Tag Archives: good luck charm

New Years Penny


The informant’s family and friends trade pennies with every other person at their New Year’s Party and wish them good luck for the New Year. 


The informant is from Texas and his family now lives in California every year after the New Year starts they trade pennies with one another.


To me, there are a few things at play with this tradition. The choice of the penny is meant to represent money. Similar to how Professor Thompson mentioned champagne is drank to show wealth and wish for wealth for the new year, and pennies are used to wish the other person financial fortune in the year to come. In addition, this is done to force everyone at the party to wish the other good luck which stops them from carrying any feelings of ill will toward the other into the New Year. 

Legend: Chinese Jade Dragon

My informant for this one was my mom. I asked her if she had any interesting stories on folk narratives and she brought up the legend of the Chinese Jade Dragon. She talked about how in Chinese culture, dragons represent strength and good luck, and jade represents wisdom, courage, and beauty. Together, a jade dragon is a symbol of good fortune. She mentioned how many shops would have a jade dragon placed inside to attract good business and prosperity. She said that she had gotten one for our home for my health because I had asthma and a bad dust allergy as a kid, and the pollution in China gave me really bad allergic reactions, causing my face to swell up, and I would have trouble breathing probably.

For as long as I can remember, my family has always had the same jade dragon in our living room as our good luck charm and protector of the house. It’s a family tradition to rub the dragon’s head or back for good luck. After we moved from China to Canada, my mom made sure to have our jade dragon shipped over to our new home. I practically grew up with that dragon, it’s been with me for most of my life and it has been very loved and well taken care of by my family. In a sense, the dragon has fulfilled its duties because after we moved to Canada, I no longer had asthma, and my dust allergy became much more manageable. Moving out of China was the best thing that could have ever happened to me and I’m really fortunate to have been given that chance.

Wearing the same shirt to all tests in nursing school


When AH was in nursing school, she would always wear a specific Brett Eldredge shirt to tests. She believed that it brought her good luck.


I met the informant, AH, through friends when we saw Kelsea Ballerini together. She likes many other country artists as well, including Brett Eldredge. He is her favorite singer and he feels like a good luck charm to her. Plus, wearing his merch gives her a sense of comfort as she walks into stressful situations like nursing school tests. AH started doing this on her own early in her nursing school years.


I related to what AH said, as I have done the same with Taylor Swift shirts during big tests for school. The superstitious belief that certain things we wear, especially if we associate them with people we love, can bring us good luck is very common. Realistically, there is no direct link between what we wear and how well we do on our tests – there might be a correlation, but that doesn’t always equal causation. But, we like to think there is one in order to relieve our anxiety. It makes us feel like we have control over the results in more ways than we actually do. Of course, this is done after hours of studying, but when you value academic performance as much as AH and I do, you’re under the mindset that every little thing helps. Neither of us are very religious, but this ritual does reflect our belief in luck and superstition, to an extent. Our decisions about what to do, especially on important days like test days, aren’t always rooted in logic that can be proven.

Coins on the Ground


O is a Pre-med biology major at USC, currently a freshman. O is a Vietnamese American who grew up in Vancouver, Washington — a short drive from Portland, Oregon. 


Me: Do you have anything you collect or do for good luck?

O: Yeah, actually I collect coins. Not just pennies, but like all kinds of coins.

Me: Really? How do you find them?

O: It’s really ridiculous, I just pick them up from the ground and keep them in my pocket, because I think they will bring me good luck.

Me: From the ground?

O: Yeah, they would be lying on the ground while I’m walking and I’ll pick them up, put them in my pockets.

Me: Do you keep the pennies forever?

O: No. I take them out and put them back on the ground once I think I don’t need the luck anymore. Like, the luck can go to someone else. 


O demonstrates some form of sympathetic magic. He connects receiving luck to picking up coins from the ground, both how lucky he is to find the coin and the luck the coin itself gives him. The luck O has that initially gives him the coin is somehow transferred into the coin, where there is some exchange between him and the coin that gives him luck with the penny as a conduit, collecting and releasing luck for anyone to pick up. The idea of quantifying luck or magic seems like contagious/contact magic, where magic or superstition can transfer from one person to the next with the penny is added as a middle man. Keeping the coin is somehow magic that ensures the luck will be sustained in him while giving it away is also magic, ensuring that luck will be passed on to the next person. If luck was the contagion of magic, the coin would be patient zero.

Chants for Good Luck


H is a spring admin freshman at USC, studying Music Industry. H grew up in Taiwan, but moved when she was 8 to San Jose. 


H: “Whenever I encounter something bad, I basically chant like something from Buddhism. It goes like ‘大慈大悲, 救苦救难, 管旭音菩萨’ (Pinying: da ci da bei, jiu ku jiu nan, guan yin pu sa; Translation: great mercy and great compassion, save the suffering, guan xu yin bodhisattva). It’s basically what I chant so they can give me power, something like that. I think it’s just telling them I’m in trouble, it’s not asking them to come to me, but I feel like they’re going to do something about it and that’s why I do it.”


H’s chant is something along the lines of a conversion, a superstitious charm that negates or balances out an event. In H’s case, the chant is religious, referring to a god in Buddhism, but meant to offset something bad in her life using her god’s power. Her chanting is ritualistic, in the sense that H will do it on the principle or possibility that her god may be listening, while not knowing if anything will change. Just the act of chanting, the practice of a charm that’s believed to give good fortune, makes her believe that good will come, which is a faith nearly more powerful than the tangible confirmation that there really is a god up there, in my opinion. H creates a sense of order for herself in the midst of a crisis or hardship through this learned chant, and always repeating it to herself, she maintains faith that her chant comes true. Essentially, her ritual chant is believed to bring good luck for her, therefore it does bring good luck.