Written by: Olivera Tolimir
Before we show you a list of 13 famous Serbian superstitions, let’s check if you are suitable to read it.
In front of house number 13, an old lady sees a black cat crossing her path. Just as the woman turns around, wanting to change direction, she realizes she has just passed under the ladder. At that moment, her phone starts ringing.
She hesitantly reaches for her purse but drops it. Everything falls out, including her mirror. It breaks.
How do you think the old lady’s day ended? Did something unfortunate happen to her? Or did she grumble a few words, pick up the pieces of her broken mirror, and continue with her day?
If you’re sure her day happened to be a disaster, stop reading this text!
Well, you’re too superstitious! We don’t want to freak you out.
But maybe it’s better to know what you’re up against.
Knocking on Wood
If you’ve ever been to Serbia, you’ve probably seen people knocking on a wooden object after sharing the good news with you.
For example, someone would say, “I’m thrilled about my new job!” and knock on wood. People do this when they say something and don’t want it to change.
The process is usually accompanied by the words “Da kucnem u drvo” (I’ll knock on wood).
The custom dates from pagan times when Slavs believed spirits lived in trees. They knocked to wake up the good ones.
Old Slavs highly respected trees and oak was considered a sacred tree.
Don’t Jump Over People
Another one of the Serbian superstitions says you shouldn’t jump over people.
If you do it, a person you jumped over will stop growing!
Practically, it’s all right if you jump over an adult. But this superstition becomes problematic in families with small children.
Kids run and jump all over the place while playing, and parents follow them repeating not to jump over each other, or their siblings will stay small forever.
Saying something when a person sneezes is not exclusively Serbian superstition.
What is specific is that we say, Nazdravlje! This phrase is derived from the word zdravlje, which means health.
A long time ago, there was a belief that a part of a person’s soul goes away when they sneeze. Pretty Voldemorty, isn’t it? Anyway, since something so serious happens during a sneeze, we protect our beloved ones by wishing them good health.
There’s another superstition in Serbia about sneezing. We believe if a person sneezes while talking, they speak the truth. So, if someone accuses you of lying, sneeze a few times!
No Whistling Indoors
Did you know you’re not supposed to whistle indoors in Serbia?
It’s another one of the Serbian superstitions that parents often warn about. They say it’ll attract rats!
But the fear of whistling has deeper roots. Rats represent evil spirits who will bring misfortune to the family.
Don’t Sing at the Table
We have no idea why anyone would sing during dinner, but if you would – don’t.
According to our grandmas, whoever sings at the table will have a crazy husband/wife!
We highly suspect this one is made-up to keep kids quiet during the family meals.
Don’t Sit at the Corner of the Table
There’s one more of the superstitions in Serbia related to having lunch.
Girls planning to get married someday shouldn’t sit at the corner of the table. Sitting at this spot will ruin their chances of finding a husband.
Maybe the best solution is to buy a round table. Just to make sure.
Don’t Pick Up Crumbs with Your Hands
Here’s another table-related superstition in Serbia.
When cleaning the table, you shouldn’t pick up crumbs using your hands. Instead, use a cloth and a plate.
This mistake could cost you your peace. More precisely, you’ll fight with someone if you don’t follow the rules of cleaning a table!
In Serbia superstitions are sometimes in service of manners and practicality. This may be one of those – it looks like fear of fight was the easiest way to teach children how to properly clean tables!
No Poultry for the Holidays
If you’ve ever been to Serbia for the holidays, you know what kinds of food Serbs prefer.
After the meze, there’s soup, sarma, roasted pig or lamb, salads, and various cakes. Rich table, isn’t it?
But there’s one type of meat you’ll never see at our holiday feast. It’s poultry!
In case you live in the USA, we know you’re now thinking about Thanksgiving and how unimaginable it would be not to eat turkey for dinner.
But in Serbia superstitions warn us not to eat poultry for holidays because our happiness will fly away!
Spilling Water for Good Luck
Here’s finally a Serbian superstition connected to good luck.
When someone close to us has an important exam or a job interview, we spill water after them for good luck!
Ironically, this “good” superstition is probably the one that caused most fights between family members. And it’s all for our parents’ lack of coordination.
They get so excited wishing their children good luck that they forget to control a glass (or a bowl) of water. So, it often leads to their child’s wet clothes just before an important event.
Well, what can you do? It’s all out of love!
Don’t Come Back
After pouring water after your family member, it’s crucial not to let them come back at any cost!
It’s bad luck to go back inside after heading to an important meeting. That’s why people often avoid doing it, even when they forget something.
We think it’s important to find balance. Not coming back for your driver’s license will probably cause more problems when a police officer stops you than quickly going into the house to fetch it.
Step on My Foot
When someone accidentally steps on your foot, it’s good to lightly step on their foot back to avoid fighting in the future.
If you break a mirror, you’ll experience seven years of misfortune. It’s an old Roman belief spread all over the world.
But the good news is you can reverse the curse by picking up all the broken mirror pieces and throwing them away. You have seven hours to do this!
A Black Cat
Although worshipped in ancient Egypt, a poor black cat became demonized in the Christian tradition.
This Serbian superstition says a black cat is a disguised witch or a demon. Because of that, it’s considered bad luck if it crosses our path.
To avoid something bad happening to you, you should change your direction.
If you’d like to learn how to explain to Serbian people why you don’t believe in these superstitions, you’ll need help. Book your individual Serbian class and ask our teachers whatever you’d like to know about Serbian superstitions!