It’s Christmas, you have a roast turkey- and yet everyone is looking forward to the bit afterwards. Digging out the Y shaped bone known as the ‘Wishbone’ and getting that special wish. To be rewarded the wish, two people have to hook their finger around one end of the wishbone and pull- whoever breaks off the largest piece wins the wish! Or so legend has it anyway…
The superstition surrounding a wishbone, which can also be found in chicken and geese, can be recorded as far back as the late medieval period, when an individual named Johannes Hartlieb recorded the weather forecast by means of a wishbone. However, the act of two people pulling on a wishbone actually came about after this. It started with ancient Italians, who worshipped chickens. After killing a chicken for food, however, they would save the wishbone and leave it to dry in the hopes that they could save some of the chickens magical powers- seriously. People would then pick up the bone every time they walked past and make wishes on it, hence how the name wishbone came about. (This part does differ from person to person- some people make the wishes and then if you win the bigger half your wish will come true. Some people don’t allow anyone to make wishes and the ‘fight’ commences first- if you win the bigger half, only then can you make your wish and hope that it will come true).
So there’s the story behind the wishes. Why the tug of war? Well, when the Romans came about, it was nothing more than a simple problem regarding “supply and demand”. So many people wanted to be able to make wishes and ensure themselves a better life that they had to fight over the wishbone. You made your wish if you won the bigger half of the bone. The Romans then passed this on to the English, and it has stayed throughout time with us, as well as being spread to many other cultures around the world.
Whilst wishbones don’t play much of a part in anyone’s life nowadays, they do make frequent appearances in items of jewellery that can be gifted to friends and families as good luck charms, such as necklaces. Other than that, they seem to be no more than a little bit of dinner time fun to share with your family.