Threshold – Superstition

Informant: I also refuse to step on the thresholds of houses, which is an Asian culture thing,, which is weird.

Person: Because it will break your mom’s back.

MG: No, that’s exactly what I was told. It’s a really weird thing because I am not Asian, but I was told that by one of my Asian friends when I was a kid. She was like “oh we can’t step on the threshold” and I was like okay. And then her grandmother, I asked her I was lke “why can’t we step on the threshold, like, grandma lady?” And she was like, “oh because it’s gonna break, like, Mrs. Woo’s back.” And I was like, “Sweet.” And to this day I still don’t do it, and my parents really don’t like it.

DH: They don’t like that you don’t do it?

MG: Well, they just, like, they just, they like—I avoid it to, like, a point where they’re like this is annoying. Like, we’ll all be walking into the house at the same time, and I like have to step over it, and sometimes it takes me longer, I like cause a bit of a jam, and they’re like, why.

Collector: Wait, how do you mean the threshold?

MG: You know when you like open a door, and there’s like, that, slightly higher piece of wood that keeps the door from like just like sliding in and out? That’s a threshold. So you can’t step on it because it’s like “don’t step on the crack, you’ll break your mom’s back.” The same type of thing, but with the threshold of your door.


Informant is a junior at the University of Southern California. She is studying communications here. She is from Boston, Massachusetts. She spent a while in the southern part of Spain, and speaks fluent Spanish. I spoke to her while we were eating lunch at my sorority house one day. We were sitting together with some of my other informants. Much of what she told me was learned from her own experiences.


This is interesting because it combines a proverb type of saying with a practice this informant learned from a Chinese friend of hers. It’s interesting to see how older traditions and superstitions travel around through ages and places to become a common saying that kids use. When I was a child, I knew the saying about breaking your mother’s back, but I was not aware that this applied to any type of threshold. This also almost has a connection to vampire myths and how they need to be invited in before crossing the threshold of a home. She takes longer to get into houses because of this limitation.


For an example of this,

This book has a section on etiquette and it says to never sit in the threshold, similar to the informant not stepping onto it.