Superstitions Passed Down By Grandmas

Did your grandma tell you to finish your rice if not your future husband will have loads of pimples? Or to drink more papaya milk for bigger boobs?

If you’ve heard of these sayings, you were probably raised by a superstitious grandmother. Even if you scoffed at her advice, you might have done what she told you to do anyway. Better be safe than sorry, right?

Passing down these superstitions from their elders, here are 16 weirdest advice we’ve received from our pantang Singaporean grandmothers.

*Some names were changed to protect identities

Marriage and Love

1. Don’t eat the last piece of food in a dish, if not you’ll be forever alone or have bad luck

There’s no basis for this piece of advice. The myth probably has more to do with social status and how the Chinese believe lucky things come in pairs.

Finishing the last piece of food is what a poor, hungry person would do. The belief is mimicking such behaviour would ‘transfer’ their unfortunate luck unto you.

Due to the undesirability of the ‘unwanted piece’, a woman who eats the ‘unlucky piece’ is ‘cursed to become a leftover woman’.

2. Eat all your rice or your future spouse will have pimples

This is definitely superstition. Medical science has proven acne is caused by hormones and genetics.

Rice was and is still a staple food for many Asian people. When times were hard and food was difficult to come by, leaving rice uneaten was wasteful, a luxury which couldn’t be afforded.

Now, in times of prosperity, food is abundant but it’s become a habit for many to finish their rice.

3. Peel an apple to see your future spouse in the mirror

The legend goes: if you peel an apple in front of a mirror at midnight, under the light of a candle, you’d see your future spouse in the reflection. But if the apple isn’t peeled perfectly, you’d see how you or your spouse die.

This tale remains a myth. In the Bible, Adam and Eve ate the Forbidden Fruit to realise their nakedness, this awareness is why the apple is symbolically used to reveal the truth—in this case, the truth of how your future spouse looks like.

4. The further you hold your chopsticks, the further you live from your significant other

While it’s true your mannerisms can give away details of your personality, having your ‘chopstick style’ determine your future is as accurate as a fortuneteller’s predictions.

Chopsticks, family and marriage play an important role in Chinese culture. The Chinese probably used this myth to ‘find signs of their children’s potential match’.

Additionally, ‘failure to eat properly with chopsticks’ can reflect badly on your elders, so children were schooled on proper dining etiquette.

5. Choose a man by his height as it will determine his success

There is some truth in this, and it has to do with how we associate height as an evolutionary advantage.

Researchers hypothesize that height is linked to traditional indicators of masculinity and could possibly help you earn more money. Taller men are supposedly smarter, have better social skills and greater confidence than their shorter counterparts.

These factors likely help them achieve leadership positions and jobs with higher earning power. However, it doesn’t mean short men have no chance at success—Mark Zuckerberg is only 1.71m tall.


6. If you eat dark coloured food when pregnant, your kid will have dark skin

“When my mother was pregnant with me, her cravings made her consume large amounts of black coffee and dark soy sauce. Yet, I was born whiter than a chicken’s backside,” Jane*, 25, says

This superstition likely stems from the phrase “you are what you eat”. While it is true you’ll reap the health benefits of consuming nutritious foods, dark coloured foods won’t stain your baby’s skin.

7. Don’t shower when pregnant

While there is some truth in this saying, don’t stock up on wet wipes yet.

It’s fine to take a shower but avoid bathing in too hot water (more than 39 degrees). A sudden change in body temperature can result in a dip in blood pressure.

This can cause the mother to become dizzy and weak and starve the baby of oxygen and nutrients, increasing the chances of miscarriage and birth defects.

8. Girls with big butts have ‘childbearing hips’ and produce more and better children

When a woman has ‘childbearing hips’, it means she has wide hips which supposedly allows the baby to pass through more easily.

While childbearing hips does not make childbirth easier, women with big booties do give birth to healthier children. The Omega-3 acids present in the mother’s body can help give their child a developmental boost.

9. Avoid sotong while pregnant or the umbilical cord will strangle the baby

Eating octopus will not cause the umbilical cord to wrap around your child’s neck.

Babies are constantly moving about in the womb and this can cause the cord to wrap around parts of their bodies. It is common and nothing can be done to prevent this.

However, babies receive oxygen through the umbilical cord and can’t be strangled while still in the amniotic sac. During delivery, the gynaecologist will ensure the baby isn’t ‘strangled’ before delivering the rest of the body.

You should still limit the amount of octopus you consume, as seafood contains mercury.

10. Avoid pineapple as it might cause a miscarriage

The logic behind this superstition is the enzyme bromelain present in a pineapple would ‘break down’ the proteins which make up your newly conceived baby. As a result, the mother would bleed and suffer a miscarriage.

But according to a Senior Dietician from KK Hospital, there is no scientific evidence to back this claim.

In fact, eating a cup of pineapple provides 79 milligrams of the needed 80 to 85 milligrams of the required Vitamin C you need each day. In turn, it aids the formation of your baby’s skin, bones, cartilage and tendons.

Still, don’t go crazy over the pineapple—moderation is key.

Health & Beauty

11. Pull your nose to make it sharper

Your nose is not fully developed until you’re about 16 years old. The idea is through pinching your nose, you can ‘force’ your nose to become ‘sharp’.

Doctors do not recommend pulling at your nose as it would probably cause unwanted, permanent damage to your nasal structure. You’re more likely to get a bruised, swollen nose.

The only way to ‘sharpen’ your nose is through a nose job or fillers.

12. If you crack your knuckles, you’ll get arthritis and swollen ‘man knuckles’

When you crack your knuckles, you’re expanding the space between your bones. Some believe this stretching of your joints would cause them to become loose.

This is not true, as IG Nobel Award winner Donald L. Unger proved when he only cracked the knuckles on his left hand for 60 years.

While knuckle cracking might reduce your grip strength, it won’t cause ‘man knuckles’ because knuckle size is a hereditary trait.

13. Pluck your eyelashes and shave your eyebrows so your hair will grow back thicker

Hair doesn’t grow back thicker when shaved. In fact, you’re likely to end up with the same amount or fewer hairs.

Plucking, shaving or waxing your hair may actually damage the hair follicle and reduce growth because of repeated trauma.

Upon shaving, your hair may feel coarser, look darker and appear thicker. It’s because stubble creates blunt ends, which will eventually taper out to your hair’s regular thickness.

14. Drink papaya milk to grow boobs

Papayas contain papain and vitamin A which supposedly stimulate the secretion of estrogen, increasing the level of female hormones needed for breast growth.

However, there’s no reliable data which proves vitamin A increases bust size and papain is quickly deactivated due to stomach acids.

Your boob size is determined by genetics and the way your body decides to store fat. The only natural way of increasing your cup size is through weight gain as breasts are made of fat.


15. Look into the eyes of the person you’re toasting or you’ll have seven years of bad sex

“I can’t remember how many times I’ve yamseng-ed at a Chinese wedding without looking at anyone, and my sex life is fine,” Ben*, 25, says.

Originating from Spain, France and Germany, toasting is linked to old religious rituals for positive outcomes like health or good luck.

While these religions are no longer as relevant today, it remains a polite cultural norm to maintain eye contact when toasting with European friends.

16. Cutting your nails at night causes bad luck

They say if you cut your nails at night, you won’t be with your parents when they die, or your dead Ah Gong may eat your clippings.

This has no proof and come from folklore and a play on homonyms—words that sound the same but have different meanings.

In Japanese Kanji, the term “night nails,” 夜爪 (yo-tsume) sounds similar to 世を詰める (yo wo tsumeru). 世 means ‘age’ and 詰める means ‘to shorten’. By cutting your nails at night, you’re ‘shortening your life’, and ‘increasing the chances’ of dying before your parents.

On an eerier note, black magic often requires a broken nail piece or some part of a person’s body. When cutting your nails, you’re opening a supernatural gap through your fingertips, which allows the evils of the night to enter your body.

Superstitions Busted

As entertaining as they are, superstitions remain mostly myths. Even if you don’t believe in these sayings, it’s good to know of themand how they came about.

After all, these folklores and traditions are part of our Singaporean culture.

Cover image: source