“Superstition is to religion what astrology is to astronomy.”
“A superstition is worth a hope.”
Traditions are formed by a set of customs handed down from generation to generation, most often based on religious festivals that have become commercial (such as Christmas markets). As bearers of identity, they form the basis of a common narrative and serve as temporal markers throughout the year. For example, Christmas, its tree, its log and its gifts, Epiphany with its pancakes, Easter and its eggs, etc. Unfortunately, most of us have forgotten the true story behind these traditions.
Why eggs at Easter, at the time of spring? Eggs are a symbol of fertility for the reborn earth, but more prosaically, in the Middle Ages, before Easter was Lent, during which the Church asked people to be lean and not eat eggs. But chickens laid a lot of eggs. The peasants, who lived very poorly, kept their eggs carefully. And on Easter Day, the end of Lent, they could finally eat them.
As you can see, food plays an important role in all these traditions. In addition to the traditions that affect everyone, the ritualization of family events (birth, marriage, death) is important, even if today, when the concept of family is broken up, it is more difficult to maintain.
As for customs, which are very numerous and often linked to a particular region or territory, they are a set of rules to which a social group conforms. Often transmitted orally from generation to generation, they help to structure and link individuals together. Hence, the saying “Once is not custom” shows the importance of repetition. Old customs have disappeared but some of them are coming back in the form of festivals such as Carnival. New customs are emerging, such as the pre-wedding and the bachelor and bachelorette parties.
Superstitions are the object of a common narrative in which everyone believes.
It is a belief based on fear or ignorance, often arising from the uncertainty of the times. Believing in omens, in certain signs, is a way of calming oneself, thinking that one can master and control unfavorable events. For example: touching wood is a way of warding off bad luck.
Superstitions are linked to popular beliefs. They are universal and have been found since the dawn of time in all cultures and on all continents.
We can distinguish 2 forms of superstitions.
The first relates to those passed down from generation to generation, such as: passing under a ladder, the sight of a black cat crossing the road, the number 13 (in the USA, the 13th floor does not exist in lifts). These are signs of bad omens, whereas finding a four-leaf clover or stepping with the left foot on a dog’s poo are good omens. Crossing a spider has a different meaning at different times of the day:
Morning spider => sorrow
Spider at noon => worries
Evening spider => hope
Saying the word rabbit on a boat is likely to bring bad luck. At the time, boats were made of wood and it was thought that rabbits could gnaw through it and open waterways.
Superstitions vary from country to country, but they are present and plenty all over the world.
All these stories help us not to forget our roots and to promote the Bulgarian way of life and thinking. They allow us to anchor ourselves in a territory, to give meaning to customs or festivals which we do not know why they exist but which give rhythm to the seasons.
– Ask the pupils to collect stories of superstitions but also customs and festivals linked to the year.
– Ask the pupils to create a story around a holiday, a tradition… to explain why it exists and why it is celebrated this way.
– Tell the story of your encounter with the spider in the garden, the spider in the house.
– Tell how you went egg-picking in the forest for Easter.
– How your next Christmas will look like?