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New Year’s Folklore and Superstitions

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New Year’s Folklore and Superstitions

The New Year is right around the corner, a time we set aside for getting rid of the old and bringing in the new. Throughout history, most cultures have drawn an association between a person’s actions on New Year’s Day and their fate during the year. Here are a few of the New Year’s superstitions, taboos, folklore, and old wives tales still in general circulation:

New Year’s Folklore and Superstitions

  • First Kiss: One of the more popular beliefs is that kissing your beloved at the stroke of midnight ensures twelve months of continuing affection. Failing to do so is said to produce the opposite effect.
  • Debt Free: Never begin the New Year with unpaid debts.
  • Bare Cupboards? Empty cupboards at the turn of the year foretell a year of poverty.
  • Comings and Goings: The first person to enter your home after midnight foretells the kind of luck you’ll have in the coming year. A tall, dark, handsome male bearing small gifts is said to bring the best luck. According to this same tradition, no one should leave the house until someone first enters from outside, and nothing should be removed from the house on New Year’s Day.
  • Air It Out! Opening all doors and windows at midnight lets the old year escape.
  • Lucky Duck! Babies born on New Year’s Day are said to have the best luck throughout their lives.
  • Best Foot Forward: A Polish tradition states that if you wake up early on New Year’s Day, you will wake up early for the rest of the year. And if you touch the floor with the right foot when getting up from bed, you could expect a lot of good luck for whole new year

Then there are the many traditions surrounding food:

  • In Italy, eating chiacchiere (carnival fried pastry), guarantees a sweet year – see recipe below!
  • In Spain, and many Latin countries, eating 12 grapes on New Year’s Eve — one for each stroke of midnight — is said to bring luck throughout the coming year.
  • According to a Pennsylvania “Dutch” (German) tradition, eating pork and sauerkraut brings good luck in the New Year.
  • In the Southern U.S., it is believed that eating black-eyed peas, ham hocks, and collard greens or cabbage on New Year’s Day will attract a financial windfall.
  • Eating anything that forms a circle – such as donuts – leads to good fortune in the coming year.
  • German folklore says that eating herring at the stroke of midnight will bring luck for the next year.
  • Eating pickled herring as the first bite of food of the New Year brings good luck to those of Polish descent.
  • It’s also suggested you should not eat certain things on New Year’s Eve, in order to prevent bad luck for the year ahead, such as lobster and chicken. Since lobsters can move backwards, eating them before the stroke of midnight may cause setbacks. For chickens, the idea is similar as they can scratch backwards. Other types of winged fowl are also discouraged as your good luck could fly away.

While many of these traditions are based on mere superstition, the idea that what we do on the first day of the New Year affects our entire year remains popular. Choose your actions carefully!

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If you notice a hole in the upper left-hand corner of your Farmers' Almanac, don't return it to the store! That hole isn't a defect; it's a part of history. Starting with the first edition of the Farmers' Almanac in 1818, readers used to nail holes into the corners to hang it up in their homes, barns, and outhouses (to provide both reading material and toilet paper). In 1919, the Almanac's publishers began pre-drilling holes in the corners to make it even easier for readers to keep all of that invaluable information (and paper) handy.

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