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Thirteen French Superstitions

Everyone has their superstitions. Some are popular across the world, while others seem to have developed uniquely in a particular country.

You don't want to upset the French on your travels to France .. or bring bad luck on your French friends and colleagues, so here are thirteen Gallic superstitions to be aware of.

Ironing: It would be great if all ironing was considered bad luck so we could save hours of time and get on with life. Sadly, that is not the case as this superstition is quite specific. French wives should never iron their husband's underpants whilst wearing a belt – it will lead to him suffering kidney pain. Really .. who is ironing their husband's underpants??!!

Bread: You know how seriously the French take their bread! To avoid bad luck, never place a baguette or a loaf of bread on a table upside down. If you do, this indicates you are inviting famine into the household. According to folklore this superstition stems from the days of executioners, when these particular workers were allowed to use one hand only to grab things in shops without paying. So, bakers would leave a loaf of bread upside down for them.

It's A Girl!: If you have lots of sons and are desperate for a girl then it's perhaps a good idea to head down to the local aviary and try to get a glimpse of an owl. According to a French superstition, if a woman sees an owl during her pregnancy, she is guaranteed to have a girl.

Dinner Parties: The French love getting together for good food and wine, but if you are hosting a dinner party, make sure you manage guest numbers carefully. Having 13 people around the table rumoured to bring bad luck. This superstition is believed to have come from the Last Supper, where one of the 13 diners, Judas Iscariot, was a traitor.

Lighting Cigarettes: Lighting three cigarettes with the same match is not a good idea, purely for your health, so the last thing you want is to encourage bad luck as well. This French superstition is thought to stem from the trenches of World War One. Lighting one cigarette with a match alerts a sniper, lighting a second lets the sniper know how far away the target is, meaning the third person who has their ciggie lit is easily shot, or so the tale goes. You've been warned.

Cats: There are many superstitions about cats in France. If you believe in luck and wouldn't mind some good fortune, never cross a French stream holding a cat. And if a black cat crosses your path at night then prepare for some bad fortune coming your way as black cats were believed to be incarnations of the Devil. Perhaps the most peculiar and worrying French superstition with cats, which only affects folk in Normandy, is if you see a tortoiseshell cat, this foretells your death in an accident.

Left is Best: I can't see how stepping in dog doo-doo can ever be a good thing, but many French believe that stepping in dog poo with your left foot brings you a slice of good luck. However if it's the right, you're doomed. I wouldn't be too excited about either alternative, but if I'm going to have stinky shoes I'd rather they be accompanied by good fortune.

New House: With all this bad luck around, how do we get some good fortune into our lives. If you are moving into a new French house, to ensure good luck, bringing the table in first.

Polka Dots: To fill the coming year with good blessings, women should wear a polka dot dress on New Years day.

Knives: If you value your friendship with a French buddy, never offer them a knife as a gift. This gesture means you want to cut your relationship with them. If you're desperate to present your ami (or amie) with a famous Laguiole blade or a Swiss Army knife, you must counteract this by first accepting a coin from them as "payment" and then you can continue to be friends.

Berets: French sailors have proved to be a feisty bunch over the years, but if you do get near one and are in need of a change of fortune, then try and get your hands on his beret and give the little bobble at the top a gentle rub. It might be advisable to warn him first though.

Candles: Candles are involved in a few superstitions in France. Firstly, if you light a prayer candle in a church always do it from a match or a lighter and never from another candle. If you do, then your wishes and good will will be transferred to whoever the first candle was lit for. Secondly, when it comes to smoking, never light a cigarette from a candle, because the old wives tale says this will result in the death of a sailor, or he will at least lose his job.

Horse shoe: Hanging a horse shoe over your doorway can bring you luck in France, as long as you know how. In some countries it has to be in a U shape in order to keep the luck inside, but in France, to bring you luck it must be turned the other way, so that the luck pours down over you. Bonne chance!