We use it every day and it’s hard to imagine where we’d be without it, but money can be used for much more than just currency. Check out our roundup of some of the weirder money traditions and superstitions from around the world.
1) Find a penny
Can you walk past a penny on the floor and not pick it up? Even if we’re in the middle of a crowded street, many of us will stop to pick up a coin. Now, if it’s a £2 coin, that’s entirely understandable, but why do so many of us risk being trampled on or tripping someone up just to pick up a penny?
Well it’s all because of an old rhyme – although no one is sure where it came from – that goes “find a penny, pick it up, and all day long you’ll have good luck”. Some people even take the superstition a step further, by only stooping to pick up the coin if it’s head-side up; believing that if the tail side is on display it’s bad luck.
2) Throw your money away
Another way for money to buy you a little bit of luck – aside from you spending it on lottery tickets, of course – is to throw it into a fountain or well. And the roots of this tradition may be even older than you think.
For centuries among cultures all over the world, water has been regarded as sacred because it keeps us alive. Because of this, wells and springs were historically seen as tremendously valuable. In fact, they were regarded as so sacred some cultures believed there were actually spirits living in them. These spirits would grant wishes or give blessings, and people would throw in a coin to thank them.
Today, we’re more likely to throw coins into a fountain than a wishing well – which are few and far between. In fact, it’s estimated that thousands of euros are chucked in the Trevi Fountain in Rome EVERY DAY by visitors to the city.
3) Fill your pockets
A wallet or purse makes for a lovely present – but be sure to put a coin or two in it if you want it to be a lucky gift too. This is a custom in many cultures, but particularly in Greece where there’s a firm belief that “money attracts money”. As long as you have just a couple of coins in your pockets you’ll never be penniless and you stand to make more – but it’s incredibly unlucky to have an empty wallet or bank account. Pretty good advice!
4) Wanna bet?
What’s the quickest way to settle an argument? If you said by flipping a coin you’re probably in good company, as for many of us it’s the only way to truly end a debate.
Even though there’s absolutely no way to determine or influence which side the coin will land on, and even though the result is completely random, we’ll still feel lucky if it lands on the side we called – and as though the world is against us if it doesn’t! However, the practice was originally a game rather than a way of ending rows. We bet you had no idea you could have so much fun with the contents of your purse!
5)The magic touch
So, a coin can be lucky; it can help grant wishes; and settle debates – but did you know it can have magical healing properties too? That’s certainly what people believed in Medieval times, when special coins were thought to cure illness.
There were some diseases that only a king or queen were powerful enough to cure – or so people thought at the time. So, patients would line up to be touched by their monarch in the hope of their ills being healed. This custom evolved, and by the 16th century, those in need would wear a coin or medal around their neck which the royal would touch. This coin, known as a ‘touch-piece’, would take on the ability to heal.
6) The hobbling bride
If you’re a bride-to-be eagerly planning her big day, it’s fairly likely you’ve already thought about what your something old, new, borrowed and blue will be, but do you have a silver sixpence? You see, the custom of wearing something you’ve borrowed and something that’s new to walk down the aisle comes from an old rhyme that also says the bride should have a “silver sixpence in her shoe”.
This tradition stems from the custom of the father-of-the-bride giving her a shiny coin to wish her wealth and happiness on her big day. However, the fact that walking around all day with a bit of metal in your shoe isn’t very comfortable is probably why it’s not a tradition that’s lasted.
7) Money on the dance floor
Silver coins also form a big part of the big day for brides and grooms in Lithuania. The Royal Mint notes that here guests bring shiny silver coins with them to scatter on the dance floor ahead of the first dance – making taking that first turn as husband and wife a little tricky.
One of the coins is marked with the couple’s initials and all the cash is gathered up once the dance is over and placed in a jar. Each guest is then invited to pull a coin out and the person who gets the one marked with the initials can choose to have a special dance with their choice of the bride or groom.
8) Stir it up
There are so many traditions associated with Christmas it’s hard to keep up, but the custom of including a silver sixpence in your Christmas pudding mix is one of the best known. Traditionally, the person who found a coin in their serving got to keep it, and the coin was seen as a sign that they’d be prosperous in the year ahead.
Another coin tradition at this time of year is the practice of handing out chocolate ones to kids at Hanukkah. Known as ‘gelt’, the sweets are used in games of dreidel – if they last that long before being eaten that is!
9) A fresh start
In many parts of the world it’s customary to serve a special homemade loaf on New Year’s Day. The bread contains a coin – sometimes wrapped in foil – and the person who gets the slice with the money inside will be lucky for the rest of the year. That’s if they don’t choke on it first!
10) With you at the end
Money is a vital part of our lives – and it was once a vital part of our deaths too. As far back as the fifth century BC there are references of a coin being placed in the mouth of a person who has just died – but why?
Well, it’s all about ensuring your soul makes it to the afterlife safely. For centuries, coins or other valuables were placed on the person of the deceased to be used as payment for the ferryman transporting them to the underworld. It was also regarded as payment to keep their souls in the afterlife and prevent them from returning!