The Southern tradition of eating black eyes peas on New Year’s Day is something that can continue throughout the year. “Each pea has an eye in it and there’s a sense of looking into the future and bringing good luck to people who eat them,” said William Ferris, a professor at the University of North Carolina and co-editor of the Encyclopedia of Southern Culture. The good-luck ritual includes shelling the peas and throwing the husks in the road, he continued. Southerners also believe eating collard greens early in the New Year will bring money and prosperity. Time to get those greens and beans on the stove.
The Chinese New Year uses the color red to symbolize good luck and happiness. In China, front doors are traditionally painted red to bring in the good omens. Although you might not want a new door color, wearing red can convey self-esteem and confidence. And according to a 2008 study, wearing red may also increase a woman’s luck at catching a mate—men reported that women in red clothing were sexier than those in blues and greens.
The Chinese also believe that dragons, fish, elephants, and cranes represent good luck and prosperity. Many people have statues or pictures of these animals in strategic parts of their house.
The Spanish ritual on New Year’s Eve is to eat twelve grapes at midnight; one eaten at each tolling of the midnight bells. The tradition is meant to secure twelve happy months in the coming year. This ritual could be used year round on birthdays to issue in twelve happy months of your “new” year.
The Greeks bake a special cake on New Year’s Day to secure luck for the coming year. Vassilopitta, or St Basil’s cake, is baked with a silver or gold coin inside. Whoever finds the coin in her piece of cake will be especially lucky during the coming year. A twist on this traditional theme is to have a dinner party, make a Vassilopitta, and declare the finder of the coin the luckiest person for the next year.
During the New Year, the Dutch have Christmas tree bonfires on the streets and launch fireworks. The fires are meant to purge the old and welcome the new. The Dutch also believe that circles are a symbol of success. For that reason, they believe that eating donuts on New Year’s Day will bring good fortune. An idea to incorporate this good luck symbol into your life is to wear circular jewelry, hoop earrings, bracelets, and rings.
Germany has a very odd tradition to predict the course of action of the coming year. It’s called “Silvester” and it involves melting lead on the stovetop. After it becomes molten, they pour it out on a cookie sheet and whatever shape it takes determines the course of the following year. For example, a round shape means good luck will roll your way. A flower shape signifies new friendships. This may seem ridiculous, but Germans have been relying on it for years. For practical (and safety) purposes, this might be better in theory than in practice. Try splattering some paint on a canvas and determine what shape it makes. Make this your good luck omen, or just use it as a way to express creativity and blow off some steam.
The Japanese serve soba noodles on New Year’s Eve or Day. They believe that the long noodles signify a long and prosperous life and that eating a long noodle in one bite will secure a long, fruitful life. The Japanese also decorate their homes in tribute to lucky gods. One tradition, kadomatsu, consists of a pine branch symbolizing longevity, a bamboo stalk symbolizing prosperity, and a plum blossom showing nobility. Idea: Use this tradition as a reason to do a little redecorating in your place. A fresh makeover of your interior can help you become more organized. Perhaps you just might find that extra stash of cash.
Contrary to popular belief, you can make your own luck. And, thanks to a little help from these unique traditions, the coming year might be fruitful for all of us. Try them out and customize them. Use them as inspiration for making new traditions of your own. And, if all else fails, just eat a fortune cookie and see what happens.