Special Report

These Are 25 of the Strangest Food Superstitions

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Never toast with a glass of water
> Origin: Numerous cultures

Toasting with water is thought to bring bad luck, and may even foretell death, in many countries. The superstition may date back to the Ancient Greeks, who believed that the dead drank water from the River Lethe in the Underworld. In addition, an old seafaring tradition holds that toasting with water will lead to death by drowning. Apparently this is believed even in the U.S. Navy.

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Eat 12 grapes on New Year’s Eve
> Origin: Spain

The Spanish tradition of “las doce uvas de la suerte.” or the 12 grapes of luck, means popping one grape into your mouth with every stroke of the clock at midnight on Dec. 31 to insure good fortune in the year to come. The belief dates from the 19th century, but got a boost from a p.r. campaign by grape growers in Spain’s Alicante region in 1909, when a particularly good harvest left them with too many grapes to turn into wine.

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Eat 12 round fruits on New Year’s Eve
> Origin: The Philippines

Perhaps because not as many grapes grow in the Philippines as do in Spain, the Asian nation — ruled by the Spanish between 1565 and 1898 — has amended the tradition to encompass any round fruit. That doesn’t mean consuming a dozen apples or oranges. With small fruits, like grapes, cherries, or loquats, the whole thing may be popped into the mouth, but with larger ones, it’s considered sufficient to just take a bite and pass the fruit along.

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Don’t eat asymmetrical food if you’re pregnant
> Origin: Korea

If you are what you eat, chances are that the baby you’re carrying will be what you eat, too. That’s why consuming asymmetrical food items (a misshapen strawberry, for instance) will result in an ugly infant being born, according to this superstition.

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Apple seeds reveal how many children you’ll have
> Origin: American South

In Kentucky and elsewhere in the South in the 19th century, it was sometimes said that counting the seeds in an apple you’re eating will reveal how many children you’ll have (which generally means at least five but could add up to twice that or more). Apples are associated with a number of superstitious beliefs, often involving fairies or the devil.