Whether you believe in luck or not, these New Year superstitions will make ringing in the new year fun for everyone, especially your kids!
New Year’s is more than just setting goals. To some, it’s a celebration and a fresh start, with all the fanfare and treats to go with it. But to others, it’s a tradition that can bring luck or ward off misfortune. Either way, New Year’s should be a fun way to spend time with your family and connect with your culture. But sometimes, kids just aren’t into watching the New Year’s ball drop.
Need a way to make new years fun for your kids? Try out some of these New Year superstitions from around the world. From grape munching to bell ringing, these superstitions will have your kids looking forward to the new year every year.
Note: If you’re not willing to let your kids stay up until midnight, you can make these New Year superstitions fit any bedtime. No need to have the growing mini humans sleep-deprived on New Year’s Day.
1. Starting the New Year with a Bang—Literally!
In some cultures, loud noises and fireworks are believed to scare away evil spirits and bring good luck for the coming year. This is the perfect excuse for your kids to bang pots and pans, rattle noisemakers, play with small fireworks, and generally make as much noise as they can.
2. He Who Enters the Door First Must Bring a Gift
In Scotland and parts of northern England, the first-footer is the first person to enter a home after the stroke of midnight. It is considered lucky if this person is a tall, dark-haired man. (Or for your family, three kids in a trench coat.) They either have to be someone who’s never been to your house before, or they have to leave the building before the strike of midnight and come back in after. And of course, they must come bearing gifts!
3. Eat Twelve Grapes before the Clock Stops Chiming
In Spain and some Latin American countries, it’s a tradition to eat 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight—one for each chime of the clock. Each grape is supposed to represent good luck for each month of the coming year. But the catch is, you have to eat them all before the clock stops chiming! Cue the great grape race, which is sure to have your family in stitches.
4. Everything Is a Circle
In some cultures, round or circular foods symbolize continuity and good fortune. Examples include round fruits in the Philippines and a round cake in Greece. The idea is that by eating only round foods, you are ensuring that the year will go well and come “full circle.” So have fun baking and cutting foods with your kids for a well-rounded New Year’s dinner.
5. Don’t Wash Away Your Good Luck
Some people believe that cleaning or sweeping the house on New Year’s Day may sweep away good luck. And even worse, washing laundry might wash away a loved one! So take some time before New Year’s Day to have a little cleaning party, then sit back and enjoy the festivities. Whoever tidies up on New Year’s has to buy everyone else ice cream—but not until New Year’s is over!
6. Pinch Your Pennies
While it’s good fortune to spend money on New Year’s Eve, don’t spend any money on New Year’s Day. Spending money on New Year’s Day means you’ll be spending money all year long! The same for starting the new year with debts. Instead, see how many ideas you and your kids can come up with to spend the first day of the year without spending any money. And you can even have a little powwow where you and your family “settle debts,” monetary or otherwise.
7. Open Your Windows and Let It Snow
In some cultures, opening windows and doors at midnight is thought to let go of the old year and welcome the new one with fresh, good energy. This activity is all the more fun if the weather outside is cold. Kids will get excited to run around the house opening windows to let the snowy wind inside—even if only for a few minutes.
8. Hide a Coin in the Cake
In Greece, a coin is baked into a cake called vasilopita, which is then cut at midnight. The person who finds the coin is said to have good luck for the entire year! Your family could collect these coins and proudly display them, or pass the coin on each year to the next lucky person.
9. Ringing in the New Year—Also Literally
Have you ever wondered where the phrase “ring in the new year” came from? Well, in some cultures, the sound of bells is believed to ward off evil spirits and bring good luck. At midnight, you and your family can gather around with some bells of all shapes and sizes and ring in the new year with whatever beautiful (or beautifully discordant) song you want to play.
10. The Color of Your Underwear Matters
In some Latin American countries, the color of your underwear matters! This New Year superstition says that wearing red underwear on New Year’s Eve is thought to bring love and romance in the upcoming year. Similarly, yellow underwear brings luck, money, and happiness. You and your family can decide on colors and their meanings, then buy new underwear for the occasion. This is how you can get your kids excited to receive underwear as a gift!
11. Out with the Old, In with the New
In South Africa, it’s a tradition to throw old appliances and furniture out of windows on New Year’s Day to symbolize getting rid of the past and embracing the future. This is a very therapeutic New Year superstition, and your kids will enjoy getting to throw things out the window without being scolded. Just make sure there’s nobody walking beneath it first.
12. Burning Effigies
In Ecuador, people make effigies (representations) of the past year and burn them at midnight to symbolize letting go of the old and welcoming the new. You and your family can do something similar. Draw on paper, make paper mache sculptures, or tiny figurines out of nature, then set everything on fire. For a safer option, you can carve symbols into vegetables or anything smashable, then stomp the bad parts of the old year to welcome the good of the new.
13. Breaking Plates
In Denmark, it’s a tradition to save old dishes and throw them at the doors of friends and family as a sign of good luck and camaraderie. Nothing like breaking things to tell someone you love them! Now, this could easily cross the line into vandalism if nobody knows you’re trying to celebrate a New Year superstition. So for a safe option, consider turning the plate breaking into a party where everyone can participate (and keep a safe distance). You could also use non-breakable plates, but then you might have to go to more effort to “break” them. This might be a good thing depending on how your year went.
14. Jumping Off a Chair
In Denmark, it’s also common to jump off a chair at the stroke of midnight to “leap” into the new year. This is another exciting New Year superstition for kids. I mean, who wouldn’t want an excuse to climb on the furniture?
Start Your Own New Year Superstitions (Traditions) with These Books
Winter Walk in the City
Big Book of Family Games
Shaelyn Topolovec earned a BA in editing and publishing from BYU, worked on several online publications, and joined the Familius family. Shae is currently an editor and copywriter who lives in California’s Central Valley.