The Luck in Life

A good friend commented on my last blog about the way she handles those creepy crawlers, and after reading her response, I haven’t seen one again. So I go around knocking on wood that things will stay that way.

But what is the purpose of knocking on wood? Ancient folklore says that we knock on wood to make a sound that prevents the evil spirits from listening in when we boast about our luck, thereby preventing a reversal of fortune.

There are so many different things we think will bring us luck. Why is a four-leaf clover considered lucky? The four-leaf clover has always been considered a symbol of good luck in the Irish culture. According to the legend, the leaves of a four-leaf clover represent hope, faith, love, and a fourth for good luck.

Ever carried a rabbit’s foot? (They were a big hit as key-chains a long, long time ago.) Why? Because In some cultures, the foot of a rabbit is carried as an amulet believed to bring good luck. 

Many people who play the lottery use a mix of numbers that are significant to them – birthdays, anniversaries, ages, etc. They truly believe that using these numbers will eventually bring them luck, and they never change them no matter how often they don’t win.

And apparently, we can also bring bad luck upon ourselves. Walk under a ladder, have a black cat cross your path, break a mirror.

Then there are all of those things that, if we did them, would cause bad circumstances. Sit too close to the TV and you’ll go cross-eyed. Step on a crack (in the sidewalk) and you’ll break your mother’s back. Swallow watermelon seeds and they’ll grow into new watermelons in your stomach. And always said to the boys, “If you play with yourself it will cause blindness”.

The thing is, luck is described as: success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions.

The logical part of our brains tells us that these are just old folk tales or wives tales. (Neither of my brothers ever went blind!) And yet, to perhaps incur good luck or to side-step bad luck, we still practice many of them. I still knock on wood (although fiberboard and metal are around me more than actual wood). I very seldom play the lottery, but when I did, however sporadic, I always had numbers that were significant to me that I used, and probably would still use.

The thing of it is, if we believe that these things will be what brings us luck, why do we WORK at bringing good things into our lives? It’s because we know that, as charming as these symbols of good or bad luck are, they aren’t going to really fix anything for us that matters. Sure, maybe someone WILL win the lottery with special numbers, but then again, people who had the machines pick the numbers for them have also won the lottery. The PA Dutch have a tradition of eating pork and sauerkraut on New Year’s Day to bring them a year of good luck. I’ve had pork and sauerkraut on New Year’s Day plenty of times, but there are also just as many times I’ve not had it on New Year’s Day. And to be honest, I haven’t seen a change in my luck with or without!

Good luck on your travels! Good luck on your test! Good luck on your new married life! Good luck with your surgery! There isn’t a thing I’ve just mentioned that can be achieved with just luck. Why do we bother saying these things when we know, rationally, that it’s going to take something other than luck to bring success?

By definition, luck is something that happens randomly. It is nothing that results from anything we do or say to bring it about. All that rubbing of that rabbit’s foot didn’t change anything for me, nor the pork and sauerkraut eaten on New Year’s Day. I may participate in some of the rituals for good luck, because they cause no one, including me, any harm. As long as we practice them with that understanding – that our luck will NOT change because of them – then no harm, no foul. May God be kind on the soul who truly believes that s/he just needs luck to change his/her life!


I am not, by nature, superstitious. I have no aversion to black cats over other colored cats. I have no fear of Friday the 13th or a full moon. I am not adverse to being on the 13th floor of a building (some buildings don’t have a 13th floor, just as some airplanes don’t have a 13th row.). I’m too lazy to walk extra steps to go around a ladder, so of course, I’ll walk under one. And while I would not look forward to the jagged mess of cleaning up a broken mirror, I don’t fear bad luck from having broken one. As a child, I remember the saying whenever you went for a walk on a sidewalk, of “Step on a crack, you break your mother’s back”! That wasn’t true! (It was an accident!)

On the other hand, I have been known to “knock on wood” at times, I tend to believe that bad luck comes in threes, prefer to win in a wishbone tugging contest (more from my competitive streak than from a bad luck perspective), I’ve crossed my fingers for luck, and if I were lucky enough to find one, I’d keep a 4-leaf clover (for its rarity more than any other reason).

If you grew up in or around the Pennsylvania Dutch area (Lancaster County, PA) or where the Amish gather in Ohio and West Virginia, you learned of what is considered a tradition for New Year’s Day, but the tradition is based on superstition. The tradition is to eat pork and sauerkraut (99.9% of the time with mashed potatoes). It is thought that eating pork and sauerkraut on the first day of the year will bring you luck in that year.

Digging deeper, you begin to understand why this superstition-based tradition made sense. Cabbage, which is green in raw form, is the color of money, so eating sauerkraut, which is nothing more than fermented cabbage, is thought to bring more wealth into your life in the coming year. Pork was chosen because pigs are known to root (or rut) forward with their noses when eating, indicating a desire to make progress forward into the new year. (On the other hand, chickens scratch backwards with their toes, which indicated that they would want to stay connected to the old year.) If you find longer shreds of sauerkraut on your plate when you eat this fare on New Year’s Day, it is said to symbolize longer life. That’s a lot of superstition packed into one meal!

Traditional way to make pork and sauerkraut – cooked together!

I enjoy pork and sauerkraut, so this is one of the ‘comfort’ foods I make when the weather begins to cool for the coming of winter. Because I had done so recently, and had some in the freezer, I decided to have it for my New Year’s Day meal. While the logical side of me 100% believes that having it has not changed my luck for 2021, after 2020, I figured, why not, just in case?

I would expect that different cultures might have different superstitions than those I’ve known all my life. I would LOVE to hear about any other superstitions you may have heard and how you feel about them. Please, feel free to share in the reply section!