Old Long Since: New Years Superstitions

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Ever wonder why we kiss our loved ones on the stroke of midnight on New Years?

Did you learn this from watching your parents?

Why do we sing songs and make noise to ring in the new year?

It’s because our old humanity, locked deep in the recesses of our minds, is holding onto something that we lost so very long ago.

Scratch a holiday deep enough, and you’ll reveal a lot of superstition. Dig a little, and you’ll find the husks that carried the old stories that were once born upon a kernel of truth.

New Years is no different than Christmas or Easter or harvest. It is an auspicious moment in our cycle where we gather together to mark a change upon the fabric of our daily existence.

New Years is full of tradition, but those traditions have faded into strange behaviors, if one dwells upon it long enough.

If you follow the rules of New Years, and we all follow at least one or two, then you’ll have a good year. We don’t know why or how this will happen. There is no real science behind it, but we follow these traditions in hopes that something good will come our way.

I know that these traditions are based on husks of old stories that once contained truths. I do not know what those truths are, so I’m taking a swipe at something older than time and perhaps simply redefining why we do what we do each and every Dec. 31 and Jan. 1.

  1. A Kiss at Midnight – To fail to do so was to ensure coldness and stale relationships. Rather I think there is much in purposeful living and acting upon moments to build reminders of what we mean to one another. What better time than the stroke of midnight on a new year together?
  2. Full Cupboards, Full Hearts – Stocking up for the new year is to ensure a prosperous year. Failure to have cupboards full and cash on hand was a dark omen for a threadbare year. Often we drain our reserves during the holidays, pouring out our best for friends and relatives. Stocking up again is living by faith that we may continue to entertain those we love and those not quite as fortunate.
  3. No Debt – You won’t likely pay off your mortgage or your car payment by Jan. 1 each year, but to live debt free is not always based on money. We borrow from the wellbeing of our lives every day, and the beginning of each new year is a great time to pay off those debts by gratefulness, rest and a renewing of the mind.
  4. The First Visitor – If a tall, dark-haired man happens to cross the threshold of your door shortly after midnight on the 1st of January, then you are in for a good year. I say any visitor on the 1st of the year is a good visitor and brings new and wonderful energy to our lives as we start all over again. Make space and time for more visitors each and every year.
  5. Allowing the Old Year to Escape – Doors and windows are traditionally thrown open at midnight to allow the old year to escape. If it’s not too cold where you are, open the doors and windows and draw a deep breath of fresh air and let it permeate the house for freshness and health. Evil spirits and old stories are like germs and dust. They don’t often move unless a fresh wind comes and clears them out.
  6. Don’t Take the Trash Out – Nothing is supposed to leave the house on New Years Day. It is a bad sign to let something out on the fist day of the year without welcoming something good in. But you are going to build a routine this year, and it will consume you for the better part of 365 days. Take one day to rest and relax and break your routine from the last 365 days. Take the garbage out on New Year’s Eve, open those windows at midnight and kiss your loved ones.
  7. Eat Well – Food is auspicious. Pork, black-eyed peas, lentils, every culture has something blessed and divine that imparts goodness for the year ahead. We were made for celebration. Eating well is about enjoying a moment in life augmented by taste and flavor. Eat what you want on New Years Day, but eat it well and in good company, and you will ensure a good year.
  8. Make a Joyful Noise – Fireworks, whistles, hooting and hollering are ways in which we welcome in the new year. The noises were made to scare off the demons and sometimes to convince our enemies that there were more of us than there really are. But no matter any more. Loud noise is simply a way to stake our place in this universe. Sound travels infinitely, and celebrating loudly is our way of telling the universe, We are here! We are here!

There are dozens upon dozens of superstitions surrounding New Years and all of the other holidays. And behind these superstitions once lived kernels of truth that have been lost to time. Perhaps they didn’t matter, but I suspect we wouldn’t still play around with the concepts if that were true.

“Is thy sweet Heart now grown so cold,
that loving Breast of thine;
That thou canst never once reflect
On Old long syne.”

Happy New Year!

Tim

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