How to Stay Lucky in Germany

Woman's hand holding four leaf clover
The four leaf clove is a sign of fortune. Alexandra Pavlova-Moment@gettyimages.de

Germans have a reputation for being rational, efficient, accurate and punctual. With this type of mentality, it's difficult to imagine that there are also plenty of superstitions in the country. But just underneath the surface, your German friends are more than happy to turn to the supernatural for help.

 

German Words for Good and Bad Luck

One of the most important things people in Germany want to manifest is  Glück (good luck).

A bit of Glück can have many different benefits and always fits into your personal situation. It helps when you need money, love, appreciation or career success. A person who succeeds in life and seems to attract good fortune at every corner is known as a Glückspilz (luck mushroom).

Of course it's even more important to make sure you protect German friends and family from Pech - that's the opposite of Glück and translates to "bad luck". When something bad happens, you often hear the phrase "*Pech gehabt!*" to mean "never mind, it could happen to anyone".

 

How to Be Fortunate

With superstitions come rituals, and you'll rarely find a finer set of lucky rituals than the selection that is available in Germany. Here are useful ways to make sure you stay lucky in Germany:

Surround Yourself with Pigs

Did you spot the quirky pig gift idea in about.com's German gift guide? Pigs have been a symbol of fortune and wealth in Germany for thousands of years.

The Germanic tribes considered them a symbol of fertility and strength, and to this day pig-shaped cards, keyrings and even confectionery are popular gift items. On New Year's Eve, people give each other , little edible piglets made of marzipan.

Knock on Wood and say toi toi toi

Ever heard of the evil eye?

This popular superstition may have originated in Egyptian or oriental cultures, but in Germany it persists just as much, known as böser Blick. When hit by the evil eye, affected victims could avoid the worst by knocking on wood three times while spitting.

As spitting is not considered socially appropriate these days, the tradition evolved to pronouncing the sounds toi toi toi. Knocking on wood ("auf Holz klopfen") is an ancient and popular ritual meant to ward off bad fortune like sickness, financial loss or other forms of Pech. You can do it in the office when making a deal, or do it for your friends who are about to set off on new adventures like relocation or starting a business.

Seek out Chimney Sweeps

The common belief that "chimney sweeps are luck magnets" could have come straight from a brilliant marketer. In Germany, nothing makes your day like seeing the Schornsteinfeger or Schornsteinfegerin. In fact, they're even popular guests at weddings, and everyone wants to give them hugs and kisses.

The image of the lucky chimney sweep isn't based on any particular ritual, but most likely reflects the fact that keeping your home and chimney in good order has always served as a great way to protect oneself from fire and devastation.

Carry around Rabbit Feet (Yes really!)

The next lucky symbol is a little bit beyond me, but used as a magical pendant and talisman by many Germans. Rabbit paws are not just a German superstition. In the 1960s and 1970s, they could be seen dangling from the belts of American celebrities and rock stars. Hasenpfoten (rabbit paws) are used as cheat codes in video games like Minecraft. The tradition goes back to natural religions and paganism - the same origins as the Easter bunny!

Never Say Happy Birthday Before The Birthday

Herzlichen Glückwunsch zum Geburtstag! is an important phrase to say to anyone on their birthday. But even if you have been rehearsing this one for days and you're ready to bust it out, hold your horses until the time is right. Germans fear nothing more than when good wishes for an occasion are made early, and no one in Germany is likely to celebrate their birthday before the date has actually arrived.

Remember: No cards, no good wishes, no presents before the birthday arrives. If someone announces a party on the eve of their birthday, expect to be hanging around until midnight (countdowns are not uncommon). This custom is known as reinfeiern, celebrating into the birthday, so your lucky wishes will not incur any bad luck even if you started the party early.

Find out more about how Germans celebrate birthdays here on about.com.