Today we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in the U.S.
Some people wear green (to avoid getting pinched by a leprechaun) and some search for four-leaf clovers (believed to bring the finder good luck). When we want to wish someone good luck in English, we say things like “break a leg!” or “fingers crossed”—before a show we might even tell the performer to “knock ‘em dead.” For good luck, people might carry a rabbit foot with them. If a ladybug lands on you, it’s considered good luck. Horseshoes, lucky dice, seeing a rainbow in the sky…the list goes on.
How do we express “good luck” in other languages? What are some “lucky charms” in other cultures around the world? To help us understand, our multilingual team members weigh in.
In Arabic, we might say بالتوفيق (“with luck”), حظ سعيد – “good luck,” or وجهك خير علي – “your face is good luck for me.” If someone is considered bad luck, we might refer to them as “وجه البوم” – face of the owl, or “وجه نحس علي” – the face of bad luck for me.
A popular Chinese New Year greeting for the year of the tiger is 虎運連年 – which means “as lucky as the Tiger year after year.”
Here are some Japanese tokens of good luck:
- Omamori（御守り）are Japanese amulets commonly sold at Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples, dedicated to particular Shinto *kami (god) as well as Buddhist figures, and are said to provide various forms of luck or protection, e.g. health, study, traffic, business, etc. It is customary to buy one (or multiple) during the first three days of a new year to safeguard your upcoming new year.
- Omikuji（御神籤、おみくじ) are random fortunes written on strips of paper at Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples. The omikuji predicts the person’s chances of their hopes coming true, of finding a good match, or generally matters of health, fortune, life, etc. It is customery to buy/draw one during the first three days of a new year to “set the tone” for that year. You can either tie the strip on a designated tree branch or rope set up by the shrines or temples, or take it home with you.
- In Japanese culture, a hatsuyume（初夢） is the first dream one has in the new year. Traditionally, the contents of such a dream would foretell the luck of the dreamer in the ensuing year. It is considered to be particularly good luck to dream of Mount Fuji, a hawk, and an eggplant (all in one dream!).
In Korean, we say 행운을 빌어요! which means “good luck!”
Here are a few Spanish words and phrases:
To wish someone luck, one can say “¡Buena suerte!” (good luck!), “¡Éxitos!” (successes!), or “¡Te deseo lo mejor!” (I wish you all the best!)
For describing someone that is very lucky, one can say “¡Qué suertudo/a!” (what a lucky person!), “¡Qué afortunado/a!” (how fortunate!), “¡Tiene el santo de cara!” (the person has a saint in front of him/her!), or “¡Nació con estrella!” (He/she was born under a lucky star!).
In Tagalog, one can say “sana’y ika’y pagpalain” which means “good luck” in a respectful way (literally “I hope you are blessed”). In a game or competition scenario, one could casually say “sana’y swertehin ka” to wish someone good luck.
Also, a common Filipino lucky charm is called “agimat” or “anti-aging amulet.” More traditional and/or superstitious Filipinos might use these charms as they are believed to help one find luck in love, protect one from evil, and provide abundance, safety, and more.
In Turkish, one could say “bol şans” to mean “good luck.”
In terms of lucky charms, the most common are the evil eye bead, Fatima’s hand, horse shoe, and pomegranate:
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