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Germans have several ways of bringing good fortune, from breaking things to chimney sweeps. Here's what you can do in Germany to bring yourself as much luck as possible.

A lot of superstitions about bad luck in Germany are well-known across the world. From lighting a cigarette with a candle to gifting knives, there are a whole load of possible missteps which might end up cursing you and your friends to years or even decades of bad luck.

But no fear- there are plenty of ways to ensure that you get lucky too. Here’s your eight-step guide to getting lucky according to German tradition.

Pigs

One popular German phrase is ‘Schwein haben’ (literally ‘to have a pig’), which means that you got lucky. Similarly, ‘Schwein gehabt’ (literally ‘got pig’) is used as an expression of good fortune along the lines of saying ‘lucky you!’ or ‘lucky me!’.

It is common to gift friends and family with a marzipan Glückschwein (good luck pig) to mark New Year.

Piggy banks (Sparschweine) are also given to youngsters to encourage them to save (because who doesn’t want a pig full of cash?).

Pigs are considered lucky because of their connection with fertility, successful harvest and thus prosperity. Piglets in particular are seen as portending good fortune. It is thought that this custom might have arisen in the Middle Ages, when to own pigs was a signal of wealth and status.

Smashing things

Smashing anything breakable, such as glass, china or ceramic is thought to bring good luck in Germany. Loud crashes and bangs from breaking household objects drive evil spirits out of the house, and are thought to bestow a few years of good fortune to the person who broke them.

The German saying ‘Scherben bringen Glück’, meaning ‘shards bring luck’, was coined for this situation. Around wedding days, breaking porcelain plates is often a part of the celebration. According to custom, the more shards created by the process, the better luck the couple will have in married life.

This tradition is called Polterabend, and while it used to take place until midnight on the night before the wedding, nowadays it more frequently happens either on the wedding day itself or around a week before.

So even if you might not be inclined to lather someone with well-wishes after they’ve just broken your favourite plate, remember to give a shout of ‘Scherben bringen Glück!’ to help them cash in on their years of good luck.

Salt

Salt (das Salz) is thought to have the power to bring good luck in Germany. Because of this, it’s seen as lucky to give salt and bread as a housewarming gift, and is thought to mean that the person moving in will never go hungry in their new home.

It is believed that the superstition arose from a time when salt was a valuable commodity and a symbol of wealth and success. Only the richest and most prosperous could afford it.

However, don’t think about combining superstitions and spilling your salt. Unfortunately, this will bring you seven years of bad luck.

In addition, make sure you don’t bring a knife with you to slice the housewarming bread. Giving a knife as a housewarming gift is seen as wishing death on the person you are gifting the present.

Black cats – but only if they’re moving in the right direction

This gorgeous lad is called Arne and he’s at the association Tierschutz Hildesheim und Umgebung e.V, Lower Saxony, if you’d like to check if he’s still available. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Julian Stratenschulte

Although in some countries black cats unequivocally bring bad luck, in Germany the relationship is more complicated. A black cat moving from left to right will bring bad luck, whereas a black cat moving from right to left will bestow good luck on the person whose path it crosses.

The German saying relating to this superstition is ‘schwarze Katze von rechts nach links, Glück bringt’s’, which means ‘a black cat from right to left brings good luck.’

Chimney sweeps

Seeing a chimney sweep (der Schornsteinfeger) is meant to bring good luck in Germany – particularly on New Year’s Day or on your wedding day. This is thought in part to be because traditionally chimney sweeps would collect the fee for their services on the first day of each new year, meaning they were often among the first to wish families a happy new year.

There’s a lovely story behind the main photo on this story, and the one above. It’s a group of chimney sweeps from Saxony-Anhalt who hiked up the Brocken mountain on the 30th anniversary of German reunification in October 2020. The group of 16 meet once a year and want to bring luck to everyone.

It is thought to be even luckier if you turn one of the silver buttons on their uniforms, get ash on your face from a chimney sweep or if you see a chimney sweep in the presence of a pig!

Alongside the marzipan pigs often gifted on New Year, you can also often find little chimney sweeps modelled out of marzipan.

Befriending a chimney sweep can be seen as having good luck on demand, as inviting a chimney sweep to almost any social event will, according to tradition, ensure that it runs perfectly smoothly.

Knocking on the pub table

Having a pint in a German pub might seem like a more raucous occasion to you than you’re used to, particularly if you notice your friends knocking their fists against the table as you walk in. However, this tradition isn’t just about greeting your pals and preparing for a fun-filled evening: it’s actually a way of communicating to them that you’re not the devil in disguise.

Traditionally, pub or tavern tables were made out of oak because it was seen as a holy tree that the devil was unable to touch. By knocking on the wood (Holz klopfen), the people sitting around the table are able to prove that they haven’t been possessed by the spirit of evil.

But be sure to make eye contact as you’re clinking glasses in the pub and saying ‘Prost’ (cheers), or according to German superstition you’ll be cursed with seven years of bad sex.

Putting a coin in a new wallet

Gifts are a tricky business according to German superstition, and it’s easy to accidentally slip up and buy something that could leave the recipient silently cursing you for condemning them to years of bad luck.

A wallet is always a versatile gift for a good friend, but one thing to remember is that if you’re buying someone a new wallet for their birthday or Christmas, you should remember to slip a penny or another coin in it for good luck. This should mean that the person you are gifting it to will never be poor.

Hanging up a horseshoe

Before the dawn of technology like social media and text messaging, lovers would send love letters which were delivered by horse and carriage. Waiting for word from their significant others, they would listen out for the telltale sound of horses trotting up to their houses. Finding a horseshoe (das Hufeisen) was actually seen as more lucky and desirable than receiving the letter itself.