Thirteen Weird Spanish Superstitions

In planning a Spanish-American wedding in America, I’m having to juggle between two cultures, two languages – and a whole set of weird traditions and superstitions. Upon finally activating my online registry, my soon-to-be mother-in-law was horrified to see cutlery knives.

“Is that not a bad sign in the United States?” she asked, genuinely concerned that I’d be dooming our marriage before we’d even decided on entrees. Who knew that getting knives for a gift spells D-I-V-O-R-C-I-O in Spanish culture?

Moving to a new country often means tiptoeing when it comes to avoiding cultural blunders. Many of Spain’s odd superstitious are deep-rooted in tradition and the Catholic religion, and while some are laughable, as someone who grew up borderline obsessive compulsive, I find myself playing into their Spanish equivalents quite often.

El Gordo

There is a love of the game in Spain, and not just fútbolonline betting games, slot machines in bars and the national lottery system are all thriving in the midst of the financial crisis, and it’s not uncommon to see people lining up for big draws.

Spain’s biggest draw happens just before Christmas, known as El Gordo, or The Big One. People tune into the drawing on December 22nd to hear the children of Colegio San Ildefonso sing out the numbers, and many of the ticket holders religiously ask for the same numbers or only buy from places where other large prizes have been bought.

Apparently ‘lightning doesn’t strike twice’ is a concept lost on the Spaniards.

Witches, La Santa Compaña and La Güestia 

My suegra is from Asturias, a province in the north of Spain with a strong belief in superstitions and the supernatural (hence the horror of practically severing my marital bond before it started!). 


Fernando told us about La Santa Compaña before we left Baamonde’s pilgrim lodge one night. On dark, rainy nights in Galicia, these witches often offer candles to help light the way, converting you into a soul doomed to wander the Galician countryside for all eternity (there are worse things – it’s beautiful!). 

Similarly, La Güestia line up and travel from hamlet to hamlet in the sparsely populated countryside of Asturias, snatching up the souls of the dying.

And then there are the witches, dwarves and forest animals who play evil tricks on people, popular in local lore in the foggy, dream-like parts of northern Spain. In fact, many superstitions come from trying to avoid them!

Saintly Behavior

Per Catholic tradition, saints are revered. When I called a church about a premarital course, the priest asked our professions so that he might pray for us. Each saint is the patron of something – an affliction, an animal, a profession – and saint days are celebrated. 

Let’s just say I usually pray to the Virgin of Loretto when I hop on a RyanAir flight.

Bad Sweep Job

Not only should you avoid bringing a used broom into a new house (oops), but sweeping over someone’s feet will mean that that person will never marry. Good thing I’m the one who sweeps in the house most often!

A Place to Leave Your Hat

Just like in Italy, leaving your hat on top of a bed signifies that something bad will happen. Most often, this is related to losing one’s memory.

Un brindís!

Perhaps my favorite superstition is the belief that people, when toasting, must look one another in the eye. I can’t wait for the creepiness at my wedding when I get to stare down my family and friends!

What Not to Give a Baby

Babies should never be gifted anything in the color yellow, as it’s believed to bring the evil eye. There goes my nursery neutrality plan…


My mother always taught me that the salt and pepper must never be divorced (really, am I just cursing myself for fun now?!), making sure I passed them together to another diner’s hand. In Spain, the salt must never be passed or spilled, as this brings bad luck.

Tuesday the 13th

The film Friday the 13th probably didn’t gain much traction in Spain, as if the thirteenth day of the month falls on a Friday, a Spaniard isn’t bothered by it. Instead, Tuesday the 13th brings the mala suerte, as the word for Tuesday, martes, is related to the God of war.

As for the knives? Apparently taping a penny to the blade wards off divorce lawyers. Still, I’d rather not risk it!

Do you know any Spanish superstitions?

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About Cat Gaa

As a beef-loving Chicago girl living amongst pigs, bullfighters, and a whole lotta canis, Cat Gaa writes about expat life in Seville, Spain. When not cavorting with adorable Spanish grandpas or struggling with Spanish prepositions, she works in higher education at an American university in Madrid and freelances with other publications, like Rough Guides and The Spain Scoop.


  1. These are excellent! The only one I knew was the un brindís and looking people in the eyes. I’m really looking forward to hearing about your cross-cultured wedding and everything that goes along with it. Hopefully, I’ll be making it down to Sevilla soon! It’d be great to meet up since it didn’t work in the states this summer.
    Mike of Mapless Mike recently posted..Fiesta del Pisado de la Uva in San Asensio, La RiojaMy Profile

  2. Looking people in the eye seems to be a European thing in general. Happens in every country we go to and we brought it back to the US with us when we came to visit. It is not a superstition, but a must! :)
    Ryan from Jets Like Taxis recently posted..In Pictures: Cesky Krumlov, Czech RepublicMy Profile

  3. jajaja i love this! you always come with a nice surprise with your blog posts…it is not easy to surprise this Murciano, but you always get it!

    yes Saints are revered, but i tell you that such a tradition is dying out…perhaps deep-rooted Catolicos still celebrate it as it used to be done, but my family is a normal family and my mum doesn`t me felicita anymore, the same with my brothers and sister….we only felicitamos the little ones just because they are little ones and they expect some present by the way!

    i have never heard of the broom, the hat, salt and pepper superstitions… the way Cat the yellow colour is very well known, but i think that it applies to everything, not just to a baby.

    another one has got to do with fishermen and bread when i worked aboard a fishing vessel, i noticed that when having lunch some fishermen suddenly would always put the bread with the side with cracks up if you happened to put such a side against the table (so the bread may move from side to side) later i found out that it has got to do with religion, you know, bread and Jesus….it looks bad and a lack of respect if you don`t put the bread correctly with the flat side on the table according to those deep-rooted fishermen…i don`t know if such a thing happens in other places.

  4. Wow! I’d never heard of any of these! The only one I knew was the stepping in dog poop like Mapless Mike mentioned.
    Kelsey of Route Words recently posted..Madrids Little Secrets: Cookies from the Cloistered NunsMy Profile

  5. Giving baby presents before the baby is born, hence the lack of baby showers and baby registries ;).

  6. Dunno about Spain but in France if you step in dog poop with your left foot it’s supposed to bring you good luck. And that happens pretty often in France, nobody picks up after their dogs.
    amelie88 recently posted..Introducing Cloud the Stallion, the World’s Most Famous Wild HorseMy Profile

  7. I love these! I was aware of most of them (Santa Compaña hehehe) but hadn’t heard of the salt or the hat things. Don’t forget that you WILL catch a cold if you walk around barefoot in your house!!! 😉
    Trevor Huxham recently posted..Thoughts from a Road Trip Across Spain’s Northern CoastMy Profile

    • SCIENCE TREVOR SCIENCE! Now make sure you wear a scarf or you’ll catch the bubonic plague or something.
      hashtag abuelitas hashtag what hashtag cannomore

  8. I haven’t been explained this personally from a Spanish abuela, but a friend of mine was told that if you don’t drink your morning OJ quickly, the vitamins will evaporate. So you have to drink the juice as soon as you pour it.

    UMMMM that’s not possible.

    • This may be the best one yet! Echoes the, don’t put plants in your bedroom, or they’ll steal oxygen from you while you’re sleeping! belief.

  9. they are so interesting! especially the salt passing
    laura recently posted..Blood Swept Lands and Seas of RedMy Profile

  10. Haha, I just loved this blog post! Also glad that I read it as I am going to a baby shower in Spain and now I know not to get anything yellow, perhaps this post just saved me haha!
    Veera Bianca / CreateTrips recently posted..Ten Photos That Make You Want to Visit IsraelMy Profile

  11. These are too funny! I actually didn’t know any of these (minus the lottery, of course!), so I guess now I’m a better informed expat :) My favorite superstition probably has to be “don’t put your hat on a bed”, which I do all the time, and consequently seem to have bad luck quite often. Lesson learned?
    Courtney recently posted..One Year ExpatversaryMy Profile

  12. These are just too funny. I just love Spain. I am sure there are just as many odd things going on in the US along these lines. Walking under a ladder, a black cat crossing your path, raining on a wedding day, etc. Fun. Hope you are doing well.
    Heidi Wagoner recently posted..Grandma Goes River Tubing in Vang Vieng Laos! (with video)My Profile

  13. Hahaha love this! One superstitious thing that my Spanish novio’s family do is make the sign of the cross every time they pass a graveyard, church, tanatorio, or even just a cross on the side of the road. Always makes for a car trip with a lot of hand movement… away from the steering wheel…
    Danika recently posted..How to cook kangaroo in SpainMy Profile

  14. Haha I love this post. I had a South African friend who would freak out if we raised our glasses and did not look each other in the eyes. Yes I agree it can get pretty awkward.
    Sally Munt recently posted..7 things you should know before climbing Batur volcano, Bali for the sunriseMy Profile

  15. I know this is an old blog entry, but it made me think of the one about never leaving your handbag on the floor, because all the money will escape! :)


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