Nail Cutting Superstitions Around the World: From Curses to Cures

No nail cutting at night!  And not on Tuesdays!

My husband grew up in India with these rules, under threat of evil coming to him and his family, and never really questioned them until I pressed (much like many of our ingrained traditions… think: birthday candles! a post that’s been in draft form for months).

Years ago, Googling this topic didn’t summon much info, but this time I’ve come across a wealth of various superstitions the world over, ranging from strict rules around days and timings, to using clippings to cure illnesses (or cast a curse).

There’s even a rhyme (from Ireland, I think?) to help know which day would be best for your particular desires:

“Cut them on Monday, you cut them for health;
cut them on Tuesday, you cut them for wealth;
cut them on Wednesday, you cut them for news;
cut them on Thursday, a new pair of shoes;

cut them on Friday, you cut them for sorrow;
cut them on Saturday, see your true love tomorrow;
cut them on Sunday, the devil will be with you all the week.”

To be sure, take this all with a grain of salt because it’s not as if I’m doing a thorough check on my sources!  Still… I like gathering the various rules – even if anecdotal – in order to help me make my own decisions about following suit.  And dare I say we do the same with ALL of our firmly held beliefs.  And somewhat regularly!  But I’ll get off my soapbox.

Back to the reason that sent me on my research: I found a very detailed explanation of the Hindu rules for in/auspicious days for cutting nails (and hair!) here, as well as Indian rules about time of day here.  That said, another post elsewhere had conflicting recommendations for Saturday & Sunday. Apparently the only days you want to cut your hair and nails are Wednesdays or Friday, which will bring you prosperity and success.  Any other day and you risk angering the god associated with that day, inviting ill health, shortened lives of you and your children, and even sudden death!

I also came across examples from several places in the world (Japan, Korea, Philippines, Islamic tradition… )all of which promised some kind of harm or bad luck to those who dared break the rule.

But why?  Reasons varied, but most center around what you might expect: that the rule (or superstition, to some) grew out of practicality: back when there was no electricity, and no nail cutters (only knives), cutting nails in the dark would be dangerous!  An injury would be harder to treat properly in the dark, and there were Urgent Cares, of course.  In addition, under darkness, clippings could end up in unsanitary places, or end up in the hands of evil-doers who needed nail clippings to cast a spell on you.

In our multi-ethnic family, we remain divided.  Though I DID hold fast on the tradition of tying nala daaram on my newborns to keep them safe (as do many people, as it’s by far the most viewed page on this site, and has been since its appearance 5 years ago), I have not converted to stringent nail (much less hair) cutting rules.  My husband meanwhile, is steadfast in his adherence, though he doesn’t really say too much when it comes to grooming of the kids.

Reading more about the traditions has been interesting, but I’m still not changing my nailcutting ways.  When it came to tying nala daaram, however, it just seemed like something I didn’t want to mess with (ie the health and safety of my newborns), and so I kept it up to the best of our ability.

I was curious if friends had grown up with these traditions, and whether they still adhered.  Some responses below:

“It was interesting to read this article. My mom didn’t tell me not to clip the nails night time because of these reasons. (Maybe she did but I didn’t care or she wasn’t serious) I heard when there was no electricity and dark at night, it was not safe to clip the nail, which is theory one.  There are lots of Japanese superstition but I think some are logical. I will think about more”
                                                                                                                 ~ M., grew up in Japan

“Not cutting nails at night sounds familiar, but it’s nothing that I do.  I just texted my mom about it and she said yeah but it’s just a superstition. I asked her what happens if you do it and she said, ‘I’m not sure but I think people will follow you ha ha [laughing emoji] I mean dead people.  [She also went on to confirm some of the other superstitions in the link, particularly the fan death which is taken so seriously that fans in Korea have a timed shutoff.]'”
                                                                                                                     ~ A., grew up in VT with a Mom who grew up in Korea

-Did you grow up with this belief?  Do you still adhere to it? Would love to hear from you…