USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘utensils’
Folk Beliefs
Signs

The utensils that know the future

The informant, C, is an 18 raised in South Central Los Angeles, California. His parents are both Mexican and he considers himself Mexican as well. He is studying Astronautical Engineering.

 

C-“So in my family we have this superstition that if you drop your utensils by accident you will receive different guests. If a spoon is dropped then a child is going to come, if a fork is dropped then a friend is going to come, and if a knife is dropped a stranger is going to come”

When did you first hear this?

C-“When I was little my aunts and grandma and my mom would say ‘oh a friend, or whatever person, is going to visit’ every time that I dropped a utensil.

Have you heard or seen this in other places?

C-“I have heard variations in other families and even with the other side of my family. Sometimes it’s that a woman is going to visit if you drop a fork and a man if you drop a knife”

Do you believe in it/think it’s true?

C- “I’m not sure. Sometimes it does like come true and then the person comes and visit but other times they don’t or is the wrong person. So I guess it depends if the right person shows up”

Analysis- The superstition could be a way to cover-up what may be an embarrassing and socially looked-down thing. Adding the consequence of the different visits creates a nicer response to this rather than public humiliation. The different visits could be different according to what the utensils resemble and remind the people of.

Folk Beliefs
general

Superstition – Chinese/Korean

Don’t stick utensils vertically into your food.

Jaywon learned this superstition from her parents while growing up.  As she went to school with other Asian children, she also learned that it is known across the Asian culture to never stick the utensil directly into the food.  Her mother said that this superstition started with never sticking chopsticks into the rice, but after she came to America, the superstition was converted.  The chopsticks became any utensil used and the rice became any food eaten.  Jaywon says that sticking chopsticks directly into the rice is inviting death to the table.  In some funerals, the chopsticks in the rice symbolize an offering and is put on the alter of the shrine.

The Chinese culture has many superstitions about death and luck.  In this belief, avoiding putting the utensils in the food is also a sign of good manners at the table.  By improving one’s etiquette and shunning death from the table, this proverb shows much popularity in the culture.  Although the ceremonial sticking chopsticks in rice during funerals is not very common now, the action is now considered rude.  Anybody who does it is looked down on and taught not to do otherwise.  The Chinese are very traditional in their manners and are very respectful of one another.  Respecting their ancestors is also very important to them; the tradition to stick the chopsticks in the rice on the ancestral shrine is an old sacred ceremony that should not be imitated at the table.  The Chinese revolve much of their culture around food, so it is expected that there are many superstitions about avoiding death at the dinner table.  Because of this, the action of sticking any utensil into one’s food is both bad luck and bad manners, a combination that any Chinese would want to stay away from.

Annotation: This superstition was found in Deborah Steinborn’s “Cross-Cultural Training Gains,” in the Wall Street Journal (Eastern edition). New York, N.Y.: Apr 4, 2007. Retreived from Proquest database.

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