Popular New Year's Eve Traditions and Superstitions

Updated on January 15, 2020
LindaSarhan profile image

L Sarhan loves researching and writing about the lesser-known aspects of popular holidays and celebrations.

There are plenty of unique traditions and superstitious beliefs surrounding New Year's Eve and Day. Which ones do you observe?
There are plenty of unique traditions and superstitious beliefs surrounding New Year's Eve and Day. Which ones do you observe? | Source

Ah yes, the new year. As one door closes, another one opens. Many people believe that they have the ability to choose which doors close and which ones open by observing certain traditions and superstitions on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. Some casually pick and choose which traditions to observe, while others are meticulous in following a set of superstitions as if their life depends on it. Some even observe New Year's Eve and Day traditions just for fun without ever wondering why they exist in the first place.

13 New Year's Traditions and Superstitions

  1. Eating Black-Eyed Peas and Collard Greens
  2. Breaking Glass
  3. Drinking Champagne
  4. Thinking Happy Thoughts and Avoiding Crying
  5. Using Fireworks and Noisemakers
  6. Kissing at Midnight
  7. Doing Weird Things With Money
  8. Making New Year's Resolutions
  9. Making New Year's Eve Wishes
  10. Opening Doors
  11. Singing "Aulde Lang Syne"
  12. Not Bringing Things Outside of the House
  13. Eating 12 Meals

Collard greens are thought to represent money, while black-eyed peas are said to symbolize luck.
Collard greens are thought to represent money, while black-eyed peas are said to symbolize luck. | Source

1. Eating Black-Eyed Peas and Collard Greens

Black-eyed peas and collard greens are among the most common foods consumed on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. It is thought that eating this dish will bring good luck and prosperity in the new year. The collard greens represent money, and the black-eyed peas symbolize good luck, so eat up!

Black-Eyed Peas and Collard Greens Recipes

2. Breaking Glass

In many parts of the world, it is thought that breaking anything on New Year's Eve or Day could bring bad luck in the year to come. In Denmark, however, breaking glasses and other dinnerware on NYE is a longstanding tradition. Each year, people go to their friends' houses on New Year's Eve and throw glasses and dinnerware at their external walls. It is thought that the more broken dishes you have outside your home on the morning of New Year's Day, the better your luck will be in the new year. Cheers, I guess?

Champagne tends to be more expensive than wine, so it is traditional to save it for only the most important occasions.
Champagne tends to be more expensive than wine, so it is traditional to save it for only the most important occasions. | Source

3. Drinking Champagne

Champagne is consumed during a variety of special occasions, but at New Year's Eve celebrations, it has become an absolute staple. But where did this tradition come from?

Many pagan festivities, including celebrations of the new year, were traditionally observed with the consumption of wine. About 1,500 years ago, champagne accidentally came onto the scene. Fermenting yeast in wine went dormant in the winter but awakened during the warmer months, eating up the grape sugars in the wine. When this fermentation process happens in a container that is closed, a chemical reaction occurs, and carbon dioxide infuses the liquid, causing a bubbly effect very much like what occurs in carbonated beverages.

Because bottles of champagne are generally more expensive than bottles of wine, it has long been traditional to reserve champagne for special occasions like New Year's Eve.

4. Thinking Happy Thoughts and Avoiding Crying

Some think that it is not advisable to cry on New Year's Day. It is said that doing so signifies impending unhappiness in the coming year. Those who abide by this superstition are encouraged to think happy thoughts on January 1st and attempt to remain in an upbeat mood throughout the day. It is said that if you do this, happiness will follow you throughout the entire year.

5. Using Fireworks and Noisemakers

Fireworks have become a part of many holiday celebrations, and New Year's Eve is no exception. Many people try to make as much noise as possible at the stroke of midnight to scare away evil spirits from the previous year. People around the globe light off fireworks and sound off noisemakers at midnight, and some continue to sing and listen to music for several hours afterward.

Midnight fireworks and kisses are both popular New Year's traditions.
Midnight fireworks and kisses are both popular New Year's traditions. | Source

6. Kissing at Midnight

Most people are aware of the tradition of sharing a kiss with someone at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve, but few know why this is done. It is said that if you kiss someone during the first minute of the new year, you will not be lonely that year. In England and Germany, it is thought that the first person you interact with during the new year will set the tone for your social and romantic interactions that year, so choose who you kiss wisely!

7. Doing Weird Things With Money

Bills: Some believe that you should not pay any bills on January 1st, as this will pave the path for you to be paying out money all year long.

Loans and Gifts: Some believe that giving out gifts or lending money on January 1st could set the tone for a year full of lost money and people demanding too much from you. This coincides with the superstition that you shouldn't remove anything from your home on New Year's Day (see the section below on Not Taking Things Outside the House).

Pennies: Some people believe that putting shiny, brand-new pennies face up in the corners and windows of your home will bring financial prosperity in the year to follow.

Wallets: Some people like to take out cash and stuff their wallets full of money on New Year's Eve. It is thought that doing so ensures that they will not go broke during the upcoming year. Believers in this superstition advise keeping your wallet filled with cash until at least January 2nd, so be mindful of your spending on New Year's Eve!

Making New Year's resolutions is an extremely popular tradition. Keeping them is another story . . .
Making New Year's resolutions is an extremely popular tradition. Keeping them is another story . . . | Source

8. Making New Year's Resolutions

Many people decide to make New Year's resolutions as a way to improve themselves or their situation as they make the transition from one year to the next. However, one out of three people abandons their resolution by the end of January.

Some people have modified this tradition by going so far as to create a "note to future self"—a letter packed full of advice for the new year. The purpose of this exercise is to think about what you have learned from the past year's success and mistakes and apply these lessons to the year to come. It's sort of like a pep talk to remind you to stay on a positive track during the new year.

The Most Popular New Year's Resolutions

  • Losing weight
  • Improving finances
  • Getting a new job
  • Quitting a bad habit (e.g. smoking, drinking, gambling, eating candy)

9. Making a New Year's Eve Wish

In addition to New Year's resolutions, some people make New Year's Eve wishes. These are lthings a person wishes for or hopes to accomplish during the new year. Some people choose to burn the list on New Year's Eve, while others put the list in a safe place to refer to at the end of the year to see if their wishes came true.

10. Opening Doors

It is a common tradition for people to open their doors at midnight on New Year's Eve. This practice is thought to release any bad or negative energies from the house and allow for new, positive energies to enter and remain throughout the upcoming year.

11. Singing "Auld Lang Syne"

Right after the countdown to midnight to ring in the new year, many people sing "Auld Lang Syne," which is an old Scottish poem written in 1788 by Robert Burns. The English translation of the song title is "Times Gone By," or as many Americans like to say, "The Good Ole Days." It is a poem about not forgetting friends, family, and acquaintances from the past as we move on to the future.

Should old acquaintance be forgot,

and never brought to mind?

Should old acquaintance be forgot,

and days of auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear,

for auld lang syne,

we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,

for auld lang syne.

— Robert Burns

12. Not Bringing Things Outside of the House

It is said that you shouldn't take anything outside of your house on New Year's Day. This includes taking out the trash and recycling. it is said that doing so could set a precedent of loss for the upcoming year. Followers of this superstition believe it is best to take the trash (and anything else) out before midnight on New Year's Eve or wait until January 2nd.

13. Eating Twelve Meals

In Estonia, it is traditional to eat twelve meals on New Year's Eve. It is believed that by doing so, individuals can gain the strength of twelve men throughout the new year. It is also traditional to leave any unfinished food from your plate outside your door to appease any hungry spirits that might pass by.

© 2015 L Sarhan

Which New Year's traditions do you observe?

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    • LindaSarhan profile imageAUTHOR

      L Sarhan 

      4 years ago from Huntsville, Alabama, USA

      Good point. I guess someone from Denmark should answer that. Of course, I dread putting down holiday decorations. lol

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 

      4 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      isn't it troublesome for the denmark people to clean up the glassed after smashing them?

    • LindaSarhan profile imageAUTHOR

      L Sarhan 

      4 years ago from Huntsville, Alabama, USA

      Thanks for contributing, Pollyanna! I bet it was along the same lines of letting the old energies of the past year out to allow positive energy in for the new year. It's interesting how people across the globe celebrate New Years. May you and your husband have a wonderful and prosperous new year!

    • Pollyanna Jones profile image

      Pollyanna Jones 

      4 years ago from United Kingdom

      I really enjoyed this. Lots of superstitions here that I had not heard about before. At midnight, my husband always opens the front door and then the back, to let the old year blow out and the new year blow in (we're in England, but I believe it is Irish in origin as he learned it from his mother).

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