Three to a Match

Do not have three people light a cigarette with the same match: My informant said he heard this expression originally from a family member who was a former smoker. According to this belief having a third person lighting a cigarette from the same lighter is considered bad luck. This belief stems from WWI when soldiers would light cigarettes with matches at night. When the first solider lit the match an enemy sniper could notice the group. While the second one lit his cigarette the sniper would prepare himself and aim down the sight. The third man would be the unfortunate man shot by the prepared sniper because having the third man light his cigarette gave the sniper enough time to take a shot. This belief persisted long after WWI ended and my informant said his relative continued following the rule until the relative quit.

Don’t have three people light a cigarette with one match

This story seems like it could have some truth to it, but it also seems to have been build up over the years as well. Maybe it could have led unnecessary death, but once the war was over there would be no reason to continue. However, it did showing that meaning beyond practicality was eventually assigned to the ritual. There are also factors that make the original story seem a little unlikely. For instance the first two cigarettes would still be lit and the third soldier would just have to use a different match according to the custom. This could still lead to an enemy sniper waiting for a new match, but no mention of that is made in the custom, just that 3 to a match is bad luck. Either those problems were not addressed or they weren’t deemed important enough to be part of the ritual.