Good Luck Traditions
Almost every culture has special beliefs reserved for the first day of the year, all of them intended to make a new beginning and to ensure good luck. In some places, it is customary to open the windows at mignight on New Year's Eve so good luck will fly in and bad luck will fly out. It is also considered important nearly everywhere to make as much noise as possible with noisemakers and horns, church bells, and fireworks to encourage the bad luck to go away. If someone kisses you on New Year's Eve, you'll be kissed frequently all year long. And if you take a drink at the stroke of midnight, you will have good luck. It will be even better if you drink the last of the contents of the bottle - but be careful. You won't feel so lucky the next day if you have to drink the first half of the bottle to get to the bottom half! In many countries, it is thought that a person can affect the luck they will have throughout the coming year by what they do or eat on the first day of the new year. For that reason, it has become common for folks to celebrate the first few minutes of a brand new year in the company of family and friends. Parties often last into the middle of the night after the ringing in of a new year. It was once believed that the first visitor on New Year's Day would bring either good luck or bad luck the rest of the year. It was particularly lucky if the first visitor happened to be a tall, dark-haired man.
Traditional New Year foods are also thought to bring luck. Many cultures believe that anything in the shape of a ring is good luck, because it symbolizes coming full circle - that is completing a year's cycle. For that reason, the Dutch believe that eating donuts on New Year's Day will bring good fortune.
Many parts of the United States celebrate the new year by eating black-eyed peas. They are usually eaten with ham or some cut of pork meat. Black-eyed peas and other legumes have been considered good luck in many cultures. The hog and its meat is considered lucky because it symbolizes prosperity.
Cabbage is another "good luck" vegetable that is consumed on New Year's Day by many. Cabbage leaves are also considered a sign of prosperity. Cabbage is representative of paper money! In some regions, rice is a lucky food that is eaten on New Year's Day.
The suckling pig is the symbol for good luck for the new year. It's served on a table decorated with tiny edible pigs. Dessert often consists of green peppermint ice cream in the shape of a four-leaf clover. They exchange Good Luck Favors (Gluecksbringers) which are decorated with Chimney Sweep figurines, Clover charms, Ladybug charms, Magic Mushroom figurines and or of course a Pig figuine, which all, according to old traditions, bring Good Luck throughout the new year.
Farmers wish their animals a Happy New Year for blessings.
In China, where the New Year arrives with the first full moon after the sun enters Aquarius (January20, according to our calendar), it is time to give gifts of money or gold to bring good luck during the coming year. For the Chinese New Year, every front door is adorned with a fresh coat of red paint, red being a symbol of good luck and happiness. Although the whole family prepares a feast for the New Year, all knives are put away for 24 hours to keep anyone from cutting themselves, which is thought to cut the family's good luck for the next year. The first day of the first month of the Lunar Year is the start of the Chinese New Year. As a symbol of good luck, red packets called Lai See Hong Bao (or Hongbao) with money (even amount) tucked inside are given out to the children. On the Chinese New Year's Day, a vegetarian dish called jai with root or fibrous vegetables is the main course.
The British place their fortunes for the coming year in the hands of their first guest. They believe the first visitor of each year should be male and bearing gifts. Traditional gifts are coal for the fire, a loaf for the table and a drink for the master. For good luck, the guest should enter through the front door and leave through the back. Guests who are empty-handed or unwanted are not allowed to enter first.
French people eat a stack of pancakes for luck and good health.
A special New Year's bread is baked with a coin buried in the dough. The first slice is for the Christ child, the second for the father of the household and the third slice is for the house. If the third slice holds the coin, spring will come early that year.
In Haiti, New Year's Day is a sign of the year to come. Haitians wear new clothing and exchange gifts in the hope that it will bode well for the new year.
The Japanese decorate their homes in tribute to lucky gods. One tradition, kadomatsu, consists of a pine branch symbolizing longevity, a bamboo stalk symbolizing prosperity, and a plum blossom showing nobility.
Norwegians make rice pudding at New Year's and hide one whole almond within. Guaranteed wealth goes to the person whose serving holds the lucky almond.
The Peruvian New Year's custom is a spin on the Spanish tradition of eating 12 grapes at the turn of the year. But in Peru, a 13th grape must be eaten to assure good luck.
Children go caroling from home to home and are given treats and coins. They sing old songs or "Janeiros" which are said to bring good luck.
Children enjoy throwing pails of water out the window at midnight. Some believe that this rids their home of any evil spirits!
An old Sicilian tradition says good luck will come to those who eat lasagna on New Year's Day, but woe if you dine on macaroni, for any other noodle will bring bad luck.
In Spain, when the clock strikes midnight, the Spanish eat 12 grapes, one with every toll, to bring good luck for the 12 months ahead.
The Swiss believe that good luck comes from letting a drop of cream land on the floor on New Year's Day.
The kiss shared at the stroke of midnight in the United States is derived from masked balls that have been common throughout history. As tradition has it, the masks symbolize evil spirits from the old year and the kiss is the purification into the new year.
At the first toll of midnight, the back door is opened and then shut to release the old year and lock out all of its bad luck. Then at the twelfth stroke of the clock, the front door is opened and the New Year is welcomed with all of its luck.