New Year’s traditions to ensure a good 2024

If you’re reading this you’ve made it past New Year’s Eve, and are ready for day one of 2024. There’s lots of Jan. 1 traditions from around the world to increase your odds for a having a good year.

Many involve food.

Some of us wouldn’t plan a Jan. 1 menu without including Hoppin’ John, made with black-eyed peas, pork and rice, since those who eat it are likely to experience luck and peace. According to lore, the peas represent coins. It’s often accompanied by collard greens for prosperity and golden cornbread. Some families boost their chances of luck by putting a penny underneath the dishes.

In the Philippines, it’s customary to eat 12 round fruits — each symbolizing a month of abundance.

According to Good Housekeeping’s compilation, fish is considered a good New Year’s entree, since they can only swim in one direction — forward, like the movement of time.

In Japan, it’s believed that eating long food will lead to a long life. The traditional dish of “toshikoshi soba” is made from long, buckwheat noodles. The noodles represent longevity, and the buckwheat stands for resilience.

In Scandinavian countries, one portion of a rice pudding dessert will have an almond in it. Discovering it in your bowl and eating it will be assured of good luck. In Greece, the vasilopita has a coin baked into it — finding the coin may result in a trip to the dentist to fix a chipped tooth on Jan. 2.

Nonedible traditions to bring luck in 2024

When farmers in Belgium wake up on Jan. 1, they wish everyone a happy new year — including, and especially, all their cows, horses, pigs, chickens and other animals. The greeting is thought to assure a good farming year.

In the U.S. — and elsewhere — polar bear plunges on Jan. 1 are a chance for hearty people to voluntarily submerge themselves in frigid water, often to raise money to benefit local nonprofits.

In Denmark, looking out your front door and seeing shards of broken dishware on New Year’s Day is considered a good thing, since people break dishes on the doorsteps of family and friends to bring luck, on New Year’s Eve.

Similarly, a person in Turkey would likely be happy to see a smashed pomegranate on their front stoop. According to legend, the more pieces of the fruit there are, and the farther the seeds have spread, the more prosperous the homeowner will be — especially if the reveler sprinkled the doorstep with salt.

In Scotland, the Isle of Man, and some other parts of Northern England, residents will likely be choosy about their first guest of 2024, since it will set the tone for the new year — that person is called the “first footer.” Tradition suggests you “select a man who is tall and dark (as a protection against Vikings), who would come with simple gifts of coal, salt, shortbread and whiskey, representing the basic needs of heat, food and drink,” according to Good Housekeeping.

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Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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