Giving knives as a gift, should you or shouldn’t you?

A knife is a timeless and useful gift. But there a number of beliefs and superstitions around the world surrounding gifts of a knife. Here we xplore the common ones and a few tips to off-set the bad omens.

A knife is a timeless and useful gift. They can be engraved, intricately tooled and selected to fit the receiver’s exact tastes and needs. There are knives for outdoor enthusiasts, culinary aficionados and survivalists for any number of occasions, ranging from birthdays to weddings and anniversaries.

But there are some people who would object to this, saying that it’s bad luck to give a knife as a gift. Have you ever heard this, and are you superstitious about gifting knives?

First let’s define, “What is a superstition?”

A superstition is a belief or notion, not based on reason or knowledge, in or of the ominous significance of an item, circumstance, occurrence, proceeding, or the like. It is the belief in supernatural causality – that one event causes another without any natural process linking the two events, such as astrology, religion, omens, witchcraft, prophecies, etc., that contradicts natural science.

Common Gifting Superstitions

  • Knife-giving superstitions are prevalent the world over, and many beliefs surround sharp objects. For other European, Asian and South American cultures, the knife would metaphorically “cut” or sever the ties that bind the giver and receiver.
  • This effect is even worse if the recipient is your significant other – some believe the love will soon end after the knife is given as a gift or that a knife as a wedding gift will severe the bonds of marriage.
  • For similar reasons, a pocket knife should be handed to someone only if it’s closed. Otherwise, it’ll cause an argument.
  • If there’s been a death in the family, superstition insists that knives should be carefully handled. This way, family members can avoid stabbing the soul of the dead.
Puuko Knife by Stuart Smith
Puuko Knife by Stuart Smith JS

Let’s face it, no one wants a gift like that!

Of course, you can always assume the Finnish custom that knives, especially the puukko knife, is considered a great honor. The idea is that the presenter is giving the recipient a tool that is essential for both woodworking and preparing food and as a weapon. The knife is always presented with the handle first to signify trust, friendly intention and as a sign of respect.

Why People Include a Coin When They Gift a Knife

One Penny Copper Coin

This superstition actually dates back to the Vikings, who believe that gifting a knife to someone implies that the receiver isn’t able to buy himself a good enough knife to kill the giver so he has to be given the knife for free. Thus, to avoid the intended insult, Vikings would “sell” a knife to a friend extremely cheap – the cost of one copper coin.

That’s why, long before rationality and science started replacing superstition, a tradition began in which those who gift a knife also attach a coin to the blade or include it with the gift. Even a penny will do. The receiver of the knife then gives the penny to the gift-giver, thus “paying” them for the knife and keeping the relationship intact.

Still, if you know the recipient has a superstitious streak – or you just want an opportunity to tell the “coin with a knife” story – then go ahead and include one.

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