USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘jinxes’
Customs
Folk Beliefs
general
Life cycle
Protection

German Birthday Superstition

Context: The informant was speaking about a birthday of a friend and how this belief was something she practices.

 

Piece:

Informant: One of the superstitions that like a lot of, I think it’s just German people, but like maybe in general European people, that you can’t say Happy Birthday to someone before it’s their actual birthday. It just like causes bad luck and is like a bad omen.

Collector: So in terms of this birthday thing, did you learn that from your parents?

Informant: Yeah it was just like I think like as a kid like I would say like “Oh, it’s almost your birthday” and stuff like that and they would be like oh don’t you don’t say it, you just don’t say it you just don’t say happy birthday before someone’s birthday, it almost jinxes it like you’re not gonna make it to the next birthday

Collector: Do you put this into practice?

Informant: I never say happy birthday before it’s their birthday, I usually don’t mention it until it’s their birthday.

 

Background: The informant is a 20 year old USC student of German descent whose parents raised her with German influence. She also travels to Germany often.

Analysis: This superstition deals with luck and life span. The negative connotation of prematurely wishing someone a happy birthday insinuates that because the yearly cycle has not been completed yet, that there is space for the life to be broken or ended overall. It’s interesting because in American culture, just the act of wishing someone a happy birthday is thought of as a kind gesture. But this piece shows that for German culture it is about the timely nature of when it is said. This probably reflects German ideology on being on time and doing things by the book rather then just for completetion.

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine

Birth Plans Jinx the Actual Birth

The informant is my mother, Dayna Rayburn, born in 1960 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She grew up in Tulsa, before going to college at the University of Oklahoma and graduating with a degree in nursing. She has worked at St. Francis Hospital in the newborn nursery for thirty years.

In this piece, my mother talks about how she feels “birth plans”, or when the parents think they know more than the nurse, will jinx the birth of the baby.

Mom: One last nursing thing I thought of.

Me: Okay.

Mom: In the past few years, some expectant parents have done research on the internet and have downloaded these “birth plans” which indicate their preference on labor, mobility, hydration, and nourishment, monitoring, pain relief, augmentation, which is what they want to do to speed up labor…

Me: Like, literally?

Mom: No, like distraction.

Me: Got it.

Mom: The birth plans basically just include things about what they want. Inevitably, things never go as planned. Either the moms require a C-section, the mom and or the baby do not tolerate labor or the baby has to go to the neonatal intensive care nursery, which is where the sick babies go.

Me: That’s where you used to work.

Mom: Yes, but then I left because it was too sad. Is that okay to say?

Me: Yes, yes.

Mom: Okay, but yeah. Nurses believe that the birth plan jinxes the mom and baby because the delivery never goes as planned. It’s kind of like life: you think it’s going one way and then it comes and changes everything. All nurses think the birth plans sets the moms up for feelings of failures. Nobody can plan what will happen for sure with labor and delivery. There’s just too many variables.

My mother, especially in her profession, does not like it when someone talks about nothing have gone wrong, or anticipates that nothing will go wrong. She always wants people to be prepared for anything, which is what you have to do when you’re working as a nurse. These parents coming into the hospital believing their child’s birth will go smoothly obviously irks my mother, as she thinks they have jinxed themselves and, most importantly, their child. I know this also bothers my mom on a different level, as she hates it when her patients think they know better than her. After working as a neo-natal nurse for thirty years, she hates being told by a twenty four year old what is going to happen.

Folk Beliefs
Protection

Knocking on Wood in Nursing

The informant is my grandmother, a Cherokee woman born in 1932. She worked as a nurse for her entire career, though has been retired for some time.

In this piece, my grandmother talks about being “jinxed” in the nursing profession and what she does to combat them.

M: We would always teach the younger girls about knocking on wood.

Me: Why would you knock on wood?

M: A lot of times they would be really happy with how their day was going, and would saying something like “today’s a really good day”, and us older nurses would hate that.

Me: Why?

M: Because we felt as if they were jinxing us. So we would make them go “knock on wood” to prevent the jinx.

My grandmother has never seemed like a superstitious woman, but perhaps in her profession, where there is a lot of luck involved, superstition comes naturally. A lot that happens in nursing is unexpected and not avoidable, so having superstitions is a way to make them feel as if they are somewhat in control of the situation.

[geolocation]