Ringing in a prosperous New Year
By: Sue Hornof
Jan. 1 may be just another square on the calendar, but when an entire year of fortune is on the line, many people give in to New Year’s superstitions rather than tempt fate. Some of us adhere to New Year’s traditions, like kissing and making noise when the clock strikes midnight, entirely unaware that our behaviors are rooted in superstition.
Here are some popular New Year’s traditions and the superstitions behind them:
• Kissing at midnight is said to ensure that affection and closeness with the one you kiss will continue for another year.
• Ushering in the new year with loud noises began as a means of scaring away evil spirits, hence the traditions of banging of pots and pans, blowing horns, sounding noisemakers and setting off fireworks at midnight.
• The belief that eating black-eyed peas on Jan. 1 will bring luck and prosperity in the coming year dates to the Civil War. According to legend, soldiers burned all the crops in the town of Vicksburg, Miss., except for the black-eyed peas stored to feed the cattle. Residents were forced to eat the peas to survive, and they considered themselves – and the peas – lucky.
• Because pigs root forward – symbolic of moving ahead and leaving the past behind – eating pork on New Year’s Day is considered a good idea. Conversely, chickens scratch backward, so many people avoid eating poultry on Jan. 1.
• The tradition of eating 12 grapes for good luck – one with each strike of the clock – at midnight on Dec. 31 originated in Spain in December 1909. That’s when vine growers came up with the concept in hopes of selling lots of grapes from their abundant harvest.
• Because cabbage leaves (supposedly) resemble folding money, eating cabbage on New Year’s Day is said to ensure a year of prosperity.
• Settling one’s debts before the clock strikes midnight on Dec. 31 is said to ward off a year of financial woes.
• Some people open all the doors and windows of their homes at midnight on New Year’s Eve to let the old year escape and allow the new year to enter.
• Some people are superstitious about letting anything, including the garbage, leave their homes on New Year’s Day. They believe that if you take something out of your home on Jan. 1, you will be giving things up all year long.
• Working a little bit on New Year’s Day is said to ensure success in your career in the coming year. But go easy, because working too much will bring a year of constant work with little success, according to superstition.
• Washing clothes on New Year’s Day is a bad idea, because it will cause a loved one to be “washed away” (die) in the coming year. Some people apply the same rule to washing dishes.
Some New Year’s superstitions are pretty much out of our control. For example:
• In parts of Europe, meeting a chimney sweep on New Year’s Day is considered a harbinger of good luck.
• The direction of the wind on New Year’s Day morning is said to be a predictor of the year ahead. If it’s blowing from the south, money and happiness are on the way; wind from the north is an omen for bad weather; wind out of the east means a year of famine and rotten luck; and wind from the west means there will be plenty of fish and milk in the coming year, but also that someone will die. No wind is a sign of happiness and prosperity.
• If a woman wakes up on Jan. 1, looks out her bedroom window and sees a man passing by, she can expect to be married before year’s end.
• Babies born on New Year’s Day are said to be destined for a lifetime of good luck.