New Year's Superstitions and Traditions

New Year's Superstitions and Traditions


Good luck, bad luck?

When I was growing up my Mother was the family "Keeper of Superstitions." She seemed to have some small insight or omen for every little occurence. If you mentioned your hand was itching, she'd tell you that you were going to handle money. If you dropped your dishrag while washing dishes - company was coming. If you dreamed of snow in the summer then "dreaming out of season and you are worrying without reason."

When it came to New Year's, there were two superstitions the family strictly adhered to; the first was that you should never wash clothes on New Year's Day because, (according to my Mother, The Keeper of Superstitions), if you did, you would be washing a dead relatives clothes by the end of the year. Eek! Horrifying! Needless to say, she never did laundry on New Year's Day and now I don't either. I don't know if the superstition is true or not, and I don't want to test it to try to find out!

The second New Year's superstition regards visitors - if a woman is the first visitor to your house in the New Year, it is bad luck! This was a widely known superstition in the area of Tennessee where my Mother grew up, and from this superstition came a tradition - men would go visting family, friends and neighbors on New Year's Day. The men would visit for a while, maybe have a cup of coffee and then move on to the next house.
I wondered where such a superstition might have come from so I did a little research and found it probably originated in Scotland where they have an ancient tradition known as "First Footing." In the First Footing tradition the first visitor to your home for the New Year should be male, preferably a tall, dark stranger. This first visitor should arrive with a gift such as coal for the fire, shortbread, salt, whiskey or coins. This first visitor is invited in, has a drink or a bite to eat, and then moves on. 
Why is the first visitor preferably a tall, dark stranger? Rumor has it that this dates back centuries to the days when the Vikings were raiding Scotland - no one wanted a blond Viking at their door!  
This tradition of "First Footing" still goes on in Scotland to this day during their New Year's celebration known as Hogmanay.  

Food

While my family didn't have a particular New Years' superstition regarding food, many people do. While living in Maryland, I discovered many people eat black-eyed peas and "greens" (such as collard greens) on New Year's Day. According to their superstitions, the black-eyed peas bring good luck, and the greens bring you money.
When I moved to Pennsylvania, I noticed when the New Year approached that there were signs here and there advertising local "New Year's pork and sauerkraut dinners". I later found out that eating pork and sauerkraut on New Year's Day is an old German tradition, and of course, it is supposed to bring good luck.

Traditions Live On

Superstitions and traditions from Germany. Superstitions and traditions from Scotland. And yet many of the people who keep these things are descended from ancestors who came to the "new world" a couple of centuries ago. Perhaps, in a small way, on New Year's Day, our "roots" still stretch all the way back to our "Old Country"?


Does your family have any New Year's superstitions and traditions? Post a comment and share!

2 comments:

  1. That's funny. The only superstition I can remember growing up.... was when I took walks with my dad when I was little.... and if there was a crack in a sidewalk, I was told "don't step on a crack or you'll break your mothers back." I never walked on cracks for the longest time, but now..I've walked on so many cracks, it's silly. My mother is fine by the way. :)

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  2. I think most people have heard of that one - I'm glad it isn't true! There'd be a lot of mothers with bad backs.

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