The real meaning behind the ‘barnstars’ you see on houses

In today’s coverage of questions-you’ve-probably-had-but-didn’t-think-to-Google, the metal stars you see on the outside of houses and barns โ€” most commonly found in the more rural parts of the U.S. โ€” actually have a deeper meaning.

For one thing, those particular stars have a very specific name, depending on where you are. They can go by Amish Barn Stars, Barnstars and Pennsylvania Stars, and while they are typically credited to the Pennsylvania Dutch who came over to the U.S. in the 1880s, some also think the stars were inspired by Chinese good luck stars.

The Pennsylvania Dutch also considered the five-pointed star to be a symbol of good luck. Although it’s not official, apparently the color of the star denotes a specific meaning. For example, blue stars signify protection and green stars symbolize fertility and growth โ€” ideal for a farm.

The funny thing about these stars is the number of rumors regarding their meaning. Most homeowners or farmers who have one have probably never given it much thought, but other people certainly have.

Distractify credits a 2007 thread for initiating the rumor that the stars mean the homeowners are swingers, a term used to describe couples that “swap” partners. As with most rumors that seem too crazy to be true (take this whole New York Post article about “secret signs” your neighbor could be a swinger, for example), this barnstar meaning is likely to be false.

So no, the vast population of rural Vermont and Pennsylvania is not made up of swingers. More likely, it’s just people who enjoy what the star stands for, or just think it looks good on their house.

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