idnight December 31: when our clocks and calendars tip us into the New Year, party hats and all, to start anew. The goal is to end the old year with respect — and a really great soiree — and set our intentions to bring prosperity, love and luck in the new year. Most countries and cultures boast long-held traditions to ensure these gifts of abundance come our way — from eating certain foods and singing special songs to imbibing festive cocktails — and most of us participate in these great superstitions, sometimes without even knowing why.
Communal year-end rituals can be divided into two categories: those we do on New Year’s Eve and those we save for New Year’s Day.
NEW YEAR’S EVE
Start with a Clean Slate:
Take the time leading up to New Year’s Day to get your sh*t together. Clean your house, pay outstanding bills, get rid of personal debt by returning the things you borrowed in the past 12 months, settle any unsettled fights and reflect on your shortcomings. If you happen to live near a body of water, ablution is always a good idea. Jump in to wash away your sins and the grime of the past year.
Hear No Evil:
The devil comes around on New Year’s Eve, and he is very afraid of loud noises, which is why it’s customary to welcome in the new year with fireworks, noisemakers, loud cheering, drunken shouting and the group singing of songs like “Auld Lang Syne” that no one really knows the words to* or understands**.
* Words: “Should Old Acquaintance be forgot, and never thought upon/The flames of Love extinguished, and fully past and gone/Is thy sweet Heart now grown so cold, that loving Breast of thine/That thou canst never once reflect on Old long syne.”
** And meaning, according to Billy Crystal in When Harry Met Sally, “I mean ‘Should old acquaintance be forgot?’ Does that mean that we should forget old acquaintances, or does it mean if we happened to forget them, we should remember them, which is not possible because we already forgot ‘em?” Truth.
Lonely people and those with halitosis dislike many holidays … especially New Year’s Eve because you’re supposed to kiss someone at midnight. Sometimes it’s difficult to find someone who wants to play tonsil hockey, but if you’re lucky enough to have a willing partner at midnight, smooch them good. The magical midnight kiss is rumored to bring love in the new year. So if you’re already in a relationship, kiss your beau and love each other through the next 12 months. And if you’re alone and kiss no one, you’re doomed to be alone all year.
Drinking alcohol generally brings luck and health (and a certain level of carefree happiness) in history and across the globe so make sure you drain the dregs of a bottle on New Year’s Eve to ensure good fortune in the coming year. Champagne is an especially popular NYE alcohol, perhaps because it’s fun and effervescent or because the loud popping sound helps scare off Satan (see above). Here are two popular champagne cocktail recipes:
1 part crème de cassis and 9 parts champagne
1.25 oz. gin, .25 oz. simple syrup, .25 oz. lemon juice, generous helping of champagne
When the clock strikes midnight, drop 12 grapes in your champagne to represent 12 months. Toast your grapey champagne with all your friends and then eat the fruit as quickly as possible, making a wish with each grape.
Best Footing Forward:
Don’t let just anyone in your home this year. In Northern English folklore, the first person to set foot in your home in the new year — aka the “First Footer” — will decide your fortune in the coming year. If you can control it, the first person to cross your threshold should be a handsome dark-haired gentleman bearing gifts of coin, bread, salt, whisky and good cheer. Ain’t nothing wrong with that. Avoid those with flat feet, crossed eyes or unibrows. And let no one leave before the first footer arrives, otherwise you’ll suffer from terrible luck next year.
Open all your doors and windows at midnight to let the old year out.
NEW YEAR’S DAY
Don’t let anything leave your home on New Year’s Day, from money to food to bills. This signals money leaving your home and you should always start the year by adding wealth to the home before you take it away. You should also fill your wallet with money and your cupboards with food before New Year’s Day — both ensure prosperity in the coming year. If you do have gifts to give or things to return, bring them out to your car before midnight on New Year’s Eve.
The underwear you choose to wear on New Year’s Day has a large effect on your love and life in the coming year. If you’re looking for love, wear pink. How about prosperity? Put on some yellow briefs. And if you’d like peace and happiness, go with white undies. If you don’t believe in panty superstition, try wearing new clothes on New Year’s Day, particularly something red. Red is considered a happy color and will attract a bright future.
Cabbage and Fish:
Cabbage looks like money … kind of. That’s why you should eat it on New Year’s Day. It will bring luck and good fortune. And if you’re feeling ballsy (and don’t mind your house smelling like crap), pair it with fish. Fish swim forward and in large groups, also symbolizing good fortune. Other foods to try: black eyed peas or lentils for money; noodles for long life (just don’t break them); pomegranates for fertility; and pigs because they root forward. Avoid eating birds because they dig and scratch in the dirt for their food, symbolizing poverty.
Leave the Dishes:
Don’t wash dishes or do laundry on New Year’s Day. There’s a chance it will lead to a death in the family in the coming year. To be extra safe, don’t wash your hair either. ©