Every good Southerner knows you have to eat greens (usually collard, turnip or mustard) and black-eyed peas on Jan. 1 to ensure wealth and prosperity in the new year.
Folklore says the tradition spread during the Civil War. As the Union Army came through the South, soldiers took everything except the greens and black-eyed peas, which they considered to be suitable only for animals. The greens came to symbolize dollars, and the black-eyed peas were coins.
The South is hardly alone when it comes to symbolic gestures for the new year. From colored underwear to cleaning house, people around the world will take part in traditions meant to ensure love, prosperity, adventure and more.
Under it all
Wearing new underwear to greet the new year is popular in a few countries -- but the color is what really matters. In Venezuela, yellow underwear is thought to bring luck and money because it's the color of gold. Red underwear, which is also popular in European countries, will improve your chances of finding love and romance. Sales of red lingerie in Turkey usually peak the last week of the year. Argentinians opt for a new pair of pink underwear, also to invite love.
The first guest to come through the door on Jan. 1 is important. That person usually brings gifts, including a coin, bread, salt, coal or whiskey, that represent financial prosperity, food, flavor, warmth and good cheer. Ideally, the first-footer will be dark-haired. Blonds and redheads are thought to be unlucky.
The superstition states that the first footer (sometimes called the "Lucky Bird") should knock and be let in the house. rather than use a key. It's important that no one leaves the house before the first footer arrives — the first traffic across the threshold has to be headed in rather than out.
More food fortune
Grapes: There are many Hispanic, Latino and Latin American families that place 12 grapes in a bowl for each family member at the table. According to tradition, a grape must be eaten at each of the midnight clock chimes to ensure prosperity. Some rituals are more complex — like eating the grapes standing up on your left leg, so you enter the new year on the right foot.
Lentils: One Latin American tradition doesn't involve eating the food. The belief is that putting lentils in pockets or any other place you'd like to see money will bring you wealth. In Chile, though, eating a spoonful of lentils at midnight ensures a year filled with work and money.
Stale bread: An Irish tradition says to wait until your bread from Christmas gets hard and stale, and then bang it on the walls on New Year’s Day to get rid of bad spirits.
Pork: Pork’s flavor and fat make for a rich life in the new year. In the South, we eat ham, fatback and hog’s jowl; Italy prefers pork sausage; and in the Philippines, they consume a whole roasted pig.
Another Latin American tradition: If you hope to travel in 2017, make sure you walk around a room or maybe walk around the block carrying a suitcase.
A clean slate
Around the globe, cleaning either ends the year or is avoided on Jan. 1. In Mexico, the cleaning must be done before midnight on New Year's Eve to remove all the negative energy. Some people even throw away the broom and cleaning supplies they use, because negative energy is attached to the items. In Hawaii, sweeping on New Year's Day is avoided so no good luck can be removed from the house. In Tennessee, it’s said if you wash your clothes on Jan. 1, you’ll wash someone out of your family.
The best luck on New Year's Day might arrive crying. It is believed that babies born on Jan. 1 not only will have luck all their lives, but also will bring luck to the families they are born in to.