Kriol: Nuh sweep da night cause yuh wah sweep weh yuh luck. Translation: Don’t sweep at night because you will sweep your luck away.
Sweeping your luck away
No wonder I have so much bad luck, as this is one custom I always forget, especially when I’m a houseguest and drop something then have to go and sweep it up (which has happened more than once!). Like many of these customs, tasks like cleaning are ingrained into daily routine and are often undertaken habitually. After dinner it was my habit to sweep the floor. I often managed to the position a pile of dust by the front door, ready to sweep it off the front step of the balcony, when someone would shout “WAIT!!…. what are you doing?? You can’t sweep at night, you’ll sweep out your luck”. The dust would get swept into a little pile at the side of the door ready to be swept out in the morning, or swept into the “black plastic bag” (which was a staple in my house as most stores packed their goods in them and then they were saved for a multitude of purposes).
The root of this tradition seems to stem from a combination of beliefs. Firstly, the front door is traditionally seen as a likely entrance for evil spirits and negative energies, hence the tradition of placing garlic above the front door to ward off bad spirits. It is believed the broom itself can also protect the house from evil. It is important therefore to keep the threshold clean and hang the broom, bristle up, close by for protection. Secondly, there is a popular belief that sweeping at night could cause disturbance to the spirits of the dead whom roam outside at night, walking in the night air.
Brooms have many links to luck, both good and bad. According to tradition the first time a broom is used, it should be used to sweep something into the house, thereby sweeping good luck in, following this logic sweeping something out therefore sweeps good luck out. This custom is reflected globally. In Turkey, sweeping at night is believed to bring poverty to the house. In Thailand it is thought that sweeping at night will cause you to lose a valuable belonging. In Indonesia culture dictates that one should not sweep at night as it sweeps away luck and prosperity, it is also believed that it is better to sweep towards the back door rather than the front door.
Luckily, this superstition does have a rather practical nature, if you accidentally and hastily sweep something outside at night it is a lot harder to find in the dark than it is in broad daylight. Many a time I have swept out an earring, needles (always wear slippers [flip flops] on my balcony) or my last dollar and realising my mistake have had to get out the torch and grope around on the floor in the dark, as it is it guaranteed that if I leave any object on the balcony my lovely potlicking dogs will eat it before the sun rises. Sweep in daylight however and chances of sweeping away any valuables is greatly reduced!