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Read about traditions and customs for New Year including tradition of first footing.

New Year Traditions & Customs

Traditions and customs unique to New Year celebrations not only add fun to it but also have an interesting history and origin attached to them. Many of these activities were just to make New Year events more entertaining. People organize mock combats to represent the struggles between seasons, Old Year and New Year and Life and death and throw water outside their homes and beat plants and fruit trees with sticks to ward off evil.

They burn effigies of the Old Year and set off fireworks at midnight to welcome New Year. Generally, Old Year is shown as a very old man in rags, with a white beard and a stick while New Year is represented as a new smiling baby in diapers. Greeks used baby to represent New Year around 600 BC as they took it as rebirth of the spirit of fertility their god of wine, Dionysus. Early Egyptians also thought baby to be a symbol of rebirth. Later, Christians used baby to symbolize the birth of the baby Jesus. Some other popular New Year traditions are:
  • At the stroke of midnight hour, kiss your spouse or life partner to ensure that romance will favor your relations for next twelve months. The failure to observe this practice means the year may be full of icy stares and cold feelings.
  • George Washington started the custom of 'open house', a party where anybody could come in and enjoy on New Year's Day.
  • Good Luck foods on New Year include anything in shape of a ring or full circle as a symbol of complete life cycle. Dutch ate doughnuts and pretzels for the purpose. Legumes with ham is said to bring in luck and prosperity in many parts of US. Cabbage leaves are said to bring in paper currency while rice is also considered to be a lucky food on New Year's Day.
  • First footing is a very popular tradition. It is said that Lady Luck likes a handsome, tall, dark-haired man for escort to step inside the home or the macho man who rides his way to your doorstep in horseback. So, the first person to step inside your home after midnight should be either of the two mentioned above. Others including blondes, redheads and women have to wait until such a person crosses the threshold of your home. To make it easier, people often make such a person stand just outside the home for an hour before midnight (known as the witching hour) and just as the clock strikes twelve, the person puts his steps inside the home and be the first visitor. The visitor should have a present in hand too, preferably a silver or gold coin to denote wealth coming inside the home throughout the year.
  • Lonely people can ensure that something comes in their home at stroke of midnight by placing something in the basket just outside their door and attach a long string to it. Open the door at midnight and pull the thing over with the help of the string, without crossing the threshold.
  • Open all doors and windows before midnight so Old Year can steal away from your home easily before the New Year steps in.
  • People prepare dishes and put beans and black-eyed peas in it. In the New Year Feast, the person who gets them while dining is supposed to be the luckiest person at the table who will be the ward of Lady Luck and Lady Fortune throughout the year. The tradition originated in southern US.