It is a common belief among Greek-Americans that passing a knife or other sharp object will lead to a physical altercation between the person passing and person being passed to. Instead of passing the knife or other sharp object, an observer of the superstition will place it on a table and allow the other person to pick it up.
The informant believes this superstition speaks to the passionate and temperamental nature of Greek-Americans. According to him, “Greek people are always fighting.” But while he observes the tradition, he doesn’t believe it does anything to prevent conflict, as, according to him, Greek people will fight regardless of whether or not a knife was passed between hands.
My informant is a Greek-American student at the University of Southern California. He grew up in a entirely Greek-American family in Long Island, NY. The informant and his whole family have observed this superstition for as long as he can remember. It is always observed at meals and in kitchens, where one most often finds knives. My informant often lovingly mocks Greek-Americans’ tendencies. I think it speaks to his love for the uniqueness of individual cultures, which, as a filmmaker, he is especially attuned to.
This superstition has an interesting self-knowledge verging on self-deprecation to it. It warns that a kind action (sharing an object) between people can easily turn into a cruel one (fighting) and that it’s best to avoid the kind action altogether. In this way, it is not just an arbitrary fear but also a painfully true proverb that speaks to all of our fickle and temperamental natures, not just Greek-Americans’.