New Year’s traditions

Published 7:09 pm Friday, December 28, 2012

While writing a story about New Year’s traditions and superstitions for the Dec. 28 newspaper, I uncovered interesting customs—some I was familiar with and others completely foreign to me.

The more articles I read, conversations I had and comments I received from readers, the more I realized just how popular New Year’s customs are here in the United States and all over the world.

Whether or not they seriously believe in the power of traditions and superstitions, millions of people—from America to China and beyond—take part in actions as simple as eating a certain type of vegetable in order to better the chances of having “good luck” for the next 365 days.

How many New Year’s traditions do you know? Check out what I learned from the Chilton County Extension Office and from various articles on the Internet.

I started my research with foods to eat on New Year’s Day.

I already knew about the black-eyed peas and collard greens tradition since my family and I have them nearly every year on Jan. 1 with the well-known idea that they will bring luck and money.

But below are more food-related New Year’s traditions perhaps not as well-known:

•The Dutch give children an “oliebol” (a homemade cake similar to a fritter) to symbolize the beginning of life.

•In Spain, those who swallow a dozen grapes one by one when the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s are expected to have good fortune.

•In St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, the belief is something terrible will happen to those who don’t eat as much “calalu” (a Caribbean vegetable) as they can.

•In Japan, lobsters and oranges symbolize a long and happy family life, and those who eat plums (which represented old age) would be blessed with a long life.

•Herring is a popular dish to serve in Germany from Christmas through New Year’s Day because the fish is believed to ensure that those who serve it will never be without $1 in the new year. White cabbage symbolizes silver, and carrot circles symbolize gold coins.

•In Hungary, people roast pigs for New Year’s dinner, and touching a pig at midnight is believed to bring luck. Some restaurants even let a pig run through the dining room for patrons’ enjoyment.

Traditions not related to food are still common as well, such as kissing loved ones at midnight and making loud noises not only to celebrate but also to scare away evil spirits.

Several more I thought were worthy of note include not taking out the trash or any other item on New Year’s Day; eating donuts or other round foods such as bagels to bring luck and signify the year “coming full circle;” and wearing new clothes on Jan. 1 to increase the likelihood of receiving more new clothes in the new year.

I suppose none of us will ever know if these customs passed down from generation to generation play any part in the way our lives unfold each year.

Maybe that’s what keeps the traditions alive.

–Emily Beckett is a staff writer for The Clanton Advertiser. She can be reached at