eight also promotes the idea of prosperity because of the way it is written in Japanese where the number's shape broadens gradually. So whenever an opportunity to add eight is present, one should grab the chance.

Despite its Japanese origin, the Chinese easily embraced this because the word for good fortune and the number eight happen to be homonyms for each other in both Mandarin and Cantonese.

Does your phone number have eight? Or your home address? And you do not have to stick to just the number itself. Some would make sure to have eight vases around their home, eight frames, a dining table for eight guests, the list goes on and on.

By incorporating eight throughout your work or living space, it's believed you are inviting good fortune. Why do you think this is also No. 8 on this list?

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Aneth Ng-Lim
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