Saturday, January 1, 2011

Holiday Traditions: New Year’s Superstitions

Most of us are familiar with the idea that eating Black-Eyed Peas on New Year’s Day is supposed to be lucky.

How about some other New Year’s Traditions and Superstitions?

• First Footer – If the first person to cross your threshold is a dark-haired man, it is supposed to be good luck. It is BAD luck if the first footer is a woman. Also it is considered lucky if visitors on New Year’s Day come bearing gifts, bringing prosperity to the household they are visiting. Conversely, nothing should be taken from the home on New Year’s Day (which makes me wonder where you are supposed to store the items you are taking to friends??)
• Along these same lines, your pantry should be stocked, your wallet have money and you should wear new clothes on New Year’s Day. A full pantry and wallet ensure you will want for nothing in the coming year, the new clothes, especially red, ensure good fortune.
• A favorite tradition of mine is that a few minutes before midnight, I open up all the windows in the house, to let the bad luck from the previous year flow out and good luck for the new year flow in.
• Do some work, but not dishes or laundry. Doing work shows that you are willing to work during the new year, but washing dishes or laundry is said to foreshadow a death in the family. However, do not start a big project on New Year’s Day.
• Baba Jaga (or Yaga) – Now I haven’t been able to find anything on this particular tradition, but I remember it from my childhood. My Polish step-grandmother used to say that on New Year’s it was good luck to make a Baba Yaga figure and put it on the front door. Baba Yaga is a witch in Slavic/Russian tradition. She is sometimes seen as an old hag who steals children, but is often portrayed as someone who you seek out for wisdom and guidance. My own Baba Yaga is a Styrofoam ball covered in strips of cloth, with a handkerchief tied around her head and buttons for eyes.
• My favorite New Year’s tradition is one that is said to bring luck and wealth. You burn a bayberry scented candle and while lighting it say the following charm.

A bayberry candle when burned to the socket,
Brings luck to the home and money to the pocket!

• All Holiday decorations should be taken down by January 5th, which is the 12th Night or 12th Day of Christmas (remember the song?)
• I mentioned black-eyed peas, but how about some other New Year’s Foods? The following foods consumed on New Year’s Day are all said to bring luck:
  • Grapes – in Spain it is lucky to eat 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight, one for each month of the year. If the grape is sweet or bitter, it represents how well that month will go for the person eating it.
  • Greens – Collards, Kale, Mustard, the green represents money, which we all want more of right?
  • Beans – Not just black eyed peas, but peas and lentils as well because they resemble coins.
  • Pork – different countries all over the world will eat different parts of the pig for New Year’s. In Sweden, it’s pig’s feet, in Germany, sausage, in a lot of different countries including Spain, Portugal and Austria, roast suckling pig is served. Pigs mean prosperity (again with the money theme!)
  • Cakes/Baked Goods - Sometimes with a hidden surprise (like King’s Cake in New Orleans that is served at Mardi Gras). In Italy they make fried dough called chiacchiere drenched in honey. I have a dim memory of my grandmother making these as a small child. Honey for a “sweet” New Year.

How about a few recipes?

Hoppin ‘ John

Traditionally served with ham hocks, I found a recipe that was slightly quicker and easier!

1 lb of bulk sausage, crumbled
½ small onion chopped
3 cans of black eyed peas, rinsed and drained
3 cups of chicken broth
½ cup – 1 cup water
½ tsp cayenne pepper
Dash of cumin
Salt and Pepper
Cooked rice

Place the sausage and onion into a large saucepan over medium heat, and cook and stir until the sausage begins to brown, about 10 minutes. Stir in the black-eyed peas, chicken stock, water, and spices, and bring to a boil, simmer till reduced Serve over Rice.

I had a hard time finding a chiacchiere that matched what I remember my grandmother making. Everything I found dusted them with powdered sugar or chocolate chips. Also, she never called them chiacchiere, but crostoli. I found out doing my research that different areas of Italy refer to the pastries by different names. The EASIEST way to celebrate would be to buy some Stella D’oro Palmiere cookies. These are the closest to what I remember Grandma’s tasting like (and my aunties used to buy them as treats for us when I was younger!)

However, if you really want to make your own…

4 cups flour
4 eggs
1 1/3 sticks unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
Dash of salt
Dash of dry white wine or grappa (optional)

Oil for frying
Sanding Sugar

Combine flour, salt and melted butter in large bowl. Add eggs one at a time and mix well. Add wine or grappa if desired. Let dough stand for about 1 hour, covered.

Roll dough into 1 inch balls, then roll out into a circle or rectangle

Heat oil, fry each piece of dough, turning twice until golden. Remove to paper towel to drain of excess oil, drizzle honey while hot, sprinkle with sanding sugar.

My name is Rheya. If you would have asked me 20 years ago if I saw myself cooking, cleaning, sewing and serving the needs of another over my own, I would have told you to get your crystal ball checked. I was not a girl whose idea of bliss was being domestically oriented. I shunned Home Ec! A lot can change can’t it? I’ve found my happiness though in just that, domestic service. I currently live in an area south of Atlanta. I work outside the home, so balancing the two is always a challenge. But I try to manage it all with a smile on my face and remember that everything I do is for His honor.

NOTE from Danae: I am very excited to announce that this will Rheya's last "Guest post" as she will be an official Domestic Servitude blogger.


  1. Welcome Rheya.


    great post.

    I too was independent to a flaw, but now, like you, work full time and do all domestic chores. It is bliss.

    Happy Newyear.

  2. My wife is from Puerto Rico. They celebrate an epiphany tradition. Epiphany is sometimes also called “Orthodox Christmas” and comes on the church calendar the week immediately after Christmas. Anyway, the tradition is the three kings come on January 6th. They can be see coming by looking in the night sky. The three stars in Orion’s belt are said to be the kings coming.

    On January 5th, children who put a shoe box under their beds with grass in it and some water find a toy the next morning. The grass and water are for the camels to eat. This is know on the island of Puerto Rico as “Three Kings Day”.

  3. That is a really nifty tradition! I may have to put a box of grass under my bed tonight :)



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