Without even noticing it, chances are you've followed some bizarre vintage traditions without even knowing their meanings. Some traditions pop up around the holidays, like kissing under the mistletoe. Some of them happen every day, like making a wish on an eyelash. But no matter how well-known the tradition, few people really know the true meaning behind these unusual, and sometimes superstitious, little customs.
We asked our Facebook fans to chime in on the strange traditions they partake in and came up with some of our own, too. Let us know if we missed any, in comments below!
1. Throwing rice at weddings.
Yes, there's nothing like being pelted with tiny little shards of uncooked grains as you try to make a swift exit at your wedding. It's doubtful that most people know that the rice actually symbolizes something. (No, it's not just to make for a pretty candid wedding photo.) The act is meant to literally shower the new couple with an abundance of fertility and good fortune. In fact, the same thing is done in many cultures around the world, like in France where wedding guests will often throw wheat, or in Italy, where guests will toss candies and treats at the couple. Sweet. Might we suggest rose petals, instead?
2. Relying on a furry, hibernating creature to predict the weather.
Sounds crazy, right? It's not. We're talking about Punxsutawney Phil. Yep, February 2nd is a momentous day for winter-loathers, who sit praying that the curmudgeonly groundhog will not see his shadow and bring their misery to an end.
The origins of Groundhog Day reportedly date back to centuries ago, in European tradition. It reportedly stems from the old tradition of Candlemas Day, as noted in this old English poem.
If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Come, Winter, have another flight;
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Go Winter, and come not again.
Is there really any truth to it? We highly doubt it. Besides, we don't think even Phil could have predicted this past winter. But since he saw his shadow, we're hoping he hated the polar vortex as much as we did.
3. Eating black-eyed peas and cornbread on New Year's Day
We'd gladly have these delicious foods any day of the year, but in the South, it's the norm to enjoy these foods on New Year's Day. Some suggest the tradition dates back to the Civil War. The delicacies are symbolic of prosperity to kick off a new year -- the peas are said to represent coins while cornbread symbolizes gold. This means it's totally a good idea to go for seconds.
4. Blowing out candles on a birthday cake -- and don't dare tell anyone what you wished for.
You'd think we'd stop believing in this one as soon as we realized the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus weren't real. Yet, even into our 20s, 30s, 40s, and beyond, we can't help but make a wish on our birthday cakes (with eyes closed, of course) in hopes that this year the cake-fairy or whatnot will hear us out.
According to Huffington Post article from last year, celebrating birthdays is a tradition that dates back all the way to ancient Egypt. We can thank many civilizations, including the ancient Greeks and Romans for things like candles and cakes. But the ritual of blowing out the candles on your cake and making a wish can be traced back to Germany. In the late 18th century, kids would receive birthday cakes with enough candles for each year of their life plus one extra to symbolize hope for the coming year.
5. Tossing a few coins into a pond/fountain any time you pass one.
From Chicago's Buckingham Fountain to Rome's Trevi Fountain, it's nearly impossible to peer into a public fountain or pond without seeing shiny coins lying at the bottom. Even if it's not a superstition, when you have time to kill at the shopping mall, or park, it's almost habit to look for spare change so you can make a wish, make your pockets lighter, or just to hear the plink of the coin hitting the water.
We hope you're not still under the false impression that those particular wishes are more likely to come true (then you might as well get yourself a bigger birthday cake), or that quarters will get you more luck then a measly penny.
If you've kicked yourself for offloading precious coins, don't be. The tradition has apparently been around since ancient times. It is thought that people believed they could invoke the spirits or gods of the water, who would in return grant their wishes, just by throwing money into water.