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New Year's Traditions and Superstitions

The Come Clean Blog


New Year’s may be all about looking forward, but there is something nostalgic about the holiday that has us reflecting on the past.  Many of our New Year traditions are steeped in the past - even the iconic New Years Eve Song “Auld Lang Syne” roughly translates to “old long since” or “times gone by”.   Often credited to the Scottish poet Robert Burns, who sent it to the Scots Musical Museum in 1788, the writer admits he didn't create the lyrics, he was just the first to transcribe an old folk song. No matter who wrote them, singing them when the clock strikes midnight is a time-honored tradition. 


Embrace Your Heritage  

The way your grandparents celebrated the New Year might have something to do with their heritage.  Every culture has its own traditions and superstitions. Sometimes, the foods you eat determine if you start the year off on the right foot.  Or the clothes you wear are indicative of what will come your way, be it health, money or love. Then again, where you are when the clock strikes midnight, or what you do on New Years Day might make the difference in the upcoming year.  No matter how you choose to ring in the New Year, be sure to include one of these New Year's traditions - we all could all use a little good luck and fortune.

Make a Resolution - Making resolutions is perhaps the most popular New Year's tradition.  You might think that making resolutions is a relatively recent trend, but the tradition is likely more than 4,000 years old. Some believe  the Babylonians, one of the first cultures to celebrate the changing of the year — made resolutions or promises to pay debts or return borrowed objects.

Be Choosy About Your First Guest - The first person you allow through your front door in the New Year may set the tone for the year. In Scotland, and North of England, New years’ Eve, or Hogmanay, as they call the last of the year, is bigger than Christmas.  The massive party goes on for days and includes, the "First Footer".   Tradition states it is good luck to select a who is tall and dark (as a protection against Vikings), who would come with simple gifts of coal, salt, shortbread and whisky, representing the basic needs of heat, food and drink. Choosing wisely meant good luck for the upcoming year.

Rename Your Christmas Tree - Start calling your Christmas tree a New Year's tree, as they do in Russia.  The tradition of the New Year's tree goes all the way back to the 1600s, and you can easily transition your Tannenbaum to suite the celebration.

Make Prediction - In Germany, you can buy a Bleigießen (Bleigiessen) kit which is supposed to give you hints for what's to come in the year ahead. The tradition is to melt lead (now tin or wax) on a spoon over a candle and then pour it into cold water; the shape the wax takes will tell your fortune.   For example, round balls represent good luck coming your way, while swords predict risk-taking.

Hoppin John

Eat Right

Different cultures consider certain foods to be fortuitous for the New Year, especially when eaten right as the clock strikes 12 or on New year’s day.  

Have Hoppin' John on New Year's Day Dinner (pictured)- It's said that anyone who makes this dish of black-eyed peas, pork and rice on January 1 will experience luck and peace for the rest of the year. And maybe prosperity, too.  "Hoppin’ John is often eaten with collard greens, which resembles paper money, and 'golden' cornbread. The peas themselves represent coins. Some people enhance the potential of their Hoppin’ John by placing a penny underneath the dishes — or adding extra pork, which is thought to bring more luck."

Corned Beef and Cabbage - It’s not just for St. Patrick's Day.  Many with Irish heritage prepare Corned beef and cabbage dinner on New Year's day.  It is associated with the fortune you should hope for in the coming year. Beef or pork is the meat of choice because unlike chickens these animals do not scratch in the dirt for their food. It's said that if you eat chicken on New Year's Day you are setting your destiny for the coming year to scratch in the dirt for your survival - cabbage is green, like paper money - and who couldn't use more of that?

Eat Something Round - Many cultures believe eating round foods on New Year's Eve will lead to prosperity. In Italy, lentils in a New Year's dish serve the same function as the black-eyed peas in Hoppin' John, with their round shape representing coins. In the Philippines, it's customary to eat 12 round fruits, one for every month, to ensure a year of abundance. The fruits usually take center stage at the table for the midnight meal.

If you need an excuse to eat doughnuts, some cultures believe ring-shaped foods represent coming full circle.

Make a Fish Dish - Fish is considered another good New Year's entrée, since fish only swim in one direction — forward, like the movement of time.

Eat 12 Grapes - Yep, exactly 12 grapes, one at each stroke of midnight. In Spain — they pop one grape for every month of the New Year.  Eating one grape at each of 12 clock chimes guarantees you a lucky year — but only if you simultaneously ruminate on their significance. If you fail to conscientiously finish your grapes by the time the clock stops chiming, you’ll face misfortune in the new year." 

Eat Long Food for a Long Life - In Japan, it's traditional to eat "toshikoshi soba," a dish with long, buckwheat noodles that's served hot or cold. The noodles symbolize longevity, and the hearty buckwheat plant represents resilience.

Hide a Surprise - In Greece, New Year's dessert isn't just a treat, it's a game of chance: Guests are served a cake or sweet bread that has a coin baked into it. Whoever finds the coin will have good luck for the next year! In Scandinavian countries, they do something similar with rice pudding. One bowl will have a peeled almond in it, and whoever finds it is assured of luck in the new year.

Smash the Peppermint Pig - In upstate New York, they sell special peppermint pigs throughout the holiday season.  Everyone takes a turn hitting it with a special candy-size hammer and eating a piece for good fortune in the coming year.

Doctor Your Drink - In Russia, Champagne gets an extra ingredient on New Year's: Revelers write a wish down on a piece of paper, burn it, and add the ashes to the drink.  Cheers!


polka dots

Dress for Success

Wear in Polka Dots - In the Philippines, partygoers don't just try to eat round food — they wear them, too. Polka dots are all the rage on December 31, and are believed to increase the chances for a fortunate new year.

Wear White - Brazil makes it easy to choose your New Year's Eve outfit — everyone wears white for good luck and peace.

Choose your Underwear Carefully - In Latin America, they believe the color of your underwear can help you realize your hopes and bring good things in the next 12 months. Yellow is for luck, red is for love, yellow is for happiness and white underwear brings peace.



Take Action 

Watch Something Drop - Since 1907, crowds have been gathering in New York City's Times Square to watch the ball drop.  The  first one was made of iron and wood, today you can watch 12-foot, 11,875-pound sphere covered in 2,688 Waterford Crystals and 32,256 LED lights make its descent from the comfort of your own home.

Your town may drop it’s own ball to ring in the new year: Plymouth, Wisconsin hosts a Big Cheese Drop; Boise ,ID drops a giant potato, New Orleans drops a fleur de lis and the lakefront town of Port Clinton, OH drops a Giant Fish.  No matter what symbol is used, it makes for a dramatic countdown.

Countdown and Kiss Someone at Midnight - Most of us still kiss someone, when the big ball drops and Auld Lang Syne plays.  But the reasoning behind is to “kiss the person you hope to keep kissing”.  This is borrowed from English and German folklore which states: "the first person with whom you come in contact will dictate the year’s destiny." Better choose your New Year’s partner wisely! 

Find Your Love - No one to kiss? In Ireland, if you put a sprig of mistletoe (or holly or ivy) under your pillow on December 31, you'll dream of your future partner. Sweet dreams, to be sure!

Give Gifts - In the past, the gift-giving season didn't end at Christmas! Handing out gilded coins or nuts was an old Roman ritual, but you could also give eggs for fertility, a Persian practice. Just as in their first-footing tradition, the Scottish also traded shortbread, coal, and silverware, while Egyptians' specialty was earthenware flasks. 

Christmas was once banned in Soviet Russia, so New Year's became the big gift-giving occasion. Presents were not delivered by Santa, but Father Frost.

Give Lucky Charms - In Germany and Austria, you’d give lucky charms to family and friends to bring them good fortune. These include pigs, mushrooms, clovers and chimney sweeps. You can buy little tokens of these lucky charms at a Christmas market

Write Thank-You Notes - Before you ring in the new year, close out the current one expressing gratitude for those who've made an impact in your last 12 months. Then, on New Year's Day, don't forget to send a quick handwritten thank-you note to the party host. What a positive way to kick things off to a good start.

Wish “Everyone” a Good Year - Walloon and Flemish farmers in Belgium make sure everyone, including the livestock, gets in on the New Year celebrations. They rise early on January 1 to wish a "Happy New Year" to all the cows, horses, pigs, chickens and other farm animals so they'll have a good farming year.  Let’s hope they include the dogs and cat.

Save a Wish for Next Year - Instead of burning new years wishes, have everyone write down a resolution, goal, or wish, put it in a jar, then save it. On the next New Year's Eve, you retrieve the jar and read the notes to see how far everyone has progressed

Make Noise - There's a longstanding tradition of starting the new year off with a bang. Only, instead of shooting guns, as was common in the American colonies, blow horns, ring bells (a nod to church bells), or set off fireworks (a Chinese New Year custom)

polar bear

It’s in the Water

Jump a Wave - In Brazil, you can increase your luck by heading to the beach and jumping over 7 waves. Make one wish for each wave.

Send Your Wish Down the River - Singapore decorates its Singapore River with the wishing spheres containing the hopes and dreams of new years revelers. Illuminated and en masse, they make quite a statement. In the past, tens of thousands of spheres have floated down the river.

Throw Water out the Window - In Puerto Rico, they believe that dumping a bucket of water out the window drives away evil spirits. Puerto Ricans also sprinkle sugar outside their houses to invite the good luck in.

Take the Plunge - Since the early 1900s, it's been a tradition to start off January 1 by submerging in freezing cold water, a ritual known as a Polar Bear Plunge. The participants of this Canadian inspired tradition,  — who have a high tolerance for the cold — use this as an opportunity to raise money for local nonprofits, so all of that teeth-chattering is not for naught.



It's A little Unusual

Smash a Plate - In Denmark, broken dishes are a good thing — people go around breaking dishware on the doorsteps of their friends and family. The more shards there are in front of your home the next day, the luckier and more well liked you are.  

Break Fruit - In Turkey, pomegranates are symbols of abundance. Smash the fruit on your doorstep. It's said that the more pieces there are, and the farther they spread, the more prosperous you will be. And, for a little extra luck, sprinkling salt in front of your door will bring peace.

Jump Into 2020 - The Danish stand on chairs and "leap" into January at midnight to bring good luck and banish bad spirits.   

Pack Your Bags - Actually, don’t pack anything. In Colombia, people carry empty suitcases and run around the block as fast as they can. It's seen as setting yourself up for adventures or a year filled with travel. 

Burn Up the Old Year - In Ecuador, the bad parts of the old year — or año viejo — are turned into effigies and burned. People make sawdust-filled dummies out of politicians, pop-culture figures and other characters, and then burn them at midnight as a sort of cleansing ritual. For extra good-luck points, participants try to jump over the flames 12 times, once for every month

Put Extra Cash in Your Wallet - Want a full of financial prosperity? Fill your wallet with cash. Don't loan out any money on New Year's Eve or New Year's Day, and don't start the year with any unpaid debts, or you could set a precedent for the months ahead.

jaws kit

Your Home

Swing Some Bread - Ireland's most interesting tradition doesn't involve eating. Instead, the Irish bang Christmas Bread on the walls of their home. It is supposed to chase any bad spirits out of the house to start the new year off with a clean slate. (A good house-tidying, presumably after bread-banging, is also an Irish tradition.) 

Clean the House - A common tradition is to clean your house thoroughly on or before New Year’s Eve. Out with the old, in with the new. Many people believe that cleaning your house before the first day of the New Year ensures you don’t carry in old, negative vibes into the New Year. This therapeutic cleansing must take place before New Year’s Eve.  JAWS Ultimate Cleaning kit is a perfect solution to clean all the hard surfaces in your home – from floor to ceiling.    It is believed that after all the cleaning is completed, all brooms, brushes, dust pans, and other cleaning equipment should be put by away by new years day to avoid washing or sweeping your luck away. 

Don’t Clean the House - If you’re concerned about "sweeping" or "washing" away the good luck coming your way, don't do any cleaning.  Depending on where your family is from, some believe that nothing, not even the trash should leave the house or you will be metaphorically losing things during the upcoming year.  If the trash needs emptying, they do it before midnight or on January 2nd.   Don’t do any laundry either.   

Stock Your Cupboards - It is customary to stock your cupboard before New Year’s Day. If you don’t, it’s a sign that your New Year might continue “bare”. While stocking the cupboards, check expiration dates on everything and throw away any old or expired foods. Clearing out old, useless or expired things, is symbolic of removing the negativity from your life.

Decorate Your Front Door - To Greeks, onions are a symbol of good luck and fertility because they sprout when no one is paying attention.  On New Year's Eve, families hang bundles of onions above their doors as a means of inviting prosperity into the home. It's said that, on New Year's Day, parents wake up their children in the morning by gently bonking their kids on the head with the onions that were outside

Open the Windows and Doors - It's a common superstition that opening the doors and windows will let the old year out, and the New Year in unimpeded. Let's just hope the new years brings love, prosperity and good luck.

Whatever tradition you embrace, or superstition you believe, we wish you a happy, Healthy and prosperous New Year.