New Year’s Day superstitions: Don’t wash clothes; do look for a tall, dark, stranger; eat greens

As we edge toward a new year, many can’t help but hark back to the past and the comfort that traditions bring. Traditions, or in the case of many New Year’s activities, superstitions, often guide our actions when it comes to heralding the coming year.

While by definition, superstitions are irrational -- avoiding ladders, black cats and the wrong side of the bed, for instance -- that doesn’t stop us from dragging them out on Jan. 1 and parading them around.

Here are a few New Year’s superstitions and folklore you may want to heed as the new year nears. Or maybe you do that already:

Seal that kiss

Don’t mess around with this one if you want harmony in your relationship this year. Legend holds that the first kiss of the new year should be with your beloved at the stroke of midnight so you stay happy and together for the next 12 months.

Don’t wash those clothes

This is an odd one. According to folklore, if you wash clothes on New Year’s Day, you’ll be “washing for the dead” or washing a loved one away -- meaning someone in your household will die in the coming year. Get your laundry washed, dried, folded and put away by New Year’s Eve.

Food in pantry

This is a no-brainer, but you should make sure to have food in your cupboard before midnight. Think of it as an insurance policy -- if you have food on hand, you’ll continue to have food throughout the year, according to tradition.

Buy the right kind of food

While you want food in the pantry and refrigerator, make sure it’s not chicken or lobster. Why, you ask? Because both of those animals walk backward. You want to move ahead in the new year.

Let the new year in

At the stroke of midnight, open your doors and windows. It lets the old year out and the new one in.

Save sweeping for Jan. 2

If you have dust on your floor on New Year’s Day, leave it there. The idea is that you sweep out luck if you sweep on New Year’s Day.

Mysterious guest

The first guest in your home on New Year’s Day fills an important role in the coming year. It is said that that person (sometimes called a “first footer”) foretells the kind of luck you can expect during the next 12 months.

Who is the luckiest guest to have? A tall, dark, handsome man who brings you a gift.

Again, a no-brainer.

Who don’t you want to cross your threshold first on New Year’s Day? A blonde, a redhead or a female should be barred from coming into your home first. You should also ban gravediggers, doctors and cats from the mix.

The first person into your home needs to knock and be admitted. He or she needs to walk through the house and leave by a different door.

Oh, and one other thing -- those first in after midnight cannot have flat feet, cross-eyes or eyebrows that meet in the middle of their forehead.

Which, of course, makes perfect sense.

Right food

When the tall, dark, handsome man shows up with a gift, let’s hope it is black-eyed peas and collards.

The combination, staples on Southern tables on New Year’s Day, are said to represent coins and green-backs. They translate into good luck and financial gains in the new year.

Pass grapes

In many Latin American countries, grapes are eaten as the new year begins. Twelve grapes are eaten on New Year’s Eve. It is supposed to bring you good luck.

Make some noise

As midnight arrives, you need to get so loud that the ghosts of the past year are startled and leave your home.

Keep it in

Don’t take anything out of your home on New Year’s Day.

Literally, nothing.

No garbage goes out, no packages are taken to the car or luck will go out and not come back in.

Think circularly

Eat something that is in the shape of a circle -- think donut -- and you will have good luck.

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