The Good Luck Bagel

What are some of the many superstitions people have that involve bread?


Well, I’ll start with a personal experience …

If there was a theme to be put on our wedding troasts, it would be my lifetime of klutzy mishaps, and my mountain-biking husband’s extreme neatness.

“Liz,” my betrothed ask years later, “why is there a rock-hard bagel hanging from a ribbon behind the washing machine?”

Huh. Actually, I had no idea. But, when my Mum came by and found the mystery bagel still set up for CSI on the kitchen counter, we had our answer.


“What’s wrong?”

“How did you find this?”

Turns out that Mum had hung the bagel in our condo as soon as we had returned from our honeymoon. It’s for luck, she explained – a tradition she learned from her own Jamaican/Irish mother. A piece of hidden bread will bring you luck, prosperity, and protect the house from duppies.

That unearthed bagel was now tainted, but I have no doubt that as soon as my husband and I were distracted, Mum found a skinny breadstick and dropped it into a tiny, dark spot safe from vacuums and spray cleaners.


Floris Claesz. van Dicjk. Still Life with Cheese. 1615


Mum was not the only person who used bread for good fortune. This most fundamental food staple has strong connotations across many religions and cultures. An old Danish tradition had mothers guarding the doorway with garlic, salt, steel and bread, to keep away evil spirits until their children could be baptized.

It all starts, of course, with the baking. Never, it’s said, ask someone to help you place an unbaked loaf in the oven. Do that, and the two of you will quickly quarrel. And, if you want a life of happiness, don’t poke into the hot, baking loaf with a fork or a knife.

“Bread and butter. Bread and butter.” Why might you hear someone muttering this as they walk down the sidewalk? It could be that they walked under a ladder or into a sidewalk crack and are looking to scare away misfortune with a good luck bread mantra.

The mumbler might, on the other hand, be bread-and-buttering because they were separated temporarily from the person with whom they were walking. Something or someone got in the way. Like bread that cannot be unbuttered, the mantra is designed to keep close people close despite any physical parting.


Header: Clara Peeters, Still Life with Flowers, a Silver-Gilt Goblet, Almonds, Dried Fruit, Sweetmeats, Bread Sticks, Wine and a Pewter Pitcher, 1611


Green-Eyed Neighbours



Elizabeth Newton

Elizabeth Newton