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Published: Friday, 12/11/2009

To the Nines: 9 ways to wish

We wish you a merry Christmas and a happy New Year. (Not to mention Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.) But what's the best way to wish? Traditions and folklore have developed around the world concerning the subject, so you have plenty of options. Here are just a few. Consider this The Blade's holiday gift to you. Best wishes! — Ryan E. Smith

1. Tossing coins in a fountain.

The closest you'll get to being able to buy wishes. The practice developed from ancient sailors who threw coins into the sea to appease the gods there as they sought a safe voyage.

2. Wishing well.

Again, sometimes you need to give something to get something. Long, long ago, Greeks dropped coins into wells in the hopes of keeping them from running dry.

3. Wishbones.

You can be sure the bird didn't wish for this. Hens and roosters once were considered oracles of the future. After killing them and “reading” their entrails, a person could remove the collarbone and make a wish. Two observers could follow suit by pulling one end of the bone, with the wish granted to the one who came away with the longer end.

4. Dandelions.

Don't think of these plants as just weeds. If in a single breath you can blow off the entire white, fluffy top of one that has gone to seed, a wish will be granted, according to Irish tradition. Maybe they seem so magical because dandelions have been used as folk remedies for centuries.

5. Blowing out birthday candles.

Thank Artemis, the Greek goddess of the moon, marriage, and childbirth, for this tradition. For her birthday, worshippers baked moon-shaped cakes and placed candles on altars. Extinguishing them with one breath was a way to gain her favor.

6. Stars.

The proof is in Pinocchio (1940), which features perhaps the most famous Disney song of all: “When you wish upon a star.” And don't forget about the character Geppetto, who recites the rhyme, “Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight. I wish I may, I wish I might, have the wish I make tonight.”

7. Shooting stars.

Technically these streaks of light are made by meteoroids entering in the Earth's atmosphere, so they get a separate listing. Jack Santino, professor of folklore at Bowling Green State University, says people often consider occurrences like these that are anomalies or unusual as special, magical moments — perfect for wishing.

8. Eyelashes.

If one accidentally falls out, it's wishing time. Put it on the back of your hand, close your eyes, and blow. If the eyelash floats away, the story goes that your wish will come true.

9. Ladybugs.

These creatures are considered good luck. If you get one on the back of your hand, say some version of the rhyme, “Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home. Your kitchen's on fire and your children will burn.” Make a wish, blow on the bug, and if it flies away you get your wish — and the bug proves it's a concerned parent.

SOURCES: Wish: Wishing Traditions Around the World by Roseanne Thong; Superstitions by Peter Lorie; Luck: The Essential Guide by Deborah Aaronson and Kevin Kwan, and The Wishing Handbook: More Than 500 Ways to Make Your Wishes Come True by Gloria T. Delamar.



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