Monday, December 28, 2009

New Year Superstitions Revisited

“There is superstition in avoiding superstitions.” – Francis Bacon

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday. I certainly did. Due to the fact I am still in the holiday frame of mind, I decided to resurrect and slightly modify a previous (2008) post.

January 1st officially became the first day of a new year in 46 B.C. when Julius Caesar established the Julian calendar. This has allowed ample time for celebration traditions to develop and perhaps explains why so many are based on superstitions.

A German New Year tradition is to attempt to tell the future by dropping molten lead into cold water. A heart or ring shape indicates a wedding; a ship means a journey; and a pig is a sign of plenty of food in the year ahead. Another tradition, to ensure a well-stocked pantry for the upcoming year, is to leave a bit of every food eaten on New Year’s Eve on your plate until after midnight.

In England, the practice of "first-footing" is important. To ensure good luck for the inhabitants of a house, the first person to enter on New Year's Day should be a young, healthy and good-looking male with dark-hair. He should carry a small piece of coal, money, bread and salt, symbolizing wealth. Women and people with blonde or red hair are considered unlucky "first-footers."

In Spain people eat twelve grapes from a bunch just as the clock strikes twelve on New Year's Eve to ensure twelve happy months in the coming year.

In Scandinavian rice pudding is considered a lucky dish. It is usually prepared with a hidden almond placed in the serving bowl. Who ever ends up with the almond in his or her serving is believed to be doubly blessed with good fortune in the coming year.

Here in the U.S, we incorporate many of the traditions from around the world plus adding a few of our own in the observance of New Year. Kissing a loved one at midnight ensures another happy year with that person. Eating black eye peas on New Years brings luck. Horns and noise makers at midnight chase evil spirits away. Opening a door or window at midnight allows the old year to escape unimpeded.

I read that for authors to have a successful year they should write one chapter of a book on New Years Day. However, working or writing too much can be bad omen, so don’t over do it.

Last year Sondra left this fun comment (thank you, Sondra) about an interesting Irish tradition. I thought I’d share it.

"We did the 12 grapes when we lived in Spain. 1 grape for each chime of the clock at was hysterical! Very hard to do too especially by about the 6th chime! :)

My husbands Irish family's tradition is, right before midnight everyone goes outside (leaving the front door open) and stands in the front yard, Happy New year and kisses all around and then the man of the house goes around the house and opens all the outside doors. Everyone joins with him when he makes it back to the front door and as a group travel around the house and close all the open doors then re-enter through the front door together."

My husband and I start the year off with a steak dinner. Our line of reasoning is that if things go badly downhill during the year, we’ll at least have had one really good meal.

What are your New Year traditions?

However you celebrate, I hope 2010 brings you good health, happiness and prosperity.

Thanks for stopping by.

Tags: Francis Bacon, New Yearl, superstition, Julius Caesar, Julian Calendar, New Year traditions,


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Great superstitions!

Gosh, we're so superstitious here in the South. We have to take our tree down by Jan. 1 to avoid bad luck. The black-eyed peas run out at the supermarket--they ensure prosperity for the new year.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Helen Ginger said...

We always have black-eyed peas and cornbread on New Year's Day. Not positive, but I think that's a southern tradition in the States.

Straight From Hel

Carol Kilgore said...

Black-eyed peas, for sure. These are all great superstitions and most are new to me. Thanks.

Karen Walker said...

Love the Irish one from Sondra. Each New Year's Eve, we are at a folkdance party. We have a potluck, then a talent show, then dance in the New Year. At midnight, we all stand in a circle, arms around each others' shoulders and sing "Auld Lang Sine." It's a gentle way to bring in the New Year and I love it.

Tamika: said...

Fun and interesting post! My New Year will begin giving thanks, and hopefully that will be the spirit of the year for whatever comes my way.

I long for plenty of writing!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

The dinner sounds like the best idea of the bunch, Jane!

Does watching the Times Square ball drop count?

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Elizabeth, we’ve always taken our tree down by Jan. 1, but I didn’t know the reason behind it. Thanks for filling me in. I guess you’d better buy your peas early.

Helen, I’m not sure if that’s just a southern tradition or not. It seems like it was also traditional in other places we lived, like Illinois.

Carol, the black-eye peas seems to be a common thread here.

Karen, what a lovely way to ring in the New Year.

Tamika, sounds like a good way to begin and end a year. Hopefully your New Year will bring ample opportunity for you to get in plenty of writing time.

Thanks, Diane. And I’d say watching the Times Square ball drop, definitely counts!

Jen Chandler said...

Those are fun! I especially like the eating 12 grapes, one for each strike of the clock! I think I'd choke...not very lucky :)
We go to my mom's house for black eyed peas and cornbread. I know they say to take the tree down by Jan. 1 but I love mine so much I leave it up until Jan 6 (the feast of Epiphany).

Happy Monday!

Anonymous said...

Our New Years tradition is staying off the roads to avoid all the drunk drivers out there. I want to live past day one of the New Year.

Stephen Tremp

Elspeth Antonelli said...

We do 'first-foot'. We also open the front door at midnight to let the new year in. I didn't know about the writers' omens; I shall observe the superstition as I need all the luck I can get!


Sandy Lender said...

We always had to do beans-n-ham on New Year's Day. (I hated beans-n-ham...had to drown it in ketchup as a child...)

One of my family members told me that whatever you do on New Year's Day is what you'll be doing all year, so I avoid laundry, dishes, mega cleaning projects, and spend time writing, hanging out with friends, playing with my bird...yet the year is always full of chores anyway. I think maybe these superstitions are not true. ;)

From Sandy Lender
"Some days, you just want the dragon to win."

Sharon said...

I never knew there were so many superstitions connected with the new year. Since we aren't superstitious, we enjoy the tradition of praying in the New Year, preferably with others, not just our own family. This is something we learned from our friends in Brazil. This New Year's Day we will have pork roast and perhaps a few black-eyed peas!

Galen Kindley--Author said...

I'm so boring I have no neat traditions, cool stories, or unusual things to share. Uh, except there was this one time when there was no room at the inn and I had to sleep in manger...but that's not so impressive.

Big wishes for a great new year, Galen.

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Jen, I like the grape idea too – if I can stay up that late, I might try it! Going to your mom’s house sounds like a lucky tradition to me – someone else gets to do the cooking! Jan 6 is probably just as lucky as Jan 1 for taking a tree down.

I couldn’t agree with you more, Stephen!

Elspeth, I like the idea of opening the door at midnight. I didn’t write a chapter on New Year’s day last year, but I am going to make an attempt to do it this year to see if I become luckier.

Sandy, do you still hate beans-n-ham or have you carried on the tradition? I’m going to try to avoid chores on New Year day just in case that superstition works this year.

Sharon, praying is probably a more logical approach to the New Year. The pork roast sounds yummy.

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Galen, it’s never to late to make up your own personal tradition – like making sleeping in a manger an annual event! Happy New Year to you, too.

Elisabeth said...

I'm new to your blog, Jane. Now our children are older and all go their own ways each New Year's Eve, at midnight my husband and I stand at the top of our street, in the middle of what is usually a busy road and watch the fireworks erupt above the city. We get a clear view from there.

Our neighbors, two women, an eighty year old and her daughter who suffers CFS join us and on that one day of the year we greet them in a different way from our usual more formal friendliness.

The turning over of the year can bring out the best in us.

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Welcome Elisabeth. I'm so glad you stopped by. Fireworks are a big part of ringing in the New Year - how nice to be able to view them from the middle of the road without fearing for your life! I agree, a new year does tend to bring out the best in us as it provides new hope for another opportunity to see our dreams to come true.

Jan Morrison said...

We do 'first footing' a Scottish tradition I must add! A braugh brai bonny man must come through the door with a bit of coal (heat), a bit of shortbread (food) and bit of the drink (merriment). Usually I make my fella walk around the house but as he is allergic to celebrations he tries to get to bed before midnight! Then we have the tradition of starting the year with a grumpy attack! I am not remotely southern being a Canuck but I have made black eyed peas and greens for coin and folding money on New Years before. I also like to do a little on the day of what I want to do a lot of in the year - so I will write and walk and make merry and other things I don't care to share! If we get together with friends we might share our highs and lows of the year and that is always lovely.
Happy New Year and may all your dreams come true!

Bob Sanchez said...

Jane, I especially like your tradition of having a steak dinner with your husband.

Happy New Year,

Jane's Ride - Novelist Jane Kennedy Sutton's journey through the ups and downs of the writing, publishing and marketing world