15 Ways to make your New Year great! Traditions and customs from around the world.

Most of the traditions connected with New Year's Eve and New Year's Day could be summed up in a single sentence:

What you do is what you'll get!

In many cultures, what you do for the first hour of the New Year signifies what you’ll do the most of for the next twelve months! (Does sleeping count?) Here are fifteen of the most common superstitions.

1. Working hard on New Year’s Day will ensure a whole year of grueling labor! But if you do a small token task successfully – something related to your employment – this will set the tone for achievement. (I'm definitely planning to write!)

2. If the house is clean by midnight on Dec. 31st, it’ll be clean for the entire next year. (Do I have to sort the closets too?) Don't sweep on New Year's Day or you'll sweep out all your good luck! Don't do dishes or laundry either or you'll "wash away" a member of your family in the coming year.

3. In many countries, it's believed that all debts should be settled before the New Year. Don’t pay back loans or lend money on New Year’s Day however, or you’ll be paying out all year long!

4. If all your pockets and purses and wallets have coins and dollars in them by midnight, you’ll have plenty of money in the new year. (Note - it doesn't have to be large denominations - a penny and a one dollar bill will do it!) Holding a piece of gold or silver in your hand at the stroke of midnight will also bring prosperity. Some people place coins on windowsills and the tops of doors too.

5. If you wear new clothes on New Year’s Day, more new clothes will come your way. (Does that include purses and shoes?)

6. No crying, fighting, arguing, name-calling or general negativity on New Year’s Day or you’ll have strife and tears all year long.

7. Don’t let valuable things leave your house on New Year’s Day or luck and fortune will go with them. The general belief refers to things like money and jewelry, but some people believe that nothing – not even garbage! – should leave the house on New Year’s Day. Take the empties to the recycling bin some other time!

8. Make sure the cupboards and pantries are full on New Year’s Day, in order to ensure abundance the rest of the year.

9. Be careful with the dishes. If anything breaks on New Year’s Day, ill luck will follow. And if you break a mirror, the bad luck will be doubled. None of this applies, however, if you're Danish. They save up dishes all year to throw at the doors of their friends and neighbors. At the end of New Year's Day, the higher the pile of broken crockery on your front step, the more loyal friends you have.

10. Working on New Year’s Day will ensure a year filled with grueling labor. But if you do a small token task – something related to your employment – successfully, it’ll set the tone for achievement in the coming months.

11. When midnight approaches, open all the windows and doors to let the Old Year leave. In some traditions, just opening one window or door will work. Releasing the Old Year makes room for the New Year. In Puerto Rico, people toss buckets of water out the windows to help to clean out the old year.

12. Kissing at least one person at midnight ensures that love, friendship and affection will continue. To not give out a kiss indicates a long, cold and lonely year. (That’s dire – I’d kiss both my pugs to avoid a fate like that!). Kissing your spouse or your fiance is even better, ensuring that you'll live in love and happiness during the entire year to come.

13. Bad luck and evil spirits must be driven away in order to make room for good fortune. This belief is at the root of using noisemakers to welcome in the New Year. The more noise you can make, the better. In early pioneer America. the firing of guns into the air was practiced. Church bells are often rung at midnight in many countries for the same reason.

In Iran, pots and pans are banged together. And the Chinese can be thanked for introducing fireworks to New Year's celebrations to chase away demons and bad fortune. In Wales, singing door to door does the job. My favorite is an Irish tradition which calls for banging on the walls and doors with Christmas bread to frighten evil spirits and invite good ones into the house. (Finally - a good use for that fruitcake!)

14. In keeping with the "getting rid of the old to make way for the new", residents of Ecuador burn pictures of things they don't want. Each family also creates a scarecrow or puppet which is called the "Año Viejo" or Old Year. Lists of problems and worries might be stuffed inside the effigies, as well as newspaper, wood and sawdust. Setting fire to these effigies is said to destroy any bad things that may have happened over the twelve months. Jumping over the fire brings extra luck. Versions of this practice can be found in other cultures as well. Burning the old calendar is popular almost everywhere.

15. What you eat is said to influence your fortune for the coming year. It's lucky to eat black-eyed peas, and some say that one pea equals a coin you'll receive. Lentils will work too. But eating cabbage or other leafy greens might be more efficient – they're said to represent bills! Round foods are often synonymous with prosperity. In Spain and Portugal, they eat 12 grapes as the clock chimes midnight, ensuring 12 good months to come.

Foods that form a circle or a ring, such as doughnuts, are popular in Europe. (Homer Simpson would like this one) The shape signifies that the year has come full circle and is now complete.

My wish for all of my readers is that 2014 will bring you many moments of warmth and joy and laughter, and also bring you closer to hopes and dreams fulfilled.  

Dani Harper

Your turn - What traditions did you grow up with? Have you heard of any that aren't listed here?


Love your comments and read every one of them! Thanks for taking the time to write!