For people living in different countries around the world, various charms, talismans, and amulets have become symbols of good luck – from the koi in Japan to four-leaf clovers in Ireland. Beyond the good fortunes they may bring, the stories behind some of these lucky symbols are interesting and quirky. Here are five lucky charms that can be found in different cultures across the globe.

Japan: Koi

Koi fish pond at Changi Airport’s Terminal 3 Koi fish pond at Changi Airport’s Terminal 3

Besides a symbol of luck, koi is also an ornamental fish kept for decorative purposes.

The word 'koi' means ‘carp’ in Japanese and the fish signifies good fortune, perseverance in adversity, and immense strength. The symbolic meaning of the koi in Japanese culture stems from the ability of the fish to swim upstream, against currents and fluctuating tides. Whether it’s in the form of tattoos, paintings, jewellery, or even keeping them as pets, the koi is an immensely popular icon and can be seen all over Japan.

Ireland: Four-leaf clover

Three-leaf clovers, shamrock Three-leaf clovers, shamrock

Four-leaf clovers are a rare variation of the three-leaf shamrock, which is the symbol of Ireland.

In Ireland, where Christianity is the pre-dominant religion, the four-leaf clover is regarded as a symbol of the Holy Trinity, and God’s grace. The odds of finding a four-leaf clover is allegedly 1 in 10,000, which is why a person would be considered lucky to find one!

On a less religious note, it is also believed that the sides of a four-leaf clover represent faith, hope, luck, and love. It is believed that anyone who stumbles upon one will likely experience good luck that day. The four-leaf clover design is often found in jewellery, featured on keychains, and some folks even go as far to have them inked on their bodies!

Singapore: Pineapples

In Singapore, the pineapple is more than just a fruit. In Hokkien (a Chinese dialect widely spoken in Singapore), pineapples are called ong lai, which sounds like the phrase ‘incoming fortune’ in the same dialect. This is why many Chinese in Singapore believe that rolling a pineapple in a new home or work place brings along good fortune. It is also common to see pineapple ornaments hanging around houses during Chinese New Year to herald good luck.

United States of America (USA): Horseshoes

Horseshoe hanging on wall Horseshoe hanging on wall

Hang a horseshoe above your door for prosperity and protection.

In USA, as well as other countries in North America, it is common to see horseshoes in the form of wall ornaments, jewellery and furniture. This is because horseshoes symbolise good luck, power over evil, good fortune, and fertility. They are also associated with a horse's strength and dependability. When a horseshoe is up on the wall or above a doorway, the "U" shape is thought to hold good luck inside forever.

This tradition apparently stems from the 10th century legend of Saint Dunstan, who trapped the devil using a horseshoe. The legend goes on to say that from that point on, the devil would never enter a home adorned with a horseshoe over the door. Some say that an upward-pointing horseshoe gathers luck, while a downward-pointing horseshoe showers you with luck.

China: Three-legged toad

“Money toad’ ornament “Money toad’ ornament

The coin in the “money toad’s” mouth symbolises the monetary benefits that the toad brings for its owner.

The three-legged toad, more popularly known as the “money toad”, is a celestial and mythical creature. It is believed to emerge every full moon to bring with it wealth and good fortune. As one of the most prominent icons of prosperity in feng shui (Chinese geomancy), it can often be spotted beside cash registers, receptions and owners’ desks not just in China, but all across Asia.

One reason “money toads” are said to be associated with money is that they can always be found where there is water. In feng shui, water represents wealth. It’s also said that these toads resemble a fat coin purse, further enhancing its connotation of wealth.


Whether it’s koi or pineapples, it doesn’t hurt to have a little luck on hand to make sure things go smoothly. Whatever brings you luck, do remember to have them with you when you are next at Changi, and you could just become the next lucky Changi Millionaire!


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