New Years Superstitions By: Sue Eckhoff, Grundy County Heritage Museum
December 26, 2013
January 1st. The dawn of a new year. Somehow we’ve always drawn a connection between what we do on that day, and our fate throughout the New Year. There are many superstitions associated with New Years. Some of the lesser known customs have come through the ages. Most are attempts to guarantee a good outcome through our acts that day. Most we’ve heard of, some not so much. The most obvious of New Years superstitions is kissing at midnight. We kiss those dearest to us at midnight not only to share a moment of celebration with our favorite people, but also to ensure those affections and ties will continue throughout the next twelve months. To fail to smooch at the stroke of midnight would be to set the stage for a year of coldness. Some of the time-worn superstitions are as follows: The New Year should never be begun with bare cupboards, lest they be that way for the next year. Food should be stocked up, and plenty of money must be placed in every wallet in the home to guarantee prosperity. The New Year should not be begun with the household in debt, so checks should be written and mailed off prior to January 1st. Likewise, personal debts should be settled before the New Year arrives. Then there is the “First Footing”. The first person to enter your home after the stroke of midnight will influence the year you’re about to have. He should be dark-haired, tall and good looking and it would be even better if he came bearing small gifts. Blonde and red headed first footers bring bad luck, and female first footers should be shooed away before they bring disaster down on the household. The first footer (sometimes called “Lucky Bird”) should knock and be let in, even if he is one of the householders. After greeting those in the house and dropping off the small tokens of luck, he should make his way through the house and leave by a different door. First footers must not be cross eyed or have flat feet or eyebrows that meet in the middle. Nothing goes out. Nothing, absolutely nothing, not even garbage is to leave the house on the first day of the year. A tradition in the southern states dictates that the eating of black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day will attract both general good luck and financial good fortune. Other lucky foods are Ham hocks, collard greens, or cabbage. Make sure to do, and be successful at something related to your work on the first day of the y ear. Do not do the laundry on New Year’s Day; lest a member of the family be “washed away” (die) in the upcoming months. Wear something new on January 1 to increase the likelihood of your receiving more new garments during the year to follow. At midnight on New Y ears Eve, all the doors of a house must be opened to let the old year escape. Make as much noise as possible at midnight, you’re not just celebrating, you’re scaring away evil spirits. The weather is important. If the wind blows from the south there will be fine weather and prosperous times in the year ahead; from the north, it will be a year of bad weather. From the east brings famine and calamities, and strangest of all if the wind blows from the west the year will plentiful supplies of milk and fish, but will see the death of a very important person. Babies born on January 1 will always have luck on their side.
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