Tag Archives: Travel Superstition

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. 

Get on the plane with your right foot: travel superstition

AW sits with her daughter preparing for the second night of her Passover Seder, the room is bustling with activity as people get food prepared for AW’s many relatives. AW’s Daughter chimes in every so often to ask questions


M: You have a very particular travel superstition is that true?

AW: Yes, I have more than one, but yes

M: could you elaborate

AW: Ever since I got on the plane since I was a little girl my mother would remind us to start every new venture, not just the airplane…the first day of school, when I walked down the aisle…

[AW gets absorbed back into seat planning for the seder]

MW: Ohhh that’s why you tell me to do it on test days

AW: Exactly, every time you start something new you do it with your right foot, it’s good luck.

AW: The first time anyone in the history of our family did it, my grandmother got onto the ship that took her to America, she did it with her right foot and my mother reminded me, so I remind you.

Meaning to the informant: AW: First of all it reminds me of my recently departed mother, and it’s kind of a talisman, like a rabbit’s foot. It can be a bit of a ritual. I’ve done it as long as I can remember.

Analysis: The association between the right foot and luck is well documented and speaks to a general insecurity regarding new ventures. As one crosses a threshold into a new space, as AW did when she walked down the aisle, or any time she boards an aircraft. This step ensures that transition happens smoothly. Other examples of this can be throughout the archive as seen [here] and reflect an overarching anxiety about the unknown. In addition to providing luck the action adds a familiar element to an unfamiliar circumstance, a location with which the actor can situate themselves to provide comfort when encountering something new. For another example of travel superstition surrounding the right foot see Southbound (Paniker 174) a journal of Indian Literature

Paniker, Ayyappa, and Chitra Panikkar. “SOUTHBOUND.” Indian Literature, vol. 39, no. 4 (174), 1996, pp. 127–156. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/23336198.