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Global Good Luck Traditions on New Year


What's your family's New Year's Day tradition? We reach back into the TBT vault to last New Year's Day when Sunday Favorites columnist Merab Favorite enlightened us on some of the most popular New Year's Day traditions throughout the world.

BRADENTON – It seems that almost every culture has some sort of New Year tradition, whether it be serving a certain food, or performing a specific custom.


 Black-eyed peas are thought to bring prosperity to a new year. 

Black-eyed peas, Please

  • In the Southern U.S., we serve up black-eyed peas to welcome the New Year. They are thought to bring prosperity, especially when served with collard greens and corn bread.

Oodles of Noodles

  • In many Asian countries, long noodles are eaten on New Year's Day in order to bring a long life; however, breaking the noodle before it is all in your mouth is considered a sign of bad luck! An old Sicilian tradition says good luck will come to those who eat lasagna on New Year's Day, but don’t you dare dine on macaroni, or any other noodle because that will bring bad luck.

The Cabbage Patch

  • In Germany, Ireland, and parts of the United States, cabbage is associated with luck and fortune since it is green and resembles money. It is traditionally served with corned beef.

Luncheon of Lentils

  • Thought to resemble coins, lentils are eaten throughout Italy and Brazil for good fortune in the New Year so they serve lentil soup or lentils and rice on New Year’s Day.

The Wealth of an Almond

  • 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.
 The pomegranate is a symbol of abundance and fertility.

Pass the Pomegranate

  • Long associated with abundance and fertility, pomegranates are eaten in Turkey and other Mediterranean countries for luck in the New Year.

Through the Grapevine

  • In Spain and Portugal, when the clock strikes midnight, 12 grapes are eaten, 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 but a 13th grape is added assure good luck.

One Fish Two Fish

  • People eat fish to celebrate the New Year In North America, Asia, and Europe. In some countries, people associate fish with moving forward into the New Year since fish swim forward. Other people think fish symbolize abundance since they swim in schools.

Poor Piglet

  • 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.

Bringing Home the Bread

  • In Greece, 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.
 Many Asians believe breaking a noodle before it reaches the mouth is bad luck.


The Voodoo Priestess

  • In Brazil on New Year's Eve, priestesses of the local macumba voodoo cult dress in blue skirts and white blouses for a ceremony dedicated to the goddess of water, Yemanja. A sacrificial boat laden with flowers, candles and jewelry is pushed out to sea from Brazil's famous Ipanema beach in Rio de Janeiro.

Let’s Break Something

  • In Denmark it is a good sign to find your door heaped with a pile of broken dishes at New Years. Old dishes are saved year around to throw them at the homes where their friends live on New Years Eve. Many broken dishes were a symbol that you have many friends.

Country of Red Doors

  • The Chinese New Year, Yuan Tan, takes place between January 21 and February 20. The exact date is fixed by the lunar calendar, in which a new moon marks the beginning of each new month. 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 Guest List

  • 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 enters through the front door and leaves through the back. Guests who are empty-handed or unwanted are not allowed to enter first. In Wales, they take the tradition a step further, 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.
 The Chinese paint their doors with a fresh coat of red paint.

Predicting the Future

  • In Germany people would drop molten lead into cold water and try to tell the future from the shape it made. A heart or ring shape meant a wedding, a ship a journey, and a pig plenty of food in the year ahead. People also would leave a bit of every food eaten on New Year's Eve on their plate until after Midnight as a way of ensuring a well-stocked pantry. Carp was included as it was thought to bring wealth.

The Scarecrow

  • In Hungary they burn effigies or a scapegoat known as Jack Straw, which represented the evils and misfortunes of the past year to burn on New Year's Eve. Jack Straw is carried around the village before being burnt.

Church Bells and Gunshots

  • In South Africa they ring in the New Year with church bells ringing and gunshots being fired. For those in the Cape Province New Year's Day and Second New Year's Day are full of a carnival atmosphere as there are carnivals where people dress in colorful costumes and dance in streets to the sound of drums.

The Kiss

  • 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.


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