Every country has its own ways to bring good luck while ringing in the coming year. Many groups start the year off with good luck foods: beans, round foods and noodles are often high on the list, as well as some tasty desserts. Other cultures put great stock in what you wear, letting your wardrobe usher in good health, money or love. Then again, where you are (or what you’re listening to) when the clock strikes midnight could carry more importance than what you’re wearing. Seriously, there are plenty of traditions you can follow to go into 2023 with a fresh start.
No matter how you choose to celebrate New Year’s Eve, whether it’s with a lavish New Year’s Eve dinner, a quiet night at home watching New Year’s movies or a thoughtful planning session centered around making New Year’s wishes, see if you can fold in one of these good lucky New Year’s traditions from around the world because we could all benefit from some fortune coming our way!
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Have Hoppin’ John on New Year’s Day
Or Try Something Else Round
Many cultures believe eating round foods on New Year’s Eve will lead to prosperity. In Italy, lentils serve the same function as the black-eyed peas in Hoppin’ John, with their round shape representing coins. And 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 media noche, or the midnight meal.
And in the Philippines, revelers don’t just try to eat circles — partygoers wear them, too. Polka dots are all the rage on December 31, increasing the chances for good luck in the new year.
Watch the Ball (or Something) Drop
Crowds have been gathering in New York City’s Times Square to watch the ball drop since 1907. And while the first one was just iron and wood, today you can watch a 12-foot, 11,875-pound geodesic sphere covered in 2,688 Waterford Crystal triangles and 32,256 LEDs make its descent, even from the warmth and comfort of your own home. Or, you can see something else fall as a visual countdown to the new year: Plymouth, Wisconsin hosts a Big Cheese Drop; Kennett Square, PA uses a giant mushroom and New Orleans drops a fleur de lis (formerly a big gumbo pot). No matter what symbol is used, it does make for a dramatic countdown.
Also in Brazil, if you head to the beach, you can increase your luck by heading to the water and jumping over seven waves. You get one wish for each wave, so think up your want list before heading into the water.
Christmas was forbidden in Soviet Russia, so New Year’s became the big gift-giving occasion during that time. Presents were delivered not by Santa but by Ded Moroz, or Father Frost, often aided by his granddaughter, Snegourochka. Anyone ready for another round of gift-giving?
You might think that making resolutions for the new years is a relatively recent trend, historically speaking, but the tradition is very old — and likely dates back more than 4,000 years. Historians believe Babylonians, one of the first cultures to actually celebrate the changing of the year, made promises to pay debts or return borrowed objects. If they could do it, so can you. Need help figuring out your 2023 goal? We’ve got plenty of achievable New Year’s resolution suggestions ready and waiting.
Fish is considered another good New Year’s entrée, since fish only swim in one direction — forward, like the movement of time.
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 (unless you’re the one who has to sweep them all up). But try to keep it on the doorstep: “I once threw a cup at my friend’s house,” a reveler told the University of Copenhagen’s University Post. “The cup didn’t break – his window did!”
Yes, exactly 12, one at each stroke of midnight to represent each month of the New Year. “Eating one grape at each of midnight’s 12 clock chimes guarantees you a lucky year — if and only if you simultaneously ruminate on their significance,” according to Atlas Obscura. “If you fail to conscientiously finish your grapes by the time the clock stops chiming, you’ll face misfortune in the new year.” Now, that’s a lot to chew on!
You’ve probably heard of this one before. When the clock strikes midnight, you’re supposed to kiss someone you love. It’s not just about stealing a smooch, either. According to the Washington Post, the tradition comes from English and German folklore, which believed that it’s “the first person with whom a person came in contact that dictated the year’s destiny.” Choose your partner wisely!
No one to kiss? The Irish believe that if you put a sprig of mistletoe (or holly or ivy) under your pillow on December 31, you’ll dream of your future partner. Now that’s what we call sweet dreams.
To Greeks, onions are a symbol of good luck and fertility, because they sprout even when no one is paying attention to them. On New Year’s Eve, families in Greece hang bundles of onions above their doors as a means of inviting that prosperity into the home. On New Year’s Day, parents also wake up their children by gently bonking their kids on the head with the onions that were outside.
In Denmark, people stand on their chairs and “leap” into January at midnight to bring good luck and banish bad spirits. Just look before you leap, so you don’t end up breaking the chair or starting off 2023 with a bruised shin.
In Germany and Austria, there are a few different lucky symbols that you can gift to friends and family 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 — or get edible ones made out of marzipan. Yum!
Wish *Everyone* a Good Year
Walloon and Flemish farmers in Belgium make sure everyone can get in on the festivities, and that includes the livestock. They rise early on January 1 to wish a “Happy New Year” to all the cows, horses, pigs, chickens and other farm animals. That way, they’ll have a good farming year.
While lots of countries have food-related traditions, Ireland’s most interesting tradition doesn’t involve eating. Instead, the Irish bang Christmas bread on the walls of their homes. It’s 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.)
In fact, pack nothing at all. In Colombia, people take empty suitcases and run around the block as fast as they can. It’s supposed to guarantee a year filled with travel. One writer for the Tampa Bay Times tried it with her Colombian husband in her Florida neighborhood. “Upon seeing two silhouettes tearing down the street at midnight with backpacks in their arms, our neighbors who were outside to watch fireworks made a beeline to their front doors. We worried they were calling the police.” The writer did, however, travel to Colombia that year. So hey, maybe it works!
In Greece, New Year’s dessert isn’t just a treat, it’s a game of chance. Guests eat vasilopita, or 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, served either at New Year’s or Christmas. One portion will have a peeled almond in it, and whoever finds it in their bowl is assured of luck in the new year and might even win a prize.
Keep the Windows Open. Doors too!
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 hope this old year goes out as quickly as possible, so you don’t let all the warm air out with it.
In upstate New York, they sell special peppermint pigs all throughout the holiday season. Everyone gets to take a turn hitting it with a special candy-size hammer and eating a piece for good fortune in the coming year. The peppermint is very strong, so only take a small piece. At least you’ll start the year with fresh breath!
Try to Predict What’ll Come Next
In Germany, you can buy a Bleigießen (Bleigiessen) kit which will supposedly give you hints for what’s to come in the year ahead. The tradition is to melt lead (now tin or wax, since lead is poisonous) on a spoon over a candle and then pour the metal into cold water. The resulting shape will reveal your fortune. Round balls represent good luck rolling your way, for example, while swords predict risk-taking.
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.
Choose Your Underwear Carefully
Certain countries, especially in Latin America, believe that the color of your underwear can bring good things to you in the next 12 months. Yellow is for luck, red is for love and white undies bring peace. And for heaven’s sake, make sure they’re clean and free of holes!
In Turkey, pomegranates are symbols of abundance. Eating them is great, sure — but if you really want a good 2023, you’ll smash the fruit on your doorstep. The more pieces there are and the farther they spread, the more prosperous you’ll be. For a little extra luck, try sprinkling salt in front of your door to bring peace.
“Auld Lang Syne” is often credited to Scottish poet Robert Burns, who sent it to the Scots Musical Museum in 1788. But the writer himself admits that he didn’t write the lyrics; he was just the first to transcribe an old folk song. If you really want to impress the other members of your party, learn the other verses (there are 10 in total).
Send Your Wish Down the River
Singapore decorates its Singapore River with the wishing spheres containing the hopes and dreams of New Year revelers. In the past, tens of thousands of spheres have floated down the river, making quite a beautiful sight.
Throw Water out the Window
Look out below! In Puerto Rico, they believe that dumping a bucket of water out the window drives away evil spirits. If that seems a little too unfair to the people who might be passing by, Puerto Ricans also sprinkle sugar outside their houses to invite the good luck in, which is a little sweeter (sorry).
In Japan, for ōmisoka, buddhist temple bells ring out 108 times as in the lead-up to midnight. Each chime is supposed to root out a worldly passion, such as anger, suspicion or lust. The last toll comes at midnight, to start the next year out on a vice-free foot.
In Ecuador, the bad parts of the old year — or año viejo — are turned into effigies and burned. People make sawdust-filled dummies out 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.
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. Often, participants with a high tolerance for the cold use the chilly dip as an opportunity to raise money for local nonprofits, so all of that teeth-chattering goes for a good cause.
Be Choosy About Your First Guest
The first person you allow through your doors in the New Year may set the tone for the coming months. In Scotland, the Isle of Man and some other parts of Northern England, the “first footer,” as it was called, was extremely important. Tradition in those parts of the world states to select a man 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.
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. Bottoms up!
Save a Wish for Next Year
Instead of burning your wishes, ask your guests to write down a resolution, goal, wish or note to their future selves, put it in a jar, then save it for the year. On the next New Year’s Eve, retrieve the jar and read the notes to see how far everyone has progressed.
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