Gifts That Bring Bad Luck: Don’t Make These Mistakes

There’s nothing more that says “I hate you” than giving a bad luck gift. Not only is it in poor taste, it’s inconsiderate. Imagine what you would feel like receiving a gift with a dubious meaning behind it.

But let’s be fair, maybe you are clueless and you’ve simply come here to be a good gifter. Wonderful! I’m here to help you avoid giving those well-intentioned gifts that can go wrong (believe me, I even gave a wedding gift of knives once, what was I thinking?!?).

By the way, I know what some of you are up to – you’re looking for bad luck gifts for a gag gifts (or the best Santa gift exchange ever). Fair enough. Have a spin through these ideas, I won’t disappoint you (like the incredibly tacky Willow Tree knockoff of a figuring holding a black cat).

In this article, we will explore some of the gifts that bring bad luck and the cultural and superstitious beliefs behind them.

Cultural superstitions and gifts

Gifts are often given to express love, gratitude, and appreciation. However, in some cultures, certain gifts are believed to bring bad luck. Even by certain regions, there could be very specific gifts to avoid. Your best bet is to ask a local resident about any bad luck superstitions connected with gifts that you are not aware of.

Whether a gift for a friend or host family, taking steps to be considerate shows your respect for their culture.

Here are a few cultural superstitions and gifts to avoid:

Chinese gift superstitions

In Chinese culture, the number four is considered unlucky because it sounds similar to the word for “death.” Therefore, gifts that come in sets of four or have the number four in them should be avoided. Additionally, clocks are believed to symbolize death, so they should not be given as gifts either.

Giving a clock as a gift is considered taboo because the word for “clock” in Chinese sounds similar to the word for “death.” Therefore, it is believed that giving a clock as a gift can bring bad luck and even death to the recipient.

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Image of bad luck images: black cat, a sharp scissors, empty purse, clock, and the number 4 (unlucky in the Chinese culture).
Miscellaneous bad luck gifts vary amoung countries.

Italian gift superstitions

In Italy, the “cornuto” gesture, where the index and pinky fingers are extended while the other fingers are curled, is believed to ward off the “evil eye.” Therefore, giving someone a gift with a horned animal or hand gesture can be seen as offensive. Additionally, gifting a purse or wallet without any money in it is believed to bring bad luck.

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Indian gift superstitions

In Indian culture, black is considered an unlucky color because it is associated with death and mourning. Therefore, gifts that are primarily black or have a lot of black in them should be avoided. Additionally, giving a knife or any sharp object as a gift is believed to sever the relationship between the giver and receiver.

The website My Gold Guide lists the rules of wearing gold, particularly in India. Gold is considered a sign of wealth in India, as in most of the world. However, My Gold Guide notes that “It is advisable not to wear gold below the waist as it may attract bad luck.”

That is why Indian-inspired toe and ankle jewelry is so often silver. Sterling silver, white gold, gold toe rings, enamel, brass, Black Hills Gold toe rings are your friend!

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Objects of misfortune

There are certain objects that have been associated with bad luck for centuries. These objects are believed to bring misfortune and should be avoided as gifts. Here are some of the objects of misfortune that you should be aware of:

Clocks and timepieces

Clocks and timepieces are also considered to be objects of misfortune. In some cultures, giving a clock as a gift is believed to bring bad luck, as it symbolizes that time is running out. In Chinese culture, the word for “clock” sounds similar to the word for “death”, which is why it is considered to be a bad omen.

Asian man and Caucasion woman with a look of horror on their faces; in the background Christmas packages with a bright red clock.
Don’t give a clock or a watch as a gift!

Sharp objects

Sharp objects such as scissors and knives are also believed to bring bad luck. Giving a knife as a gift is considered to sever the relationship between the giver and receiver. It is believed that the sharp edge of the knife can cut the ties between the two individuals and lead to bad luck. Scissors are also associated with cutting ties and are believed to bring bad luck if given as a gift.

My husband and I proudly presented a gift of knives to a European friend. She looked at us in concern, and then ran off, returning with a few coins. She said that if she “paid” for the knives, it was no longer a gift. In her mind, she had warded off evil.

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In conclusion, it is important to be aware of the objects of misfortune when giving gifts. While some of these beliefs may seem superstitious, they are deeply ingrained in certain cultures and should be respected. By avoiding these objects, you can ensure that your gift is received with happiness and positivity.

A Caucasion woman slapping palm of head on forehead, background knives laying on wood table, gifts wrapped on the side.
Gifting a watch is surrounded by superstition, the belief is that the gift will bring bad luck to the giftee.

Colors and numbers

You just never know when a color or number is the unlucky color or number, according to some cultures. Hopefully, the giftee will be gracious about the faux pas.

Unlucky colors gift superstitions

Colors play a significant role in determining the luck associated with a gift. Some colors are considered unlucky and can bring bad luck to the recipient. For instance, black is often associated with mourning and death, so it is best to avoid giving gifts that are predominantly black.

Similarly, white is also considered an unlucky color in some cultures as it represents death and mourning. It is best to avoid gifting items that are entirely white or have too much white in them.

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All white wrapped gifts, and one single all black wrapped gifts.
All white gifts or all black gifts are considered to be bad luck – avoid giving them as gifts.

Unlucky numbers gift superstitions

Numbers also play a crucial role in determining the luck associated with a gift. In many cultures, certain numbers are considered unlucky and can bring bad luck to the recipient. For instance, the number four is often considered unlucky in many Asian cultures as it sounds similar to the word for death.

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Unlucky Numbers: Thirteen Tales of Terror, Misfortune and Suspense

Unlucky Number 13 Cat Silhouette T-Shirt

Odd numbers are also considered unlucky in some cultures, so it is best to avoid gifting items that have an odd number of pieces. On the other hand, lucky numbers such as seven and eight are considered auspicious in many cultures and can bring good luck to the recipient.

Shocked African American man, pile of numbers in the background, a present in the foreground.
Double-check any form of numbers given as gifts – they could send the wrong meaning!

Bad luck gifts in relationships

When it comes to relationships, gift-giving can be a tricky business. While the right gift can bring people closer together, the wrong gift can create distance and even bring bad luck. Here are some things to keep in mind when choosing gifts for your loved ones.

Lucky gifts for boyfriends and girlfriends

In romantic relationships, certain gifts can be seen as bad luck. For example, giving someone a watch is considered bad luck in some cultures because it symbolizes the end of time together.

Similarly, giving someone shoes can be seen as bad luck because it suggests that the person will walk out of your life, leading to a separation between the giver and the recipient. This is because shoes are believed to carry the energy of the wearer, and giving them away symbolizes walking away from the relationship. If you really want to stay in your relationship, pay heed to the superstitions surrounding shoes and watches as gifts.

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In some cultures and beliefs, there is a superstition that gifting perfume can bring bad luck. For example, in certain traditions, it is believed that giving perfume as a gift can lead to the severing of relationships or bring negative energy.

It’s more important to realize that perfume is a very individual gift. Unless you know the recipient’s favorite perfume brand, it’s best to avoid perfume gifts.

On the other hand, gifts like roses and chocolates are generally seen as romantic and thoughtful. However, it’s important to keep in mind the recipient’s preferences and allergies before giving these gifts.

Woman of color indicating refusing; many kinds of shoes in the background with speech bubble, "I really like you so no shoes, please!"
If you really like your partner and believe in your future relationship, don’t give the gift of shoes!

Keep friendship gifts lucky

In friendships, gift-giving is often less formal than in romantic relationships. However, certain gifts can still be seen as bad luck. For example, giving someone a knife can suggest that you want to sever the relationship.

Instead, consider giving gifts that show your appreciation for the person, such as a book they’ve been wanting to read or a gift card to their favorite restaurant. These gifts show that you value the person and want to strengthen your friendship.

African American and Caucasion young women exchanging gifts.
Like your friend? Give them a gift that brings good luck instead of bad luck.

In conclusion, when it comes to gift-giving in relationships, it’s important to consider the recipient’s preferences and cultural beliefs. By choosing thoughtful and appropriate gifts, you can strengthen your relationships and avoid bringing bad luck into your life.

Financial and prosperity gifts

Prosperity gifts are items that are given to convey wishes for success, abundance, and financial well-being. These gifts often include items associated with good luck and prosperity, such as lucky bamboo plants, Feng Shui symbols like money frogs or coins, gemstones like citrine or pyrite, and symbolic ornaments representing wealth and abundance. Additionally, personalized gifts with positive affirmations or messages related to prosperity and success can also be considered as prosperity gifts.

Money as a gift

Giving money as a gift is a common practice, but it is also believed to bring bad luck. In some cultures, it is believed that giving money as a gift is a sign of laziness and lack of effort in finding a meaningful gift. In addition, it is believed that giving money as a gift can cause financial problems for both the giver and the receiver.

A open gift of coins pouring out of a box.
If the gift of prosperity is your goal, be careful of the gifts you choose that can prevent it.

Wallets and purses

Wallets and purses are popular gifts, especially for those who are looking for financial prosperity. However, giving a wallet or a purse as a gift can also bring bad luck. It is believed that giving an empty wallet or purse as a gift can cause financial problems for the receiver. On the other hand, giving a wallet or a purse that is already filled with money can bring good luck and prosperity.

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When giving a wallet or a purse as a gift, it is important to consider the color and material. Red is believed to be a lucky color for wallets and purses, as it symbolizes wealth and prosperity. Leather is also a popular material for wallets and purses, as it is believed to attract money and success.

Graphic of what a good luck wallet and purse are, and bad luck for purse.
Give a beautiful red or leather purse… but add some money to it as a gift to avoid bad luck!

What to keep in wallet to attract money

In conclusion, when it comes to financial and prosperity gifts, it is important to be mindful of the cultural beliefs and superstitions surrounding them. While giving money or a wallet/purse as a gift may seem like a good idea, it is important to consider the potential negative consequences.

  • citrine crystal
  • a three-legged toad figurine
  • a lucky charm or symbol such as a horseshoe or a four-leaf clover
  • a specific denomination of money that is considered lucky in a particular culture or tradition.

It’s important to note that the effectiveness of these practices is based on personal belief and may vary widely among individuals.

Closeup of man opening wallet full of money.
Some people and cultures believe that the right objects, charms, and keeping of traditions will attract wealth and prosperity,

Special occasions and bad luck gifts

When it comes to special occasions, such as weddings, new homes, or birthdays, it’s important to choose the right gift. However, some gifts can bring bad luck to the recipient. Here are some examples of bad luck gifts to avoid.

Weddings and new homes

In many cultures, it’s traditional to give gifts to newlyweds or homeowners. However, some gifts are considered bad luck. For example, clocks and knives are believed to bring bad luck because they symbolize the end of a relationship or cutting ties. Similarly, giving a potted plant or bonsai tree can be seen as a bad omen because it suggests that the relationship or home will not grow or flourish.

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On the other hand, there are many good luck gifts that are appropriate for weddings and new homes. For example, giving a red envelope with money is a common Chinese wedding gift that symbolizes good luck and prosperity. Other good luck gifts include horseshoes, four-leaf clovers, and lucky bamboo.

Graphic highlighting that knives and bonsai trees are bad luck gifts for weddings and housewarmings; a red envelope filled with money brings good luck.
Weddings and housewarming gifts: avoid knives and bonsai trees, give a red envelope filled with money for good luck.

Birthdays and celebrations

When it comes to birthdays and other celebrations, it’s important to choose a gift that’s appropriate for the occasion. However, some gifts can bring bad luck to the recipient. For example, giving a gift that’s broken or damaged can be seen as a bad omen because it suggests that the recipient will have bad luck in the coming year.

Similarly, giving a gift that’s associated with death, such as a black cat, a skull, or black flowers can be seen as a bad omen because it suggests that the recipient will have bad luck or even die. Of course, avoid all of the usual bad luck gifts mentioned in this article.

Is it just me, or is this Willow Tree knockoff of a figurine with black cat hilarious? It’s got to be the epitomy of bad taste.

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A birthday girl has her head in her hands, disappointed with receiving the bad luck gift of receiving a black cat.
Use common sense when giving birthday gifts – avoid gifts associated with bad luck superstitions.

In conclusion, when choosing a gift for a special occasion, it’s important to consider the recipient’s tastes and beliefs. Avoid giving gifts that are associated with bad luck or death, and instead choose gifts that are appropriate for the occasion and symbolize good luck and prosperity.

Avoiding bad luck in gift giving

When it comes to gift giving, people often want to choose something that will bring good luck to the recipient. However, there are some gifts that are believed to bring bad luck instead. Here are some tips to help you avoid giving a gift that may be seen as unlucky:

  • Avoid giving clocks or watches as gifts, as they are associated with the passing of time and may be seen as a bad omen.
  • Be careful when giving knives or other sharp objects, as they may symbolize cutting ties or severing relationships.
  • Avoid giving mirrors, as they are believed to symbolizes the reflection of the soul and can lead to negative energy.
  • Be mindful of the colors you choose for your gift wrapping. In some cultures, certain colors are associated with death or mourning, such as black or white.
  • Consider the recipient’s cultural background and beliefs when choosing a gift. For example, some cultures believe that certain animals or symbols bring good luck, while others may view them as bad omens.

In addition to avoiding gifts that may be seen as unlucky, you can also consider adding a little extra something to your gift to bring good luck. For example, you could include a small bag of incense or a lucky charm, such as a horseshoe or a four-leaf clover.

Ultimately, the most important thing is to choose a gift that comes from the heart and is given with good intentions. With a little thought and consideration, you can give a gift that will bring joy and happiness to the recipient, without any worries about bad luck.

Man with shocked look on his face; black cat and black gift in foreground.
Avoid giving bad luck gifts, especially if the gift recipient is superstitious!

Renee Cavvy
Renee Cavvy

Renee brings over 30 years of gift giving experience to holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, workplace and faith events. Every life moment is cause for celebration or those times in life when we need the "the gift of support". Her mission: Let's all be better in appreciating one another, put an end to meaningless gifts that clutter our lives, and give from a place of love and kindness. This midwest mom (and grandma) offers novel and creative ideas to do gift giving better!