The New Year (Nowy Rok) is right around the corner, a time we set aside for getting rid of the old and bringing in the new. Throughout history, most cultures have drawn an association between a person’s actions on that New Year’s Day and their fate during the following year. Here are a few of the New Year’s superstitions (przesądy), taboos (tematy tabu), and old wives tales (babskie opowieści) still in general circulation:
• One of the more popular beliefs is that kissing your beloved at the stroke of midnight ensures twelve months of continuing affection. Failing to do so is said to produce the opposite effect.
• Never begin the New Year with unpaid debts (niespłacone długi).
• Empty cupboards at the turn of the year foretell a year of poverty (ubóstwo).
• The first person to enter your home after midnight foretells the kind of luck you’ll have in the coming year. A tall, dark, handsome male bearing small gifts is said to bring the best luck. According to this same tradition, no one should leave the house until someone first enters from outside, and nothing should be removed from the house on New Year’s Day.
• Opening all doors and windows at midnight lets the old year escape.
• Babies born on New Year’s Day are said to have the best luck throughout their lives.
• A Polish tradition states that if you wake up early on New Year’s Day, you will wake up early for the rest of the year. And if you touch the floor with the right foot when getting up from bed, you could expect a lot of good luck for whole new year
Then there are the many traditions surrounding food:
• In Italy, eating chiacchiere (carnival fried pastry) guarantees a sweet year.
• In Spain, and many Latin countries, eating twelve grapes, one for each month, is said to ensure a lucky year.
• According to a Pennsylvania “Dutch” (German) tradition, eating pork and sauerkraut brings good luck in the New Year.
• In the Southern U.S., it is believed that eating black-eyed peas, ham hocks, and collard greens or cabbage on New Year’s Day will attract a financial windfall.
• Eating anything that forms a circle – such as donuts – leads to good fortune in the coming year.
• German folklore says that eating herring at the stroke of midnight will bring luck for the next year.
• Eating pickled herring (marynowane śledzie) as the first bite of the New Year brings good luck to those of Polish descent.
While many of these traditions are based on mere superstition, the idea that what we do on the first day of the New Year affects our entire year remains popular. Choose your actions carefully!
Do następnego razu… (Till next time…)