Library Blog

Looking for Luck in 2021: Traditions and Superstitions from Around the World

luck superstition

It is impossible to deny that 2020 has been a difficult year for everyone. Well, 2021 is right around the corner and I’ve scoured the internet to find the best ways to bring luck into the new year.  I tried to include the most achievable traditions I found, and left out some of the most outlandish.  Considering you won’t be able to attend a big New Year’s Eve bash, why not spend it bringing in as much potential luck for the new year as possible? It certainly can’t hurt to try. (Cue Michael Scott: “I’m not superstitious, but I am a little stitious.”)

Traditions and Superstitions from Around the World

Fill your cupboards and fridge as many cultures believe bare cupboards will set the tone for scarcity in the new year.  An extra bag of rice is also considered lucky as it is associated with wealth. Would Uncle Ben’s 90-second rice and ramen noodles count? On a budget here, people. 

Put cash in your wallet or back pocket to usher in a year of prosperity.  Others say a coin or dollar in your shoe will do the trick.  And by prosperity do you mean finding said money in pants pocket around mid-February? 

Carry an empty suitcase to conjure a year full of travel and adventures. (Columbia) Be sure to warn your partner or roommate of this tradition to avoid a misunderstanding that could lead to breaking the following tradition. 

Don’t cry on New Year’s Eve or you could set in motion a year of sadness. No Disney movies, folks. 

Make some noise to ward off evil spirits and bad omens. If you aren’t up for shouting or fireworks, you can always fall back on the classic banging of pots and pans. For the sake of your family, please take this activity outside. 

Start the year with a clean house/sweep your doorway to sweep negativity from your family and life. (China and Latin America) If nothing else, it will feel good to start the new year with a clean home! 

But don’t clean on New Year’s Eve or Day as it can be said to “wash away” good luck. (China) Some even say you shouldn’t wash clothes, dishes, or even empty the trash.  I can get on board with this. 

Open windows and doors right before the ball drops to usher out the old year and welcome in the new year.  So long, 2020! Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.  

Wear white to represent peace and invite goodwill and harmony into the new year. (Brazil) White is also said to ward off evil spirits.  Speaking of spirits, can I repurpose my bedsheet ghost costume for this? 

Jump seven waves, and make a wish for each wave. (Brazil) This one is obviously location and climate permitting—I do not recommend for Ohioans even if the Lake Erie waves are high! 

Throw dishware at the doorstep of your loved ones. This is said to bring friendship and good luck in the new year. (Denmark) Let’s just hope all of those so-called “friends” are available to help clean up! 

Kiss someone at midnight to encourage “luck in love” for the new year. (Ancient Rome) Please use your best discretion if you aren’t in a relationship and keep COVID safety in mind. Actually, I wonder if pets count? 

TO EAT OR NOT TO EAT: 

Eat 12 Grapes The grapes signify good luck in each month of the upcoming year. Many prepare  wishes to make with each grape. Some say you have a minute to eat the grapes, others say just twelve seconds–eating one grape with each chime of the cuckoo clock. (Spain) Champagne is basically grapes, right? Just asking for a friend.

Eat and give sweets for a happy and sweet year to come. (Ancient Rome) You don’t have to tell me twice! 

Don’t eat lobster because they move backwards and it is believed to indicate a year of setbacks.  (Austria) Similarly, avoid shrimp and crab which tend to move sideways instead of forward. Honestly, I was planning for more of a pizza and nachos vibe, but fair warning to all of the sophisticates out there.  

Eat pickled herring to ensure a year of bounty due to the abundance in Western Europe.  The silver color also resembles coins which implies future fortune. (Germany, Poland, Scandinavia) Willing to suffer through a few bites for the sake of abundance and fortune. 

Eat fish to signify progress as fish only swim forward.  They also swim in schools which invokes the idea of abundance.  Preferably not bottom-feeding fish, though, as this may indicate a struggle to make ends meet in the new year. Okay, this is getting confusing. 

Eat black eyed peas and collard greens. Greens are said to bring you money, and peas reflect prosperity. (Southern tradition) Worst case scenario, you’ve started off the new year with a healthy meal! First step to conquering that yearly resolution. 

Eat lentils to ensure an increase of wealth in the coming year. (South America, Italy) Since black eyed peas and lentils are both legumes, I’m going to go with an either-or here. 

Eat soba noodles at midnight to bring about longevity and prosperity. (Japan) Again, would Ramen noodles work here? 

Eat Sauerkraut as the long shreds of cabbage symbolize a long life.  What’s a little gas for the sake of a long life? 

Eat Pork for luck and progress for the coming year because pigs root ahead as they eat.  With so many variations of pork, you’ll be in “hog heaven.” Sorry, that was pretty bad. 

Don’t eat beef as cows tend to stand still which could indicate getting stuck in a rut. “EAT MOR CHIKIN?” 

Don’t eat chicken or your luck could fly away. Also, chickens and turkeys scratch backwards for food implying setbacks in the new year. No poultry, got it. 

Don’t eat salmonOkay, I totally just made this one up, but it seems valid based on logic of previous superstitions. Salmon are known to swim upstream, so couldn’t that signify having to overcoming difficult hurdles and unnecessary hardships through the year? Sounds legit to me. 

 

With a few exceptions (wave jumping and dish throwing, for sure), I will be trying to complete all of these this year! Don’t be surprised if you see me on the news after winning the lottery several times or finding the fountain of youth. I’ve given you every opportunity to achieve this for yourself!

Ashley G.

Ashley works at the Main Library. She is an Adult Services Librarian who often likes to masquerade in the realm of Youth Services. She enjoys reading, nature walks, and Netflix, but spends most of her free time trying to entertain her toddler. She loves essay style memoirs (think David Sedaris or Mindy Kaling), but also reads mysteries, historical fiction, YA fiction, romance, and literary fiction. She has an unhealthy obsession with Aldi--IYKYK.