Tag Archives: good luck

USC Football Superstitions – kick the lamp post


NC: “Before a football game, when you are walking to the Coliseum, you have to kick the lamp post right before you leave campus or else USC will have bad luck in the game. I have no idea where that comes from, but my friend told me on our way to one of the first football games we went to our freshman year. We saw a bunch of other people doing it too, so we did it. Now, I always do it because I don’t want to curse the team with bad luck. It’s like subconscious, I mean I’m not superstitious about anything else, but I always do it without fail before the game. You only do it before football games too, nothing else.”


NC is a undergraduate student at USC. She is 20 years old, and she is a sophomore. She is from Seattle, Washington, and did not most of USC traditions before coming to the school. She originally learned of this superstition in the fall of her freshman year. She does not know the origins of this tradition. I collected this superstition in person and recorded her to transcribe what she stated.


University of Southern California, as do many old and large universities, has many traditions that are passed on through new students in each incoming class. Often, the origins of these traditions are lost over the years, as is the case with this superstition. USC has a very large culture that is very specific to the people who are a part of the community, especially regarding football. These might be hand gestures, songs, objects, or in this case, superstitions. Even though many people who attend this school are not superstitious people by nature, they still partake in this game day good luck action. Kicking a lamp post for luck is not based in reason, and probably seems silly to people who are not a part of the community, as is common with superstitions. However, the desire to be a part of the community and partake in rituals nudges people to take part in a superstition they might initially think is illogical. As a person begins to feel the belonging associated with partaking in certain ritual experiences, the person is more and more likely to do the act associated with the superstition, until they believe in the truth of the superstition themselves, essentially causing an illusionary truth effect. This superstition clearly shows cultural influence on a person’s personal beliefs.

Rivalry Festival Tradition

text: “So I went to boarding school in Rhode Island, and we have one really big rival school. Before we play that rival in football and every fall sport, which is one big weekend in the fall, the night before we’ll have a big banquet to kick of the Middlesex weekend. In the tradition, our school makes a cake of a zebra, which is the mascot of the other school, and the headmaster will cut the head off the zebra cake at the banquet dinner. This is basically the start of the weekend and chopping off the head of the zebra shows that we will beat them in all of the competitive sports coming. Also, the school’s art department creates a giant paper mache zebra and burns it in the middle of campus. These are like a good-luck tradition and gives our school an annual spirit holiday/festival weekend.” -Informant

context: The boarding schools of the Northeast all have a very competitive rivalry between one another. Therefore when they play each other in sports they have different traditions and rituals in order to give them good luck. The informant stated that the school has done this ritual for decades and it continues through the present. This tradition only happens once a year, when they play the rivalry school in the fall.

analysis: This tradition reminds me of USC’s rivalry with UCLA. When we play them in any sport we say things like “Beat the Bruins” or “kill the bears.” We don’t burn down anything or cut the head off of a fake bear, but we do have someone dress up in a bear costume and we cake them with whipped cream. I think this is a huge tradition between any school and their rivals, and gives them a sense of pride for where they attend.

Card Game Superstition


“As long as I can remember, every time I play a card game of any kind, I always wait until everyone has their cards dealt to them before I touch my cards. Otherwise, I feel as if it’s bad luck to touch the cards, and I won’t win the game. It will curse me for that round of cards. 

“Everyone in my family does this, and if someone does touch their cards beforehand, it’s a taboo thing where everyone looks at you like, ‘What have you just done?’

“We’ve passed it along to some family friends, too. It’s like an introduction to our family, and a way for the people we’re closest to to become almost like extended family. Since we believe this and we care about them, we don’t want them to get the bad luck from it.”


BD is a 20 year-old college student from Sacramento, California currently living in Los Angeles. This superstition is part of a card game that has been passed down from his grandparents. When learning the rules of the game, I was also taught this superstition.

BD said he doesn’t remember learning the superstition. “It’s just always been this way and I’ve always done it.”


BD’s family sharing this superstition with their close friends as a way of making them part of the family reflects how folk belief can function to create group identities. For example, when reflecting on his family teaching the superstition to his girlfriend, BD said “she has become part of the family by knowing our ways.” Thus, the lore creates the folk.

Superstitions about luck are very common in the context of card games, which often depend on a combination of chance and skill to win. Believing that a certain action will give one good or bad luck for a game is a way to feel a degree of control over a larger, less predictable situation.

The belief that touching an object can give one good or bad luck is an example of contagious magic, as the cards are believed to contain the luck. One can avoid bad luck by abstaining from touching the cards until the proper time.

Throwing beads

Text (ritual/folk belief)

“Throwing and collecting beads is a traditional practice and brings good luck.”


My informant has lived in Louisiana for 4 years and participated in the Mardi Gras festival twice where this practice occurs collecting many beads to wear around her neck in participation of the celebration.

Q: “What is the significance of beads at Mardi Gras parades?”

A: “The practice of throwing beads on Mardi Gras stems from 19th-century French customs where the king would throw jewels and gold to the ‘common people’”.

Q: “How do you get beads?”

A: “The people on floats are above you at the parade and you can reach your hands out or jump and wave to insinuate for them to throw beads down, or people also commonly will flash their boobs to get beads. I didn’t do that though haha. There used to be a legend that University of Lafayette students wore beads to stand out during Mardi Gras and the custom spread to now where beads are commonly worn and exchanged at the festival”


Originating in the 19th century, bead throwing is a traditional ritual/practice taking place where those of higher status or class would assert their position originally throwing any small trinkets to spectators of the parade. The evolution to throwing beads began in the 20th century as people of higher status would begin to dress up themselves and their floats in beads colored in line with the Mardi Gras theme as a symbol of creativity and expression. Today these beads are representative of the Mardi Gras season expressing appreciation for and participation in New Orleans cultural practices asserting a shared cultural identity. The traditional custom of wearing brightly colored beads and the ritual of exchanging or throwing said beads act as a way to show participation and involvement in the festivities as well as a symbol of good luck. Frazer explores the concept of homeopathic magic and the idea that like produces like. Many people partake in bead-throwing rituals in hopes of receiving good luck for the coming year partaking in this homeopathic ritual. His work provides a framework for analyzing the role and significance of rituals, symbols, and practices in various cultures. Recently, however, there has been some controversy regarding the environmental friendliness of throwing around thousands of plastic beads. Many people have called for more sustainable alternatives to this practice which is an integral part of Mardi Gras culture. This conversation touches on the adaptation and transformation of folklore over time to be more accommodating to 21st-century ideals and the evolution of folklore practices to fit the modern standards of societal and cultural norms in the United States.

New Year’s Traditions


AG is my friend from back home in Chicago, Illinois. She was born in Joliet, Illinois and then moved to Chicago when she was five years old. Her mother was born and raised in Joliet and is of Mexican descent. Her father immigrated to California when he was twenty five years old from El Salvador. He then moved to Joliet when he was thirty. 


DO (interviewer):  I know that we often talk about certain superstitions or things that our families do during the holidays. Can you talk to me more about which one or ones you consider to be your favorite? Or one, or ones, that you do the most often?

AG: The one we have the most fun with is probably the suitcase one on New Years. It’s so fun dude. 

DO: Can you talk more about it? 

AG: So, the saying goes. Once midnight hits on New Year’s Eve, so technically I guess it’s New Year’s Day at that point. Anyway. Once it hits you run around with an empty suitcase. Just around your block a few times and this will ensure that you travel a lot in the upcoming year. 

DO: What does this tradition mean to you and what’s your stance on it? Do you believe it works?

AG: Well, growing up we were mad poor. You know this. Even after we moved to the city we didn’t have much money, you know? So it was fun to just run around with my parents and just dream and hope. I’ve traveled a few times throughout my life so I’d say that even if it doesn’t work I’d like to think it does. I’ve never not done it because I wanna travel girl! 


The informant and her family have this holiday tradition/ritual every year to bring in lots of traveling. My family also has similar stories of performing this tradition when they were younger, so there are cultural ties to this. However, this empty suitcase travel method is a ritual not tied to a specific cultural community; many cultures have some variation of this lore. Past just performing it because of cultural beliefs, the informant holds a particular superstition about it. She believes that if she doesn’t stick to this tradition, then she will travel less. As she also mentioned, this was a way for her and her family to remain hopeful for future fun during rough times. It is special to the informant for this reason, and she continues to perform it and believes that it helps her travel more.