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World Customs for New Year’s Eve & New Year’s Day

Submitted by on December 26, 2009 – 4:51 pmNo Comment

Superstitions about the holiday – and why going to Tim Horton’s on New Year’s Day might bring you good luck!

Most cultures around the globe have superstitions – and many of these once deeply held beliefs have morphed into traditions and trends. Many such examples exist on New Year’s Eve (December 31st), as well as on New Year’s Day (January 1st).

For instance, if you have ever wondered why people make so much NOISE at the stroke of midnight, it comes from the belief that evil spirits do not like loud noises, and that they will be driven away for the New Year. In South Africa church bells ring and guns are even fired.


In Britain, it is tradition to have a dark-haired, handsome man be the first to enter your home in the New Year. The man usually brings:

  • a coin or other money for prosperity
  • bread so you will never go hungry in the New Year
  • coal for your fire, so you will always be warm
  • greenery, so you have long life
  • sometimes alcohol – probably for good cheer.

In England, on New Year’s day, girls would drop egg whites into water thinking it would form the first letter of the name of the man they would marry.

A similar tradition is carried out in Greece whereby the first person entering the home is key to the failure or success of the upcoming year.

In Taiwan, floors must not be swept on New Year’s Day for fear of casting any riches out the door. Swearing and fighting with anyone is forbidden, and woe to you if you break a dish… you must quickly say “Peace for all time”… to avoid any bad luck or misfortune.

In Korea everyone dresses in new clothes on New Year’s Day, to bring newness and prosperity to one’s home.


In Greece, New Year’s Day is also St. Basil’s Day, and Greeks bake a St. Basil’s Day cake with a gold or silver coin inside.

The cake is handed out… a piece for St. Basil, 2nd piece for the home, the next for the most senior member of the family, down to the youngest. There may also be pieces given to farm animals, and to the poor. It was believed that the person who found the coin would have good luck for the upcoming year.

Many cultures believe that any food in the shape of a ring is good luck, because it embodies the idea of coming “full circle”. That is why the Dutch believe it is good luck to eat donuts on New Year’s Day.

In Germany, pretzels are a traditional good-luck food. Children wear them around their necks on New Year’s.

In Spain, people eat 12 grapes at midnight for good luck.

In China, the Cantonese eat oysters because the name of “oyster” in Cantonese sounds like the word for “successful business”.

Many people in the U.S. - especially in the south – consume black eyed peas with ham on New Year’s Day. The tradition dates back to the Civil War, when the legumes were planted as food for livestock, and later for slaves. When Sherman’s troops came during the war, they destroyed all of the other crops, but left the black eyed peas. The Confederates survived in part due to black eyed peas.

In Brazil the lentil is believed to bring wealth, so lentil soup or lentils and rice are eaten on New Year’s Day.

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