Throwing salt over your shoulder three times? Knocking on wood for good luck? Avoiding walking under ladders? Being extra careful not to break mirrors? Common superstitions have been passed down from generation to generation, and I'm certainly guilty of engaging in a handful of these myself!
One of the most common superstitions I heard as a child was, "don't open that umbrella inside the house!" Fast-forward to today, and I find myself relaying that same message to my kids. They have been fascinated by umbrellas lately...opening and closing them inside the house, twirling them around, examining their mechanics, and testing how many people they can fit underneath them. Goodbye endless toys lying around the house, hello umbrellas.
So where does this age old superstition come from? When did it originate? What's the meaning behind it? Let the answers rain down on us...
The origins of a basic umbrella is dated 4,000 years ago, with ancient artifacts showing signs of existence in Egypt, Assyria, Greece, and China. They were originally designed to provide shade from the sun, and later versions were adapted to have collapsable and waterproof mechanics. According to thoughtco.com, the pocket umbrella was invented by Viennese student, Hans Haupt, in 1928. Haupt also created a patent for the first compact foldable umbrella. These innovations led to all of the modern umbrellas we use today.
Now that we know when and how the umbrella originated, let's explore where the age old superstition came from. Inquiring minds want to know!
Some historians believe that the warning against opening umbrellas indoors dates back to Victorian England times. As outlined on livescience.com:
In "Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things" (Harper, 1989), the scientist and author Charles Panati wrote: "In eighteenth-century London, when metal-spoked waterproof umbrellas began to become a common rainy-day sight, their stiff, clumsy spring mechanism made them veritable hazards to open indoors. A rigidly spoked umbrella, opening suddenly in a small room, could seriously injure an adult or a child, or shatter a frangible object. Even a minor accident could provoke unpleasant words or a minor quarrel, themselves strokes of bad luck in a family or among friends. Thus, the superstition arose as a deterrent to opening an umbrella indoors."
Unlike other superstitions that seem rooted in irrational nonsense, this actually makes sense to me. Brings new meaning to, "it's all fun and games until someone loses an eye!"
It might be time to hang up some of those old superstitions that are inexplainable, but I think I'll save this one for now...at least for a rainy day ;)