20 Traditional Gift-Giving Superstitions

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The holiday season is a time for giving, but one thing you really don’t want to give is the gift of bad luck. To guard against any gift-related mishaps, take heed of the following 20 old-fashioned gift-giving superstitions. (We’ve included some tips for lucky gift-giving, too.)

1. KNIVES AND SCISSORS

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Giving anything sharp, such as a knife or scissors, is bad luck, as it’s thought to sever the relationship. However, the damage can be mitigated if the receiver gives something small, like a coin, in return, to make the exchange a transaction. Some folklorists err on the side of caution and also recommend repeating the rhyme: “If you love me, as I love you, no knife can cut our love in two.”

2. HANKIES

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Some gift-giving superstitions are quite literal—giving a handkerchief is said to signify tears to come. In Sweden, a man is never supposed to give his lover a silk handkerchief, or she will wipe away her affection for him. Soap is also supposed to be an unlucky gift, as it will wash your friendship away.

3. OPALS

Opal
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Opals are considered one of the most unlucky gemstones, and so should be avoided as a gift unless the receiver was born in October (the birthstone month for opal), in which case its negative vibes will be reversed. Never set an opal in an engagement ring, as it portends early widowhood.

4. SHOES

Woman sitting on bed trying on shoes from pile
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Giving someone a new pair of shoes is unlucky, although strangely it is also said to prolong their life. It is very bad luck to gives shoes as a Christmas present, as it is thought to signify that the receiver will walk away from you. However, if you never give anyone a gift of shoes, it means that you will be doomed to go shoeless in the afterlife. Tough choice.

5. CATS

Porcelain cat figure and leaf
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In Sicily, it’s said you should never give a gift in the shape of a cat to someone who is engaged to be married, as this foretells sudden and violent death. However, in other cultures, if your partner gives you an actual cat as a present it means you will never be parted.

6. PORTRAITS

Two visitors look at Marten and Oopjen, two Rembrandt portraits of a wedding couple
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Bad news for ego-maniacs and narcissists: Receiving a present with your own likeness on it is bad luck, and to receive a portrait of yourself is a sign of treachery.

7. GIVING A GIFT BACK

Mother giving a big gift boxes to child
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It is unlucky to give a gift and then afterwards take it back again. An old rhyme warns: “Give a thing and take it back, Old Nick will give your head a crack.” Another says: “Give a thing and take again, And you shall ride in hell’s wain.” (Wain is a word for a wagon or cart.)

8. COAL

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In old English tradition it is lucky to put a lump of coal among the Christmas presents in the stocking. The recipient should then spit on it, throw it into the fire and make a wish as it burns, and that wish will come true.

9. BAD LUCK COLORS

Red book
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The color of a gift can be significant. Giving or receiving black items is said to always be bad luck, as the color black brings death with it. You’re also never supposed to give a book with a red cover, as it is sure to break a friendship, because red is the color of anger and misunderstanding.

10. ROSES

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In the Victorian era, roses were an especially popular gift between lovers, as they were associated with secret passions. Different colored roses imparted different meanings—for example a red rose was given to show passion, and white roses to symbolize purity. It was important not to give a rose of the "wrong" color.

11. EMERALDS

emerald ring on green satin
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Emeralds were traditionally thought to be found in the nests of griffins (a mythological creature that’s part-lion and part-eagle), and to give the bearer protection from evil. Giving an emerald confers luck, happiness, and success—unless it is given on a Monday, in which case the luck is lost. If a man gives his lover an emerald as a gift, it can also be used to divine the strength of their love. If the emerald grows paler in color, then their love is decreasing, but if the emerald becomes a deeper green, it means love is flourishing.

12. FLOWERS

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Giving flowers is always a lovely gift, but if you are gifted cut flowers, never say thank you—it’s bad luck. Giving white lilac to a sick person is especially unlucky and does not bode well for their recovery. However, if you give yellow flowers, you can shortly expect to receive a gift of some money.

13. GLOVES

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Giving gloves is bad luck, and if you give them to a friend it means you will have a fight. Likewise, giving or accepting a gift with the left hand will result in a loss of friendship.

14. PARSLEY

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Parsley is especially difficult to germinate, and so gardeners would traditionally make three sowings, two for the devil and one for the gardener. It is also said to flourish if you swear profusely while planting it. As a consequence, giving parsley to a friend is inadvisable, as it portends bad luck or death. If a friend really covets your parsley, rather than giving them the plants, it is better to just let them “steal” the herb to prevent any bad luck from being passed on.

15. TURQUOISE

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If you have been struggling over what to get for your mother-in-law, look no further. Give the semi-precious gem turquoise, which is supposed to remove any animosity between giver and receiver.

16. PEACOCK FEATHERS

Peacock feather
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Peacock feathers should never be given as gifts, as it is extremely unlucky to have one inside the house—it invokes the magic of the evil eye. Umbrellas and mirrors are also unlucky gifts as they will cause an estrangement.

17. METAL

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Be careful about what metal that gift is made from. Presents made from pewter or zinc are omens of long life and happiness, whereas a present made of tin foretells mischief.

18. CORAL

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Gifts of coral necklaces for children will protect them from harm. It is said that red coral will turn pale if its owner becomes ill and return to full color as they recover.

19. PURSE

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If you give someone a purse or wallet, it is important to make sure you put at least one coin inside it. This will ensure the purse will never be empty and signifies future wealth.

20. SPREAD THE LOVE

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Gifts should not just be given to friends and family; the luck of the household can be preserved by extending generosity to visitors. To protect a household from the mischief of fairies, it is wise to leave out gifts of food or salt to preserve their good feeling. It is also lucky to give gifts to any visiting carol singers.

Sources: The Little Giant Encyclopedia of Superstitions; A Dictionary of Superstitions; The Encyclopedia of Superstitions; The Cassell Dictionary of Folklore; Encyclopedia of Superstitions, Folklore and Occult Sciences.

Each State’s Favorite Christmas Candy

CandyStore.com
CandyStore.com

Halloween might be the unrivaled champion of candy-related holidays, but that doesn’t mean Christmas hasn’t carved out a large, chocolate Santa-shaped niche for itself in the sweets marketplace. And, of course, we can’t forget about candy canes, peppermint bark, and the red-and-green version of virtually every other kind of candy.

To find out which candies merrymakers are filling their bowls and stomachs with this holiday season, CandyStore.com analyzed survey responses from more than 32,000 consumers across the nation and compiled their top responses into one mouthwatering map.

As it turns out, 13 states—from California all the way to New Jersey—are reaching for mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups over any other holiday candy. Something about that shimmery tinfoil really does make you feel like you’re unwrapping a tiny, tasty gift.

CandyStore.com Top Christmas Candy by State

Source: CandyStore.com

And, if you hoped everyone would kiss candy corn goodbye until next October, we have some bad news: “reindeer” corn, with red, white, and green stripes, is the top choice in a staggering eight states, all of which are in the eastern half of the country. Tied with reindeer corn was peppermint bark, which, given how much white chocolate it contains, is also a pretty polarizing choice.

Candy canes and Hershey’s Kisses clinched third place with a respectable six states apiece, but other Christmas classics didn’t perform nearly as well—chocolate Santas and M&M’s came out on top in only two states each.

After that, there were some rather unconventional competitors, including Starburst, Arkansas’s favorite holiday candy; and Pez, which somehow won the hearts of residents of both Louisiana and New Mexico. 

And, unless you’re time-traveling from the 18th century, you’re probably not surprised that sugarplums didn’t make the map at all—find out what they actually are (hint: not plums!) here. You can also search the full list of state favorite candies below.

Source: CandyStore.com

10 Simple Ways to Waste Less This Holiday Season

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iStock.com/Allkindza

According to Washington University in St. Louis, “Americans throw away 25 percent more trash during the Thanksgiving to New Year’s holiday season than any other time of year. This extra garbage amounts to 25 million tons of trash.” Here are a few everyday ideas for reducing waste.

1. Use reusable bags when shopping.


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Before you hit the mall or begin shopping for your holiday groceries, remember to bring along a reusable bag or three. Plastic bags are petroleum-based products and—let's face it—few of us use them more than once, and many end up in our oceans. Make bringing a bag a habit.

2. Send Christmas cards judiciously.


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According to Washington University, the “2.65 billion Christmas cards sold each year in the U.S. could fill a football field 10 [stories] high.” Of course, your grandmother will be delighted to receive a handwritten note—and so may plenty of your friends—so feel free to mail away! But be honest with yourself: If there’s anybody on your list who is probably going to toss your thoughtful note into the trash five minutes later, just send them a digital greeting.

3. Buy light strands that are wired in parallel.

Red and white lights on a Christmas tree.
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Few things are more annoying than watching the whole strand of Christmas lights go dark just because of one cruddy bulb. According to the EPA, strands that are wired in parallel will still work if a bulb bursts, “so you won’t be throwing away ‘bad’ strands.” And if you’re the type of person who worries constantly about whether you turned the lights off, put your displays on a timer: It saves energy, money, and worry.

4. Skip the Secret Santa if you don’t know the people well.

A wrapped present on a desk with a tag that reads "Secret Santa."
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We don’t want to sound like Scrooges here. A gift exchange with your colleagues or acquaintances can be a delightful way to get to know people better. But let’s be real: If you don’t already know the people well, chances are you’ll give—and receive—something that will be thrown away within days. It’s OK to just say no.

5. Quit guessing (and stop other people from guessing about you).

A blank piece of paper labeled "gift list" surrounded by an iPad and candy.
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Here’s a tip: If you need a second or third opinion on a gift—"Do you think so-and-so would like this?"—don’t buy it. We all love planning a thoughtful surprise, but few things are as wasteful as buying somebody something they don’t want or need. Be forward and ask people what they’d like. And give helpful suggestions when people are shopping for you.

6. Buy experiences instead of things.

The legs and feet of a man and woman taking a dance class.
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Tickets to a concert or game, dance lessons, a reservation at a hotel, and other experiential gifts don’t require wrapping or packing peanuts. Besides, many people insist that they find experiences more meaningful than physical objects (and there are even some scientific studies that back that observation up).

7. Stop wrapping gifts.

A big teddy bear peeking out from behind a wall.
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Hide them instead! If you have small children, one of the most fun (or evil) things you can do is create a scavenger hunt. (This also works on adults who have refused to grow up.) Searching for gifts in mundane-yet-unexpected places like a pillowcase, a cookie tin, or in the pocket of a coat buried deep in the attic closet can be more surprising and fun than unwrapping them.

8. If you choose to wrap, use recyclable wrapping paper.

A woman holding a present wrapped in brown paper.
Kikovic/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Every year, millions of pounds of wrapping paper end up in the trash. “Some wrapping paper is recyclable—but it has to be not metallic, textured, or have glitter or ribbon on it,” Tim Donnelly writes in a great guide at Lifehacker. If you do buy recyclable paper, make sure to use it correctly and remove all the tape before recycling it. In fact, why not just skip the tape entirely and bundle the present the old-fashioned way with some string or ribbons (which you’re reusing, right)?

9. Make your own wrapping paper.

Wrapped presents, including one that's wrapped in newspaper.
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If you’re the creative type, gifts wrapped in old catalogs, newspapers, butcher paper, magazines, and other paper products lying around the house can actually look quite handsome. According to one oft-cited statistic, “If every family in the U.S. reused just 2 feet of holiday ribbon, the 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet."

10. Don’t pop that bubble wrap.

Bubble wrap on a blue background.
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We know. This one is nearly impossible—but resist the urge to pop any bubble wrap you receive. Save whatever packaging you get to be used later. (That includes those pesky packing peanuts!)

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