What Are Your New Year Traditions?
There are many traditions about creating luck in the New Year. And there is a fine line between “tradition” and “superstition.” Sometimes that line is only whether you believe in something or not. 😀
But regardless, there is a lot of fascinating symbolism involved in these traditions — and most of them are based on the idea that any activity you engage in on the first day of the year sets a pattern for the year to come (which is the point of a New Year’s resolution.)
Many New Year’s traditions have to do with attracting luck, or warding off bad luck in the coming year.
Did you know that bad luck was thought to be caused by bad spirits and that fireworks and ringing church bells at midnight are how some cultures scare away the bad spirits/luck? Evidently bad spirits HATE loud noises!
Whatever you’re looking for in the coming year, you can probably find some traditions to help you out in this list of the most popular traditions for a fantastic New Year.
Starting the Year with Abundance
Probably the most popular “luck” traditions around the New Year involve food — and we’ll get to those — but these simple non-food traditions are also meant to ensure that you start the year in abundance (with the expectation that it will continue that way):
- Wear something new on the first day of the new year to increase the likelihood of your receiving more new garments in the coming year.
- Stock your pantry and cabinets. The new year must not be greeted with bare cupboards or anything that seems to imply a ‘lack.’
- Along those same lines, all wallets and purses should be filled with cash to greet the new year. Some place coins in all the corners of the house. The bills should be paid and all debts settled BEFORE the new year begins. But — and this seems an important stipulation — don’t pay out money for anything the first day of the year. Don’t let anything leave your house or your possession lest your year be filled with loss.
Live Long and Prosper
For long life, Asian traditions include long noodles. Boil the noodles whole and don’t cut them to symbolize a long life. Those who can swallow at least one noodle without chewing or breaking it are supposed to enjoy good luck and a long life.
Affection and Romance
Aside from sharing a moment of celebration with our favorite people, the tradition also involves a kiss to ensure those affections and ties will continue through the next year. Miss the kiss and you will have a year of coldness.
(But since symbolism and metaphor are so strong in many of these traditions, surely kissing a picture of the person would suffice, wouldn’t it?) 😉
Some people hold this tradition with their favorite pets, while still others kiss strangers (or pictures of strangers?) to encourage a year with more romance from unexpected sources.
To help your attempts to start a family in the New Year, pomegranates and figs are the symbols most associated with fertility.
Success at Work
To guarantee success at work in the coming year, make sure to do — and be successful at — something related to your work on the first day of the year. You don’t have to go to the office necessarily, just do some token work (but don’t do very much work unless you want your year to be filled with working hard.)
Avoiding “Bad” Luck
As important as attracting good luck, is avoiding bad luck. So again, to maintain the spirit of prosperity, make sure that nothing leaves your house on the first day of the year. Nothing. Not even garbage.
If you still have gifts or presents to deliver, pack them up and leave them in your car overnight. Some people say that you can remove something from the house as long as you bring something in first. The idea being that something must be added to the home before anything can be taken from it.
Along those lines, there is a tradition called “The First Footer.”
- The first person through your door in the New Year must be entering, not leaving, and they must bear gifts to encourage abundance for the household. Evidently there is a ‘cheat’ allowed to this rule, being that if you live alone or don’t expect visitors, you can prepare a basket with lucky items outside your front door that has a string tied to it and then, after midnight, pull on the string to bring it into your house — just make sure that you only touch the string and not the basket before it is fully inside your house.
There is also evidently a tradition about laundry.
- Do not do laundry on the first day of the year — not just because that means you’ll be doing laundry all year, but because it might mean a family member will be ‘washed away’ (die) in the coming months.
- Some people extend this tradition to washing dishes too. In fact, there seems to be a moratorium on housework in general as sweeping and dusting are also activities to be avoided (because you don’t want to “sweep your luck away.”)
Also, try to avoid breaking things or crying on that first day of the year as that sets the tone for the next 12 months. Some people say if you hear cats crying, run in the opposite direction to avoid that bad omen. (No idea if there is an exemption to this rule for new mothers and their babies.)
Eating for Prosperity
And, as promised, we must not overlook certain foods that have gained a following as “edible talismans” that help usher in the New Year with prosperity and abundance. Most of them can be categorized into one of the following four categories:
Category 1: Round Fruits
Eating round fruits symbolize that the old year has been completed and the seeds it contains represent the wealth of possibility in the new year ahead. Popular fruits to seed wealth and prosperity include: grapes and pomegranates.
- Grapes: A popular tradition is to eat one grape for each chime of the clock at midnight on the eve of the New Year. This is said to guarantee sweetness and fortune in the year ahead.
- Some people make a wish on each grape with each chime of the clock at midnight.
- While others spread the ritual over 12 hours – one grape per hour. (That’s popular with the crowd that enjoys parties that end with breakfast the next morning.)
- Pomegranates: The multiple seeds of the pomegranate make it a great symbolic choice for an abundance tradition.
- Some people eat the whole pomegranate while some suck on a few seeds and then keep the seeds in their purses or wallets to ensure prosperity in the coming year.
- Others smash a pomegranate at the entrance to their house – the further the seeds spread, the better luck for the family.
- As an added bonus, some people also use pomegranates as a metaphor for matters of the heart in the new year — because of its color and shape — and think eating a pomegranate promotes health and fertility.
Category 2: Foods that look like money (or gold)
Oranges may be part of the round fruit tradition for some, but they also appear on the list of food that is golden in color. Starting the year by enjoying golden food is a metaphor for gold and believed to ensure that you will enjoy prosperity and abundance in the coming year. Another favorite on this golden food list is cornbread (and some people add golden kernels to the recipe to further symbolize ‘golden nuggets.”)
- There are other traditions involving food that resembles the shape or color of money, but the color of your money depends on which country you are in.
- So maybe if you are traveling or working abroad, stick with gold food. (Or maybe just put turmeric in everything that day so it all becomes gold.)
- Lentils are a still a symbol of luck today, even though they no longer resemble the ancient Roman coins that probably gave rise to that tradition.
- But probably the most popular golden symbol is a glass of champagne. Drinking this golden beverage not only gives you the gold color, but the bubbles symbolize lifting you to a higher, more successful place in your life.
Category 3: Foods that were lucky in the past
Sometimes there is a belief that a food is lucky because it has been lucky in the past.
There is a popular Southern expression: “Peas for pennies, greens for dollars and cornbread for gold.” The peas referenced are black-eyed peas, and although the expression seems to indicate it’s because they resemble pennies, the true reason probably dates back to the Civil War.
When General Sherman’s troops came through and raided the food supplies, the black-eyed peas were considered animal food and left alone – allowing those left behind to survive the winter. So tradition considers the black-eyed pea as ‘lucky.’
Category 4: Foods that swell
And let’s not forget the advocates for “foods that swell.” Those are the foods that swell when cooked – which symbolically represents an abundance in the New Year that grows and gets larger.
- Common foods in this category are rice, quinoa, risotto, and barley.
- Pastries also ‘swell’ when cooked so ring-shaped or round pastries have also become a popular metaphor for prosperity. Some are more blatant and actually hide money in the food itself — and the person that finds the money, gets the luck. For example, Greeks enjoy a bread in which a coin is hidden and, at midnight, the bread is sliced and the one who receives the piece with the coin is guaranteed prosperity in the New Year.
OK, so it’s always fun to read about these traditions involving luck. And the depth of symbolism is usually fascinating.
But when it comes down to it, there is nothing wrong with starting the year the way you want it to continue. Just know where your traditions come from and choose the ones that work for you and represent what you want in the year ahead.
Or, if you want, start a few NEW traditions!
If you want to invite some friends over for a New Year’s make-over party — some new traditions you can consider are:
- Taking a short walk to symbolize fitness and health
- Doing 10 minutes of Qigong to symbolize energy throughout the year
- Meditating for a few minutes to symbolize increased clarity and focus about what you truly want — reflect on what worked for you this year, what could work better
- Taking a few minutes to visualize yourself enjoying exactly what you want in the coming year
Better yet — make up your own traditions and symbols! And have FUN with it!
The point is to decide to make a change and then take a step (even if only a symbolic one) to more fully enjoy the coming year — the one that you are creating one step at a time.