Good Luck in the New Year

A man sits facing a woman at a table with a bottle of what looks like champagne in the background, confetti and streamers around them. They both hold onto a martini glass and lean in for a drink together.

“New Year’s All Over,” Evening Star (Washington, DC), December 30, 1956.

As 2021 ends (good riddance!) and we look to a new year, many of us could use a little more luck and better fortune. The beginning of a new year has always been seen as a hopeful time with many traditions for celebrating, and for bringing good luck and fortune. Take a look at these helpful tips from newspapers for ways to bring yourself good luck next year.

“It is lucky to rise early on New Year’s morning.” 100 years ago, the Jasper Weekly Courier provided a list of New Year’s Lore. “New Year’s night quiet and clear indicates a prosperous year,” says the Courier. So let’s all hope for a quiet and clear night. Another tip? “It brings good luck to place a piece of money on the window on New Year’s eve.”

Text from a newspaper with a visible headline that reads New Year's Lore and a stylized capital letter "N" to start the article.

“New Year’s Lore,” The Jasper Weekly Courier (Jasper, IN), December 30, 1921.

“At midnight on Dec. 31, it’s a Madrid custom to eat a dozen grapes.” The Evening Star provided a helpful list of lucky foods from around the world that are eaten either on New Year’s eve or New Year’s day. Pork is lucky in Germany while lobsters and oranges bring luck in Japan. The article continues with recipes for Herring Salad and black-eyed peas. For more on what to eat for New Year’s, take a look at this blog post from Inside Adams: “Ushering in the New Year with Special Foods.”

An illustration of several people gathered together eating grapes.

“Help Yourself to New Year’s Luck!” Evening Star (Washington, DC), December 30, 1962.

 “’First Footing’ is a rite reserved for midnight of New Year’s eve.” The Midland Journal described this Scottish tradition for bringing luck. “A person who after the stroke of 12 o’clock sets foot inside of the home of a friend or relative is believed to bring that home good luck for the remainder of the year.”

A group of men and women stand dressed in traditional Scottish clothing watching a man enter an open door on the right, also wearing a traditional Scottish kilt. The man entering the room is also handing a gift to one of the men inside.

“[New Year’s All Over] Continued From Previous Page,” Evening Star (Washington, DC), December 30, 1956.

“Be sure to say ‘rabbits’ as the first word when you wake before anyone has had a chance to speak to you.” The Lincoln Times provided a list of several such helpful tips for bringing luck. “Wear something new, if possible, on New Year’s Day, but the garment must be put on when you first dress in the morning.”

Newspaper text surrounds a small illustration of two men greeting and shaking hands.

“Superstitions Told About New Year’s In Many Lands: Good Luck Offered in Many Ways to ‘Believers.’” The Lincoln Times (Lincolnton, NC), December 31, 1945.

You can find many more such traditions in the historic newspapers of Chronicling America.* So whether it’s a midnight kiss, a toast, a gift, new clothes, good food, or good friends, I hope something will bring you luck for this new year.

Let us know in the comments if you have a tradition that you didn’t see here!

An illustration of a group of people dressed for a party walking backward up a large staircase.

“It’s Always a Big, Jolly-Good Party,” Evening Star (Washington, DC), January 1, 1933.

* The Chronicling America historic newspapers online collection is a product of the National Digital Newspaper Program and jointly sponsored by the Library and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Follow Chronicling America on Twitter @ChronAmLOC

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