Why is solar eclipse such a big deal?

There was a partial solar eclipse on 23rd October 2014, and since the date coincided with the festival of Diwali, thousands of people kept debating whether they should celebrate Diwali a day before or on the day of the eclipse.

I heard some people ask whether they should cook before the eclipse and leave a tulsi leaf (considered holy by Hindus) in the food to consume the food after the eclipse.  Or the food that will be cooked in the morning should be thrown away after the eclipse.

I heard some people say that pregnant women should not chop vegetables or cut anything during the eclipse, otherwise it affects the unborn babies.  Three people with different family members told me the story of how one pregnant woman cut something during eclipse and her baby was born with some problem.

Some people told me that one should chant God's name during the entire period of eclipse, whereas some said that one should sleep during this time and not eat or drink anything.

On a forum I saw some people ask if they can perform their daily pooja in the morning or does it have to be done after the eclipse.  And whether they can take bath in the morning or should one take a bath again after the eclipse.

I also read some people said that temples will be closed during the eclipse, and that any bhog/prasad (food offered to God) prepared during the eclipse will not be accepted.  And that those celebrating Diwali and performing the Diwali pooja on the 23rd should do it only after the eclipse ends.

And I heard someone say pregnant women should cover their entire stomach (with a paste made from whole wheat flour and water) and cover stomach with a cloth, and hold a coconut on their lap while sitting at a place to chant God's name, and after the eclipse ends they should discard the clothes.

And tens of other people said tens of other things.  And I kept thinking - what the hell is such a big deal with solar eclipse?  Because I certainly did not understand the logic.  There are millions of pregnant women around the world who do not regard solar eclipse as important as some Indians do and still have normal babies.  What is it about solar eclipse that specially, particularly affects (or targets!?) pregnant women?  Sun rises and sets, moon and stars appear at night, Earth rotates and revolves, planets exist in the solar system, and sometimes lunar or solar eclipse takes place - just a natural phenomenon!!!

So how would cooking, sleeping, doing anything, or not doing something during solar eclipse affect anyone in any way?  If the rays of eclipse are harmful, people can stay indoors and close the curtains and carry on with their normal work.  In fact, how does taking a shower after the eclipse despite being indoors help with anything?  Actually, if the rays of eclipse were so harmful, so many people would not take a film (photo negatives) to go see the eclipse outdoors - which many did.

When I asked people what the reason behind these certain beliefs was, they only said the solar eclipse affects is what they have heard over the generations.  It is high time we passed on logic to our future generations than beliefs without a base.
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