The traditions for New Year’s Day run the gamut, impacted by region and cultures. Many of the superstitions or traditions associated with the event bear the common theme that activities engaged in on that day set the pattern for the year to come. Others have to do with warding off evil spirits or attracting luck.
• Kissing at midnight: We kiss those dearest to us at midnight not only to share a moment of celebration with our favorite people, but also to ensure those affections and ties will continue throughout the next 12 months. To fail to smooch our significant others at the stroke of 12 would be to set the stage for a year of coldness.
• Stocking up: The new year must not be seen in with bare cupboards, lest that be the way of things for the year. Larders must be topped up and plenty of money must be placed in every wallet in the home to guarantee prosperity.
• Paying bills: The new year should not be begun with the household in debt, so checks should be written and mailed off prior to Jan. 1. Likewise, personal debts should be settled before the New Year arrives.
• First footing: The first person to enter your home after the stroke of midnight will influence the year you’re about to have. Ideally, he should be dark-haired, tall, and good-looking, and it would be even better if he came bearing certain small gifts such as a lump of coal, a silver coin, a bit of bread, a sprig of evergreen, and some salt. Blonde and redhead first footers bring bad luck, and female first footers should be shooed away before they bring disaster down on the household.
The first footer (sometimes called the “Lucky Bird”) should knock and be let in rather than unceremoniously use a key, even if he is one of the householders. After greeting those in the house and dropping off whatever small tokens of luck he has brought with him, he should make his way through the house and leave by a different door than the one through which he entered. No one should leave the premises before the first footer arrives — the first traffic across the threshold must be headed in rather than striking out. First footers must not be cross-eyed or have flat feet or eyebrows that meet in the middle.
• Nothing goes out: Absolutely nothing, not even garbage — is to leave the house on the first day of the year. If you’ve presents to deliver on New Year’s Day, leave them in the car overnight. Don’t so much as shake out a rug or take the empties to the recycle bin.
Some people soften this rule by saying it’s okay to remove things from the home on New Year’s Day provided something else has been brought in first. This is similar to the caution regarding first footers; the year must begin with something’s being added to the home before anything subtracts from it.
• Work: Make sure to do — and be successful at — something related to your work on the first day of the year, even if you don’t go near your place of employment that day. Limit your activity to a token amount, though, because to engage in a serious work project on that day is very unlucky.
Also, do not do the laundry on New Year’s Day, lest a member of the family be ‘washed away’ (die) in the upcoming months. The more cautious eschew even washing dishes.
New clothes: Wear something new on Jan. 1 to increase the likelihood of your receiving more new garments during the year to follow.
• Money: Do not pay back loans or lend money or other precious items on New Year’s Day. To do so is to guarantee you’ll be paying out all year.
• Breakage: Avoid breaking things on that first day lest wreckage be part of your year. Also, avoid crying on the first day of the year lest that activity set the tone for the next 12 months.
• Let the old year out: At midnight, all the doors of a house must be opened to let the old year escape unimpeded. He must leave before the New Year can come in, says popular wisdom, so doors are flung open to assist him in finding his way out.
And for goodness sake, don't forget to eat some blackeye peas and collard greens!