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Lesser Known New Year’s Superstitions

Some Lesser Known New Year’s Superstitions

By Twinty Karat.


People celebrating New Year’s throughout the ages have observed lots of less well known New Year’s customs and superstitions. Many superstitions associated with New Year’s celebration have the common theme that activities engaged in on the first day of the new year sets the pattern for the new year. Others traditions have to do with warding off evil spirits or attracting good luck.

Because January 1st is the beginning of the new year, many have drawn a connection between what’s done that day and our fate the rest of the year.

Here are some of the ways people try to guarantee a good outcome through our acts on that first day of the new year:

  • Upset Nothing:   Most of all yourself. Traditionally, New Year’s Day sets the tone for the year, so there’s no crying on New Year’s. Also, touch nothing. Breaking something on this superstitious day foretells destruction and bad luck in the new year.

  • Stocking Up with everything:   The new year must not be seen in with bare cupboards, lest that be the way of things for the year. Larders must be topped up and plenty of money must be placed in every wallet in the home to guarantee prosperity.

  • Do not Wash Dishes:   In several societies washing dishes and doing laundry on New Year’s day is said to lead to a death in the family during the year. Many people do not even wash hair on New Year day.

  • Paying Off Bills:   The new year should not be begun with the household in debt, so checks should be written and mailed off prior to January 1st. Likewise, personal debts should be settled before the New Year arrives.

  • First Footing:   The first person to enter your home after the stroke of midnight will influence the year you’re about to have. Ideally, he should be dark-haired, tall, and good-looking, and it would be even better if he came bearing certain small gifts such as a lump of coal, a silver coin, a bit of bread, a sprig of evergreen, and some salt. Blonde and redhead first footers bring bad luck, and female first footers should be shooed away before they bring disaster down on the household. Do whatever you have to, but don’t let them near your door before a man crosses the threshold.

    The first footer (sometimes called the “Lucky Bird”) should knock and be let in rather than unceremoniously use a key, even if he is one of the householders. After greeting those in the house and dropping off whatever small tokens of luck he has brought with him, he should make his way through the house and leave by a different door than the one through which he entered. No one should leave the premises before the first footer arrives — the first traffic across the threshold must be headed in rather than out.

    First footers must not be cross-eyed or have flat feet or eyebrows that meet in the middle.

    Some have suggested stationing a dark-haired man outside the home just before midnight to ensure the speedy arrival of a suitable first footer immediately after 12:00am. If one of the partygoers is recruited for this purpose, impress upon him the need to slip out quietly just prior to the witching hour.

  • Nothing Goes Out:   Nothing — absolutely nothing, not even garbage — is to leave the house on the first day of the year. If you have presents to deliver on New Year’s Day, leave them in the car overnight. Don’t so much as shake out a rug or take the empties to the recycle bin.

    Some people soften this rule by saying it’s okay to remove things from the home on New Year’s Day provided something else has been brought in first. This is similar to the caution regarding first footers; the year must begin with something’s being added to the home before anything is removed from it.

    One who lives alone might place a lucky item or two in a basket that has a string tied to it, then set the basket just outside the front door before midnight. After midnight, the lone celebrant hauls in his catch, being careful to bring the item across the door jamb by pulling the string rather than by reaching out to retrieve it and thus breaking the plane of the threshold.

  • Year of the Rabbit!:   It’s the year 4709, and time to welcome the Year of the Rabbit! The “Chinese Zodiac” has a cycle of 12 animals, and 2011 is the Year of the Rabbit, or Hare.
  • Just keeping you on your toes here. And while I’m at it Chinese New Year is packed with colors. Although all rainbow colors bring good luck, the color red is considered the ultimate luck bringer.

  • Food / black-eyed peas:   A tradition common to the southern states of the USA dictates that the eating of black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day will attract both general good luck and financial good fortune in particular to the one doing the dining. Some choose to add other Southern fare (such as ham hocks, collard greens, or cabbage) to this tradition, but the black-eyed peas are key.

    Other “lucky” foods are lentil soup (because lentils supposedly look like coins), pork (because poultry scratches backwards, a cow stands still, but a pig roots forward, ergo those who dine upon pork will be moving forward in the new year), and sauerkraut (probably because it goes so well with pork).

    Another oft-repeated belief holds that one must not eat chicken or turkey on the first day of the year lest, like the birds in question, diners fate themselves to scratch in the dirt all year for their dinner (that is, bring poverty upon themselves).

  • Work:   Make sure to do — and be successful at — something related to your work on the first day of the year, even if you don’t go near your place of employment that day. Limit your activity to a token amount, though, because to engage in a serious work project on that day is very unlucky.

  • Also, do not do the laundry on New Year’s Day, lest a member of the family be ‘washed away’ (die) in the upcoming months. The more cautious eschew even washing dishes.

  • New Clothes:   Wear something new on January 1 to increase the likelihood of your receiving more new garments during the year to follow.

  • Money:   Do not pay back loans or lend money or other precious items on New Year’s Day. To do so is to guarantee you’ll be paying out all year.

  • Be Polite:   People say that one should behave nicely on New Year and must refrain from using foul language. Ghost stories and conversations on death should also be avoided.

  • Breakage:   Avoid breaking things on that first day lest wreckage be part of your year. Also, avoid crying on the first day of the year lest that activity set the tone for the next twelve months.

  • Letting the Old Year Out:   At midnight, all the doors of a house must be opened to let the old year escape unimpeded. He must leave before the New Year can come in, says popular wisdom, so doors are flung open to assist him in finding his way out.

  • Loud Noise:   Make as much noise as possible at midnight. You’re not just celebrating; you’re scaring away evil spirits, so do a darned good job of it!

    According to widespread superstition, evil spirits and the Devil himself hate loud noise. We celebrate by making as much of a din as possible not just as an expression of joy at having a new year at our disposal, but also to make sure Old Scratch and his minions don’t stick around. (Church bells are rung on a couple’s wedding day for the same reason.)

  • The Weather:   Examine the weather in the early hours of New Year’s Day. If the wind blows from the south, there will be fine weather and prosperous times in the year ahead. If it comes from the north, it will be a year of bad weather. The wind blowing from the east brings famine and calamities. Strangest of all, if the wind blows from the west, the year will witness plentiful supplies of milk and fish but will also see the death of a very important person. If there’s no wind at all, a joyful and prosperous year may be expected by all.

  • Avoid Crying:   It is said that one should avoid breaking things or crying and wailing on the first day of the year, if you don’t want to continue the pattern for the entire year.

  • Find Future Groom:   On New Year’s Day if, on rising, a girl should look out of her bedroom window and see a man passing by, she may reckon to be married before the year is finished.

Summing it up, New Year’s Day superstitions seem to have a general theme: be lazy, be cautious, take no chances. Whether you’re a superstitious person or not, it may pay you to be aware of some of these long standing superstitions.

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New Years Good Luck Questions

Donald asks…

Do you know any new years luck for 2012?

Every year people come up with different traditions for luck in the new year. Like last year was to wear yellow underwear, which i did. 2011 was a good year too… i think i heard red underwear for this year? Do you guys know any? A list of some cool things would b awesome. Certain colors or hair or makeup?? Just curious

Suzi Q answers:

I have never heard of these “traditions”. Anyone out there know about them?

William asks…

Aztec and Mexican Mythology New Year beliefs?

Well my grandmother’s grand parents used to believe that pregnant ladies would have deformed babies if exposed to a solar eclipse. I know there is no scientific evidence for that.
But my grandma also talked about her grand parents would go outside and “watch” the New Year and they would predict what kind of year it will be, cold, no rain etc etc. And that different things in the sky meant so and so predictions. I’m not sure what kind of beliefs these are Aztec or Spaniard.

What kind of things did they watch for?

Does anyone know how they “watched” the New Year ? Im just curious. – Happy New Year

Suzi Q answers:

Sorry the beliefs of the Mexicans that they have today, they have nothing to do with the Maya or Aztec beliefs. Sorry, don’t know what they “watched” for.

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