My husband, Ed, has the luck of the Irish. He can find a parking place right by the front door of stores (even in Los Angeles where there are no parking places), whereas I feel lucky if I find a parking place in the a mile away. He win raffles, is chosen first for teams and has every other example of good luck known to man. Even if he has problems, like running out of gas, it is nullified because he runs out of gas in front of the gas station.
He attributes this good luck to his “Irish” heritage, per his last name of “Dayley,” yet he is equally parts German, English, Danish, Swedish—and mostly American! He attributes my lack of luck to my Danish heritage as “everyone” knows the only luck the Danish have is bad luck!
Do the Irish Have Better Luck Than Other Nationalities?
However, the phrase “luck of the Irish” is an ironic phrase. The Irish have been and are a spectacularly unlucky race. Even in America, they were looked down on as low-class immigrants. But the notion that Irish are inherently luckier than others can be traced to the 1850s in the United States where, during the exploration for gold in the West, there were a high number of Irish people who got lucky, and found their “pot o’ gold” in the gold fields of California, or were equally prosperous in silver mining.[i]
What Is Luck?
Luck is difficult to explain. The dictionary defines it as “a belief in good or bad fortune in life caused by accident or chance, and attributed by some to reasons of faith or superstition, which happens beyond a person’s control.”[ii]
The Romans embodied luck as a goddess, “Fortuna” while people in America believe in common symbols of luck such as rabbit’s feet, four-leaf clover, horse shoes, wishbones, and “lucky” seven. In other countries, good-luck symbols are pigs, fish, fish scales, acorns, tortoises. I can remember as a child looking through lilac flowers to find one that had three flowers (or was it four? Whatever it was, it was different from the ordinary number). If I found one, I’d put it in my shoe and make a wish. Perhaps good luck symbols became lucky because they were commonly uncommon items like four-leaf clovers instead of ordinary three-leaf ones.
Luck as a self-fulfilling prophecy
Can a feeling that you are lucky become a self-fulfilling prophecy? Although few believe in superstition, and many discourage dependence on a “lucky shirt” for a ball player, or blind faith in lucky objects, is there any benefit in believing in luck?
Some psychologists feel belief in good luck, although it is a false idea, may produce positive thinking, much like a placebo provides benefits although there are no inherently beneficial ingredients in them. Studies have also shown that “People who believe in good luck are more optimistic, more satisfied with their lives, and have better moods”[iii]
Can Anyone Be Happy?
So, should you decide you are lucky, and then live like you are? Why not? If it makes you happier and brings you better luck, it seems a no brainer to not to. Another article said, “If ‘good’ and ‘bad’ events occur at random to everyone, believers in good luck will experience a net gain in their fortunes, and vice versa for believers in bad luck. This is clearly likely to be self-reinforcing.[iv]”
So from this day forward, I, too, have the luck of the Irish because I am married to an Irishman. Or maybe I am lucky because if I could choose to be an Irishman, I would be. Maybe people born in March are lucky; or maybe the Danish are luckier than the Irish. Or maybe I was just born lucky, no matter what nationality I am. Maybe all Americans are just naturally lucky!
I just know that I am lucky. And so are you. Eat your heart out, Ed!
[iii] Maltby, J., Day, L., Gill, P., Colley, A., Wood, A. M. (2008). Beliefs around luck: Confirming the empirical conceptualization of beliefs around luck and the development of the Darke and Freedman beliefs around luck scale Personality and Individual Differences, 45, 655-660.