Cutting Nails on Sunday

Informant: Sheila Hurley (married name is now Weiss), 79, is my grandmother who was born and raised in Wales by Irish parents. She grew up extremely Catholic: going to church every Sunday and schools directed by the Nuns of her local parish. She was influenced by the Irish heritage and customs of her parents and relatives that lived in her small town. She lived in Wales until she was 18 years old and then moved to New York to pursue a career in modeling. She now lives in Santa Monica, California where she raised her two daughters and helped raise her 3 grandchildren.

Sheila told me, “It is extremely rude and a sin to cut your nails on Sunday. If you do cut your nails on Sunday, you will experience bad luck for your actions.”

This custom was taught to my grandmother by her family and was common knowledge amongst the small town she lived in. The origin of this custom came from the Catholic custom that Sunday is the Sabbath day (the day Jesus rose from the dead). On the Sabbath day, one is not supposed to work. Cutting one’s nails is considered work, and it is also a dirty thing to do. Performing personal hygiene is something unsanitary and looked at as dirty work.

This custom actually makes sense when you understand the context of the religious view. If doing work on Sunday is forbidden, than doing something as gross as cutting your nails should be forbidden as well. Saying that “bad luck” will come is just a way to say that this is not something that you are supposed to do.