Tag Archives: shoes



In Hungary, Santa Claus and Christmas are two separate things, and the Hungarian version of Santa Claus is more tied to St. Nicholas (Mikulás) and has a specific holiday dedicated to him on December 6th. On the night of December 5th, all the children are supposed to clean their shoes and then leave one by the door or window before bed. And that night, St. Nicholas is supposed to come and leave little goodies inside the shoe, like chocolates or trinkets. 


The informant participated in this tradition when he was living in Hungary as a child. He explained how this day marks the beginning of the advent calendar in Hungary, and if children behave well for the rest of the month after this day, then they’ll receive lots of presents for Christmas.


The dissociation of Santa Claus with Christmas is a fascinating element of Hungarian folk celebrations. However, I believe there is a reason for this. Again, with Hungary’s greater focus on a more accurate biblical representation of Christmas, it is not surprising that St. Nicholas (or Santa Claus) would be excluded. St. Nicholas was not present on the night Jesus was born, nor did he become a significant figure until several hundred years later, and so his association with the Christmas holiday is not rooted in biblical or historical accuracy, which is important in Hungarian tradition. There is also a certain significance of filling shoes with gifts. Aside from the fact that St. Nicholas was known for putting gold in the stockings of the poor, which I do believe is part of the origin of this tradition (“Who is St. Nicholas?”), the use of shoes as a way of receiving gifts has starkly religious implications. First of all, feet are a recurring symbol of humility in the Bible, exemplified in the story where Jesus washes the feet of his disciples before the Last Supper. Shoes, then, seem to be a stand-in for this symbol of humility, a way of humbling oneself before God and asking for blessings in the form of gifts. This may also be reinforced in the fact that children only leave one shoe, not both, by the window or door. It further instills the values of modesty and humility in children by making them ask for less than the amount that they’re able to take. In addition, there may have been practical economic reasons for using shoes as a way of receiving gifts as well. Hungary is known for having a turbulent economic history following the dissolution of communism in the country, and the use of shoes to receive gifts could be a callback to a time where the majority of the population had to live more modestly. There were no fancy vases or baskets to put gifts in, so children had to use their shoes, which were more accessible household items. Thus, the relationship of this holiday to humility, both in a religious and economic sense, seems striking and certainly worth further inquest. It also marks the beginning of the advent calendar for Hungarians, after which Hungarian children must behave well in order to receive presents on Christmas. St. Nicholas Day thus sets a symbolic precedent for the type of behavior (kindness, humility) that must be displayed for the remainder of the month until Christmas. 

“Who is St. Nicholas?” St. Nicholas Center: Discovering the Truth About Santa Claus, https://www.stnicholascenter.org/who-is-st-nicholas. Accessed 30 Apr. 2023. 

Gifting Shoes is Bad Luck

M is 50, and was raised in the Caloocan area of metro Manila, Philippines, and currently resides in San Gabriel, California.

M says my grandmother told me that “If someone gives you shoes” you are supposed to “give them coins or pennies” in return. This is because it is meant to ward away bad luck that gifting shoes brings. I asked M why gifting shoes is bad luck. M responded that it symbolically means the equivalent of the gifter asking the person they are gifting shoes to to “go away, or walk out of your life.” So the coins are to make sure that they do not “go away”.

Further research led me to believe that this was a general belief/superstition held by Filipinos. This is an illustration of objects having symbolic meaning attached to them. For instance, instead of shoes, which would symbolize a drifting relationship, a better gift to give a Filipino would be a belt, to “tighten” the relationship.

Zapatito blanco, zapatito azul. Dime cauntos anos tienes tu: Children’s folklore/game/counting-out-rhyme

Text: “Zapatito blanco, zapatito azul. Dime cuántos años tienes tú.” “Little white shoe, little blue shoe. Tell me how many years are you.” 

Context: EC’s relationship to this piece stems from her Mexican culture influenced by her childhood specifically within elementary school. Given that she attended a predominantly hispanic elementary school in Whittier California, EC would often hear this children’s folklore/game/counting-out-rhyme within her classmates ranging from kindergarten through third grade as they spoke Spanish. They would typically say the phrase and touch everyone’s shoe according to every syllable of the phrase as they were getting ready to play a game and the goal was to determine who was “it”; similarly to “bubble gum bubble gum in a dish, how many pieces to do wish?”. EC interprets this speech as a fun way to determine who was ‘it” when playing hide-and-seek or tag. She explains that this phrase takes her back to her childhood where playing with friends at recess showcased innocence. She interprets this phrase as a sweet, youthful, random, and nice sounding statement used to get the game started. 

Analysis: The cultural value that I see present within this children’s folklore/game/counting-out-rhyme relates to the customs of childhood within society. Despite the fact that this phrase has cultural value within the Mexican/Hispanic community, it ultimately revolves around the culture of childhood considering that it is a shared experience among many elementary aged children due to the variations in both English and Spanish. Given the fact that even though I am Mexican myself and have never heard this phrase being said at school, I often heard the English bubblegum version. Overall, I see this children’s game as a pure indicator of childhood innocence as it is a silly pre-game ritual used to determine the start of a game whether playing tag or hide-and-seek. I interpret this children’s folklore/game/counting-out-rhyme as a creative standpoint considering it has similar rhyming components and various alomotifs that connect to the English version that I grew up playing.

Gift your partner shoes and they’ll run away from you


C is a 19 year old Filipino-American college student living in Los Angeles, California.

This conversation took place in my room as a group of my friends were hanging out and I inquired about any folklore or proverbs they knew. This superstition was thrown out following another friend and the informant bouncing superstitions off of each other.

C: If you give your partner shoes, you’re also not going to stay together because they’re going to like run away. 


This superstition reminded me that I had actually heard this one prior. I’m not sure where I heard it previously, but it seems to be a common piece of superstitious advice to not gift shoes so as not to drive the other person away. I think it’s very interesting too because shoes are also not a likely gift since you would need to know the shoe size of the person you are gifting to, which is not a common fact to know.



Informant: So my family has this superstition… About not gifting someone shoes or knives. Like you can give them in the sense of like… If you text me and tell me that you want Nike Air Forces for your birthday… I wouldn’t say no. But I would expect you to pay me for that, like just give me a penny, right? Because if not, the belief is that you’re going to walk away from me. And I need you. So the superstition is that if you get someone shoes, they will walk away from you. Like they’ll leave… So they’re going to move, you know, or go away and be far, and you don’t want that, you want to keep them close. And then with the knives, it’s kind of similar in the sense that if I gift you a set of knives––again, if you do not pay me for them at all––then you’re uh, you might cut yourself. Not like intentionally, just accidentally.


Informant: We have some German family that married in, you know? And this came from them, but my grandma who’s Persian really adopted it and so did all her daughters. So it’s all my mom and my aunts… I’ve always thought of it as like… A way to assuage guilt? Like if I give you shoes and then you get a great job opportunity and you like move away, I’m going to kick myself. Like, “ I gave her the shoes that she walked away in.” Same thing, if I give you a nice set of knives or something, right? And you go and cut yourself and you lose a finger, I’m going to feel horrible. But if you bought them, then it’s no skin off my back. 

Interviewer: Have you ever experienced something that supports this belief?

Informant: Yeah, someone in my family gifted my younger cousin some shoes, and she moved like half an hour further away because the mom got a better job opportunity.


The term “superstition” has a pejorative quality. Many people tend to look down upon these folk beliefs, choosing instead to adhere to scientific facts. However the line between truth and untruth is not so clear. It can be difficult to prove that superstitions are untrue, and it is not the case that all science is true (many of our currently accepted scientific beliefs may be disproven down the line as technology advances, etc.). Calling something a superstition does not mean the belief is untrue, it simply means it has not been scientifically accepted. For generations, across cultures, people have believed in lucky pennies. In this German tradition, including a penny (which is associated with good luck) dispels the bad luck of gifting knives or shoes. This belief may not be scientifically proven, but the informant’s family has witnessed the belief in action when the younger cousin moved away after getting shoes. To them, this folk belief has been proven. Thus, superstitions are not always as untrue or unfounded as people may think. Moreover, regardless of whether a folk belief is or is not true, some may find it comforting to adhere to it, rather than run the risk that a loved one will leave or be injured.