My grandmother always warned: “Be careful what you do on New Year’s Day, because you’ll be doing it all year.” She probably meant you should avoid things like arguing with loved ones or… I don’t know… whacking your little brother with a Barbie doll. Just speculating, here.
I’m not a terribly superstitious person, but I do believe in listening to one’s grandmother. Therefore, I am very careful in choosing my New Year’s Day activities.
- Spend time with friends? Yes.
- Tell my husband and son how much I love them? Absolutely.
- Check in with friends? You bet.
- Write at least a paragraph of fiction? Definitely, in the hopes that I will have a productive writing year.
- Clean house? Oh, hell no.
Being Texan, my grandmother also adhered to the tradition of eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day for good luck. Cooked with bacon (the fat symbolizes richness) and served with golden cornbread and greens (representing wealth), black-eyed peas are a New Year’s staple all across the South.
My son has always questioned these Texas traditions of my grandmother’s, but even he would bow to the unbreakable rules as he was growing up. “One black-eyed pea,” I would say. “That’s all I ask.” His good luck would start as soon as he ate his one pea, because I wouldn’t throttle him. Quick learner, my son.
Of course, Texas isn’t the only place with New Year’s traditions.
Grandmothers across the globe have been busy for centuries dreaming up wacky ways to ring in the new year. To save you time, I’ve compiled a handy list of the things you’ll need to do, wear, or eat to ensure the coming year is the best ever. You’re welcome.
Attract good luck: To bring in good luck—in addition to eating black-eyed peas—you’ll want to smash plates on your friends’ and family members’ front doors like they do in Denmark. (The bigger the pile of smashed dishes on your front step New Year’s morning, the more luck you’ll have.) On your own front step, you’ll want to sprinkle sugar (as they do in Puerto Rico), then smash a pomegranate, splashing the pieces as widely as possible (Turkey) while eating jelly-filled donuts (Germany), donut balls (the Netherlands), and 12 grapes—one as each chime of midnight is struck (Spain). Then just make sure the first person to cross your threshold on New Year’s Day is a tall, dark-haired man bearing gifts of salt, coal, cookies, bread, or whisky (Scotland). Move over, Santa!
Drive away evil spirits: After you’ve secured your good luck, you’ll want to drive away those pesky evil spirits, right? That’s easy. Just dump water out of a window (Puerto Rico), bang on your walls and doors with bread (Ireland), and then don your finest furs and wooden masks and dance like a bear or goat (Romania).
Get rich quick: Your next step, or course, will be to secure wealth and prosperity. Just do like the folks in the Philippines do and surround yourself with round things symbolizing coins: wear polka dots, eat round food (fortunately, you’re already eating grapes and donuts, right?), and jingle coins in your pocket at midnight. Of course, you’ll also want to hang bundles of onions on your front door, then wake up your children on New Year’s morning by gently bopping them on the noggin with the same onions (Greece). And finally, if you really want to attract wealth, make sure you’re wearing yellow underwear—preferably ones that have been gifted to you (South America).
Peace, love, and understanding: Looking for peace this year? Swap out those yellow undies for some white ones. Looking for love? Try some red undies instead. Well-being? That requires green unmentionables. Those folks in South America place a lot of value on their undergarments’ fortune-telling properties, obviously. Really, you should probably just layer them all on simultaneously to be safe.
Travel: Is travel on your wish list this year? If so, grab an empty suitcase (after all, you’re already wearing all of your underwear, so your suitcase is empty right?) and run around the block with it. There. Travel guaranteed.
Out with the old, in with the new: Finally, throw out the old and welcome in the new by tossing your old, unwanted furniture off the balcony (Italy), then watch a round of bare-knuckle fighting (Peru), because nothing says Happy New Year like being hit on the head with a piano or beating the tar out of each other just because, right?
So there you go. Just follow these simple instructions, and you should have a healthy, prosperous, lucky, and adventurous year.
And don’t forget to eat your black-eyed peas.