New Year's Customs/Traditions

As far back as I can remember my family always had the same New Year's Day meal year after year. The meal was served shortly after 12 noon and consisted of ham, collard greens, black-eyed peas, and corn bread. After I was married my husband told me that the green stuff was supposed to be turnip greens so we always had pork (usually ham), turnip greens, black-eyed peas, and corn bread.


The celebration of the new year is the oldest of all holidays. It was first observed in ancient Babylon about 4000 years ago. In the years around 2000 BC, Babylonians celebrated the beginning of a new year on what is now March 23, although they themselves had no written calendar.

Nothing should be taken out of the house as one may remove the good luck along with it. It was said ot be wise to make sure that lots of things are to be carried in.

Say nothing of my religion. It is known to God and myself alone. Its evidence before the world is to be sought in my life: if it has been honest and dutiful to society the religion which has regulated it cannot be a bad one.....Thomas Jefferson

Both one's pockets as well as one's stomach should be full. This was to make certain that in the ensuing year one would be prosperous and well fed. Empty pockets and unstocked kitchen augured a year of poverty.

Farewelling of the old year was originally done out of fear that the evil spirits were let loose on the last day of the year. So people would make lots of noise and have lots of fun to drive the evil spirits away, so that they could start a New Year unharmed and unimpeded.

Another way people would drive the evil forces away was by setting off fireworks as it was believed that they were afraid of light and that they were also afraid of noise. So this was the reason why people would make lots and lots of noises at the stroke of midnight.

Church bells are told to drive evil spirits away at the end of the old year.

Regional foods help welcome the New Year in various parts of America. In Pennsylvania Dutch country, eating sauerkraut on New Year's Day is said to bring good luck. In the South the custom is to eat black-eyed peas.

Making New Year's resolutions is a modern approach to keeping evil away during the New Year. People decide to improve their lives by making promises to do good things or not to do bad things. New Year's Resolutions are one way to promise yourself, your family or friends that you will do one or more things differently. Resolutions can be the beginning of setting goals for the new year. Of course it's always easier to make a resolution than keep it. Keeping it is hard work.

The booze bash:  Yet another familiar practice, though not quite encouraging. The unbridled drinking bash on the New Year's Eve, is also a secular leftover of a rite that was once religious in character. The original spirit has been a personal re-enacting of the chaotic world that existed before the ordered cosmos was created by God.

Luck in the New Year:  It is traditionally thought that the first day of the year is symptomatic of the approaching 364 days. Accordingly, people try to spend the first day of the new year in the best possible way in the company of family and friends. It was once believed to be a good omen if a tall dark-haired man visits your house on New Year's Day. Traditional New Year foods are also thought to bring good luck. In many cultures, it is a predominant belief that anything in the shape of a ring brings luck, because it symbolizes "coming full circle," completing a year's cycle. It is primarily for this reason that the Dutch believe that eating donuts on New Year's Day brings good fortune. Black-eyed peas and other legumes have been considered good luck in many cultures. The hog, and thus its meat, is considered lucky because it symbolizes prosperity. Consuming cabbage is also considered a potential harbinger of good luck. In some regions, rice is a lucky food that is eaten on New Year's Day.

In Austria 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.

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.

Wales - 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.

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.

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 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.

In Greece 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.

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.

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 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.

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.

Cornbread = Good Luck and Good Fortune:  Traditionally it is believed that eating cornbread on New Year's Day in the south will bring you good luck and good fortune.

Collard Greens = Money:  Eating collard greens on New Years Day is one of the foods that is meant to bring you money and good fortune in the New Year.

Black Eyed Peas = Good Luck:  Black eyed peas are eaten on New Year’s Day in the South to bring good luck.