Every country on earth has its own unique customs and traditions, and Spain is no different. From the legendary siesta to the art of shared plates that is a tapas crawl, to visit Spain is to immerse yourself in a culture full of practices known the world over—as well as a few that you wouldn't expect.
Some of the most unique customs and traditions, though, are relative to luck. It's true that Spain has a lot of superstitions that are the same as those in much of the western world, such not breaking a mirror (they're expensive, you know) or not walking under a ladder (you never know what's at the top).
But there are some superstitions that are unique to Spain and other Spanish-speaking cultures that visitors from English-speaking countries may not be familiar with. Let's start with arguably the most important superstitions in Spain: those related to drinking.
Superstitions About Drinking in Spain
Eating and drinking in Spain doesn't just come with its own set of cultural etiquette. There are a few superstitions—especially related to alcohol—that you should keep in mind, lest your Spanish dining companions gasp in shock at the bad luck you may accidentally bring upon yourself.
- When offering a toast, look every person in the group in the eye. Only in the English-speaking world do people stare at their drink when they cheers. In much of Spain, though, you'll want to make eye contact with as many of your drinking companions as possible as you toast. The rigidness with which this rule is enforced in Spain suggests that some believe it is bad luck if you don't meet eyes.
- Never cross arms when toasting. Drinking gets even more complicated when you consider the fact that in Spain, it's considered bad luck to cross arms as you toast with your drinks. Wait your turn to cheers the guy opposite you; don't duck under the other people who are raising their glasses.
- Never toast with a glass of water. If you do you'll be cursed with seven years of bad sex!
- Your last drink in a bar is your "penúltima." Even if you plan on going straight home after you finish that beer, it's still your "penultimate" drink. According to Spanish superstition, your "última"—the last drink—would be the last in your life!
More Superstitions in Spain
Here in Spain, superstitions aren't just relegated to the bar and the dinner table. There are a few more that come into play throughout Spanish daily life.
- Tuesday, not Friday, the 13th is unlucky. In fact, the Spanish even have a saying warning people not to take any big risks on that day: "Martes 13: ni te cases, ni te embarques." Literally: "On Tuesday the 13th, don´t get married, or board [a ship or plane]."
- A lighter shouldn't be shared among more than three people. This probably only means that you shouldn't go passing your lighter around to more than three people in one night. Given how often complete strangers will ask you for a light in Spain, it's unlikely that you're supposed to prevent someone from using your lighter tomorrow if two people today did.
- A salt shaker should not be passed from hand to hand. Instead, it must be placed on the table, for the other person to pick it up themselves. And don't spill the salt, either, of course.
- When pouring liquid from a bottle, the bottom of the bottle should face away from the body and poured towards the body. If the opposite is done, that glass should be thrown in the street—it's bad luck, after all.
- If, while sweeping, the broom hits the feet of a single person, that person will never marry. And regardless of marital status, sweeping over someone's feet will supposedly give them bad luck in general.
- Cats have seven lives, not nine. And don't let a black one cross your path—that superstition lives on in Spain just as it does in the English-speaking world.
- Eat 12 grapes—one with every chime of the clock—at midnight on New Year's Eve. It's said to brink you good luck in the New Year.