12 New Year's Superstitions That Leave Nothing to Chance

Wanna get lucky? Avoid tempting fate by participating in these international New Year's Day superstitions.

Published November 22, 2023
Couple celebrating New Year's with a kiss

From the things you eat to the people you smooch, there are so many hidden New Year’s Day superstitions that you unknowingly participate in. Get to the bottom of why you eat collards & black-eyed peas, or learn about new traditions you may want to add to your New Year’s itinerary.

Kiss Someone You Love at the Stroke of Midnight

Of course, the most common New Year’s superstition is that you’ll build lasting bonds with the person you kiss at the stroke of midnight. While this can add a mystical element to your new love, it doesn’t bode well for couples who can’t manage to lock lips before the ball drops.

Although there’s a lot of speculation about where this superstition comes from (some believe Germany, other people say England), it has made its way across the pond and cemented itself in American pop culture. So, if you want to ring in a long-lasting love, make sure you've got your lip balm and mints at the ready when the clock strikes midnight.

Collard Greens & Black-Eyed Peas, Oh My!

If you’re a multi-generation Southerner like me, then you already know what’s for dinner on New Year’s Day. The iconic collard greens and black-eyed peas menu came from African roots and spread throughout the American South. When you eat black-eyed peas and collards, you’re calling for good luck (the peas) and fortune (the collards).

Southern dish of black-eye peas and collard greens

Yet, this is one of those fun traditions that’s taken a life of its own over the years. Some people up north switch out collards for sauerkraut. While the specifics of their meanings have changed as well, my mother’s family always considered the collards to be your dollars and the peas to be your coins.

Serve Up a Whole Bird for Dinner

Not every culture celebrates the New Year at the same time, and the Chinese New Year follows the lunisolar Chinese calendar instead of the Gregorian one. Yet, Chinese culture is filled to the brim with food-based superstitions.

A delicious one is serving an entire chicken for dinner as a way to ensure your family sticks together and prospers throughout the year. And superstition or not, you can’t beat a beautifully roasted chicken for dinner.

Dinner & Wine? More Like Dinner & 12 Grapes to Go

If heavy foods like collards or whole chickens aren’t your vibe, then maybe a fresh cluster of grapes is more up your alley. In many countries with Spanish heritage, there’s a superstition that you must eat one grape with every bell toll on midnight of New Year’s Eve — one for every month of the year.

New years Spanish tradition

This historic tradition, stretching back to at least the late 19th century, is another in the long line of food-based superstitions that all try to stir up prosperity and luck in the new year.

Washing Your Laundry Is a Bad Omen

Make sure you don’t party too hard on New Year’s Eve, because you’ll be waiting to wash your clothes until January 2nd. Why, you ask? Because you only do laundry on New Year's Day if you’re trying to get somebody killed.

The superstition is that washing clothes — especially those of a loved one — will wash away their life. The last thing you want is to accidentally turn into a banshee. While many cultures have adopted this superstition, it’s unclear about where it originated. All we know is that laundry can wait 'til the day after, just in case.

Let the Bible Tell Your Future

If bibliomancy is your thing, then you can follow the Victorian practice of Dipping on New Year’s. This fortune-telling trick involved someone opening a random page in the Bible and pointing to a chapter or verse. Supposedly, this foretold the kinds of things that would be in your near future. 

Consume Some Ashes

If you’ve ever had Russian vodka, then you know that Russians don’t play around with their spirits. Naturally, one of their New Year’s superstitions had to be just as rock ‘n roll. If you’ve got a wish for the coming year, write it on a piece of paper and burn in it a champagne glass. Then pour some Champagne over it, and bottoms up!

We never pass up on blowing a wish over a dandelion’s seeds, so we’re adding this Eastern tradition to our New Year’s roster.

Your Spring Cleaning Comes Early

Many cultures put an emphasis on cleaning during New Year’s. Everyone has their own interpretation of how to follow this superstition, but the main idea behind it is cleaning your space of negative energy and bad mojo to create room for the good energy of the New Year.

This can look like deep cleaning every inch of your house or decluttering some overflowing closets. Some people also use a broom to sweep the metaphorical bad energy out of the house.

Avoid Cleaning on the 1st of the Year

Yet, in Chinese folklore, cleaning on New Year’s Day is a big no-no. Sure, your countertops could do with a polish, and your favorite mug needs to be washed, but grabbing those cleaning chemicals is said to bring bad luck for the upcoming year. It’s best to be on the safe side and spend that last hour or so winding down before the ball drop cleaning everything up or waiting until January 2.

Young woman sitting on the couch with her cat surrounded by laundry

An Empty Suitcase and Boots Made for Walking Are All You Need 

If you're a frequent flyer and your passport is full of stamps, then you’ve got to get in on Colombia’s New Year’s tradition. They say that if you carry an empty suitcase with you around the block on New Year’s Day, then there will be lots of traveling in your future.

So, break out your roller Samsonites and get to walking.

Jump Straight Into the New Year

In some countries, such as Denmark, people celebrate the new year in quite an active way. Climb a chair just before midnight, and as the clock turns, jump off the chair in jubilation. It’s one thing to celebrate the New Year, but another thing entirely to jump right into it. After all, everyone could stand to feel jazzed about all the great things coming down the pike.

Or if you want to do it Filipino style, you'll jump like Jordan for the chance to tack on a few extra inches to your height. 

Stay Clear of Activities You Don’t Want to Be Stuck With

Another superstition with vague origins centers around steering clear of activities you don’t want to be stuck with. While balancing your checkbook won’t bring bad tidings, it’s not something you want to convince the cosmos to give you the opportunity for.

Break out the old hobbies you want to get better at, cook a dish from scratch, and start the day with an early workout. Who needs intentions when you can hack the universe instead?

New Year's Day Superstitions to Hedge Your Bets

When New Year’s comes knocking, we don’t want to leave anything up to chance. Ring in a year filled with love, travel, good vibes, and prosperity by packing in as many New Year’s superstations as you can. At the very least, it never hurt anyone to try, right?

12 New Year's Superstitions That Leave Nothing to Chance