What My Grandma’s Weird New Year’s Superstition Taught Me About Luck


“Here,” my grandma said, thrusting the bowl of prunes toward me. “If you eat two prunes on Christmas Eve, you’ll have good luck in the new year.”

At the time, her superstitious logic seemed utterly ridiculous even to my tender 11-year-old mind – and I still have no idea where this tradition came from (perhaps an odd twist on the plum pudding tradition?) – but if you knew my grandma, you would know that when it came to food, flowers, and superstitious luck, she was the expert. There was no point arguing with her about whatever outdated custom she was promoting, or potentially insulting her choice of dishes for the Christmas Eve meal, so I swallowed a couple of the gnarled fruits.

Even though I was certain that her illogical tradition was wholly without merit, I couldn’t help fantasizing about the good fortune that would greet me in 1989. Maybe the cute boy that sat behind me in science class would call. Maybe I’d win the state swimming championship that spring. Maybe I’d have a sudden “growth spurt” and catch up to the other girls in my class. Maybe the acne would clear up and my frizzy curls would loosen into flowing wavy locks. Maybe I wouldn’t be picked last in gym class any more. Maybe good fortune really did await me…

After a few minutes of daydreaming around my grandparents’ tiny kitchen table during Christmas Eve dinner, I completely forgot about my grandma’s promise of good luck. Christmas came and went with the usual fanfare and flurry of excitement – gifts and torn wrapping paper, parties and food, excitement and surprises.

Our family ushered in 1989 with sparkling grape juice, confetti, and party hats, and the year got off to a completely uneventful start.

Until the second day of the year, that is, when my grandma’s superstitious promise came to fruition — though not in the way that I would have hoped. That afternoon, as I raced home from a neighbor’s house, I clumsily  slipped on the ice, breaking my arm in two places.

Sitting on the hospital table, as the doctor wrapped my arm in a cumbersome and oh-so-unattractive cast, I cursed my grandma and her silly holiday superstition. Damn her nasty prunes and their promises of good luck. If this was what was in store for me this year, 1989 was sure to be the worst to date in my melodramatic adolescent life.

When I called her a few days later to chide her cursed prunes and empty promises, she confidently and faithfully assured me that her superstition had proven truthful. The prunes did, in fact, bring the promised good luck, she proclaimed.

“Just think,” she said. “If you hadn’t eaten the prunes, you probably would have broken your arm and your leg.”

Over the years, the prunes-broken-arm incident mostly was just a funny story. But through the years I’ve realized that it might have taught me something valuable. I can’t say that I believe that the prunes prevented a broken leg, but with my grandma’s simplistic optimism and stubborn faith, she taught me that life is sometimes a matter of wild luck, and happiness and good fortune can be found in the least likely places.

Happy New Year!

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