New Year Customs and Traditions – Happy New Year

Happy New Year Fireworks

New Year Traditions – British Culture, British Customs and British Traditions



England celebrates the New Year from the evening of December 31st into January 1st. Traditionally, on the stroke of midnight, people open the back door (to let the old year out) and ask the first dark haired man to be seen to come through the front door carrying salt, coal and bread. This means that the following year everyone in the house will have enough to eat (bread), enough money (salt) and be warm enough (coal).

Whilst, in Scotland they always seem to celebrate New Year on a grander scale. Their celebration of New Year’s Eve is called “Hogmanay” From the stroke of midnight the tradition of first footing is observed. The first person to set foot in a home in a New Year is believed to profoundly affect the fortunes of everyone who lives there. The “first footer” often brings symbolic gifts like coal to keep the house warm or baked goods such as shortbread, oat cakes, and a fruit caked called black bun, to make sure the household always has food.

Generally strangers are thought to bring good luck, but depending on the area, it may be better to have a dark-haired or fair-haired stranger set foot in the house, but whatever your hair colour it is certain that Scotland is a very welcoming place for strangers at New Year.

If you happen to find yourself in Wales at New year then the tradition is also for letting out the old year and letting in the new but if the first visitor in the New Year is a woman and a man opens the door it’s considered bad luck. Whilst, if the first man to cross the threshold in the New Year happens to have red hair, then this is considered to be bad luck.

Whilst for many people the New Year signifies an opportunity to forget the past and make a clean start, the fortunes of the New Year are not just down to fate, for you can eat yourself to good fortune. There are a variety of foods that are believed to be lucky and to improve the odds that your new year will be a greatly fortunate one.


New Year’s revellers in Spain consume twelve grapes at midnight—one grape for each stroke of the clock. This dates back to 1909, when grape growers in the Alicante region of Spain initiated the practice to take care of a grape surplus. The idea stuck, spreading to Portugal as well as former Spanish and Portuguese colonies such as Venezuela, Cuba, Mexico, Ecuador, and Peru. Each grape represents a different month, so if for instance the third grape is a bit sour, February might be a difficult month and a sweet tasting grape may be representative of a successful month.


Eat up Your Greens

Cooked greens, including cabbage, kale, and chard, are consumed at New Year’s in different countries as  good luck token as  their green leaves look like folded money, and are thus symbolic of economic fortune. So eat up your greens as the more you consume the more fortunate you may become.


Magic Beans

Legumes including beans, peas, and lentils are also symbolic of money and wealth. Their small, seed like appearance is believed to resemble coins that grow when cooked so they are eaten with financial rewards in mind and thoughts of financial growth.

In Italy, it’s customary to eat cotechino con lenticchie or sausages and green lentils, just after midnight to ensure wealth and prosperity in the New Year

Whilst in the Southern United States, it’s traditional to eat black-eyed peas in a dish called hoppin’ john. There are even those who believe in eating one pea for every day in the new year. This all traces back to the legend that during the Civil War, the town of Vicksburg, Mississippi, ran out of food while under attack. The residents fortunately discovered black-eyed peas avoided starvation, it was thereafter considered lucky.



The custom of eating pork on New Year’s is based on the idea that pigs symbolize progress. A pig pushes forward, rooting itself in the ground before moving and also due to its high fat content it is considered to symbolise wealth.  Roast suckling pig is served for New Year’s in Cuba, Spain, Portugal, Hungary, and Austria.


What Not to Eat

In addition to the aforementioned foods to eat for good fortune, there are also a few to avoid.

Lobster should be avoided as they move backwards and could therefore lead to setbacks.

Chicken is not a good idea because the bird scratches backwards, which could cause regret or dwelling on the past.

Winged Fowl, avoid  any winged fowl because good luck could fly away.

May your New Year be fortunate and may your fortunes expand, but not your waistline.

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