Superstitions for the New Year

Do you have any New Year’s Day superstitions?

Boy, do I.

Well, I don’t have them, per se, as I am not a superstitious person, but I am subject to them as a native Southerner.

Here are the big ones I learned growing up:

No washing clothes on New Year’s Day.

Mom always handled this one by having a massive wash-in on New Year’s Eve, and growing up I remember at least once seeing her standing anxiously near the washer waiting for a load to finish as the clock approached midnight. Also? Drying doesn’t count. At least, that’s what Mom says. Don’t argue with Mom.

My Younger Sister has taken this approach as well, and I heard from her yesterday about how her day was going, and she was excited to say the laundry had all been slain ahead of schedule.

I take a more literal approach. The superstition says don’t wash on New Year’s Day. I can handle that without washing everything in the house the day before. This is basic procrastination, and I am its master.

I did some towels yesterday, but there are some left. And I didn’t have a full load of clothes ready to wash. I won’t bother with any of this today, because what’s another day?

(Caveat: This is not superstition related, just how I generally approach laundry. Is there enough to wear today? We are good, then. The rest can wait. See also: Procrastination.)

No sweeping on New Year’s Day.

Be still, my heart. The odds of me picking up a broom on any day, let alone a holiday, are sliiiiiim. I am a modern man with a vacuum cleaner, thank you. Actually, I am an ultra-modern man with a robot vacuum. To be on the safe side, I will run neither today. (The theme so far in these superstitions is avoiding house work, and I am here for that action.)

There was one year, however, when Mom corralled my sister and I into raking all the leaves in the front yard. We expressed the opinion that raking was close enough to sweeping as to be courting disaster. Mom (whom I suspect just wanted us out of the house for a bit at this late point in our extended holiday breaks at home) overruled us, so rake we did. For hours. Ugh. Anyway, as a result of that incident I added my own superstition.

No raking on New Year’s Day

Don’t give me lip about creating my own superstition. It has to be as valid as any of the rest of them, I figure. It’s even on-theme, what with being an avoidance of chores.

Anyway, these days I have a real easy way to get by on this one, which is called living in a condo. (Note: This works for most forms of yard work, be they rooted in superstition or not.)

Eat black-eyed peas for luck.

The way I see it, any food-based superstition can really just be re-framed as a holiday food tradition. No one says it’s “bad luck” to not eat turkey on Thanksgiving, right? We eat that bird because of tradition. And because of yum.

Anyway, black-eyed peas. I love them.

For me, New Year’s Day is just a great excuse to do black-eyed peas right. Most years the last thing I do before bed after watching the ball drop on New Year’s Eve is to put a full pot of peas in salted water so they can get a good overnight soak. This way, when I wake up, they are ready to start their slow (two hours or so) simmering cook on the stove the next morning and be ready in time for the holiday lunch.

I absolutely do not go in for crock pots or insta-pots, or any other new-fangled way of cooking them. I’m generally pretty science-positive and new-technique-friendly in my kitchen, but doing black-eyed peas the old way is a tradition with which I do not mess.

Eat greens for luck. 

I’ve also heard this one as eat greens for prosperity (ca$h money, yo) in the new year.

I guess I’m doomed to be poor, given my relationship with green vegetables (and most other vegetables), which is, basically: “Leave me alone, and I’ll leave you uneaten.”

Most years, just for sport, I’ll choke down a few green beans, as they’re the closest thing to “greens” I can tolerate. You can keep your damned collards, though.

Getting back to the “foods as tradition, not superstition” thought: If black-eyed peas are the Thanksgiving turkey of New Year’s Day, I guess that makes greens the cranberry sauce for me. (Yeah, I don’t like cranberry sauce. Sue me. Or, better, just appreciate this means you get to eat more of it yourself.)

Something I’ve forgotten

There’s (surely) another Southern New Year’s Day superstition/tradition I am forgetting as I write this.

There are (certainly) New Year’s Day superstitions/traditions from other communities / parts of the country / parts of the world that I do not follow because they aren’t mine or I am ignorant of their existence.

If you know of some good ones, feel free to share in the comments.

2016 Whisky Wind-down, 13: Whisky, Cats, Fortune

Today’s dram: Craigellachie, 13-Year-Old

Today’s tasting notes: I rather enjoy this one, even if I can never remember how to spell or pronounce it.

It’s a warm whisky with a bit of bite, but it isn’t peaty, and there’s no smoke. There is a real sharpness to it, though, and probably what I’m getting (and failing to adequately describe) is the sulfuric note that is supposedly this whisky’s trademark. (The distillery refers to it in marketing as “Scotch with a touch of brimstone.”)

Whatever is going on, I rather like it. It’s the sort of whisky I like to sip slowly over an afternoon, never quite remembering what I like about it, then sipping to recall, then forgetting again. It’s weird that way, and I love it.

I’m not sure what’s up with the age being 13 years. Most single malt Scotch whiskies are at least 10 or 12 years old, with the next jump usually to 18 (though 15 pops up here and there) then 21, and beyond that you can’t afford it, anyway.

Does the extra year make a difference? I’d have to taste it at 12 to tell you. And that isn’t an option, since Craigellachie doesn’t bottle anything younger. Only relatively recently, in fact, has it bottled much at all under its own name. Despite being around since 1891, for most of its existence the distillery has sold its production for use in blended Scotch whiskies, notably Dewar’s.

With some irony, the production of its own lines seems to have begun only after John Dewar & Sons, Ltd. bought the distillery in 1998. (Production was increased to keep up enough for both purposes.)

Why age the first one 13 years, though? I couldn’t say.

Maybe the distillery is just making a point about superstition.

Today’s thoughts: I’m not superstitious. Mostly. I grew up with a few superstitions, including religion, but I have mostly gotten over those. Mostly.

The thing about getting a weird idea in your head is that it can be hard to shake. I mean, when your mom tells you that her mom told her that her mom told her that … you should not wash clothes on New Year’s Day because to do so would be to “wash someone out of the family” in the coming year, your rational mind can realize this is bullshit while the lizard-brain still feels queasy.

So, you say, “Fuck it. I don’t like washing clothes, anyway,” and you put it off a day. Totally normal. If it happens to make Mom feel better, that’s fine, too.

I always thought the bit about the ill luck of having a black cat cross your path was just nonsense, but that’s probably because we had a black cat when I was a kid, and she crossed my path so many times — seriously, did the person who thought this up not consider how much cats get around? — that I would have been an utter shut-in had I tried to avoid having her cross my path daily. Also, if you believe this, when does the bad luck from the crossing expire? Do you have to see the black cat cross your path for it to count? What if one went by just before you rounded the corner? Would you appreciate someone rushing forward yelling, “Stop! Whatever you do, don’t keep walking this path! Black cat alert! Black cat aleeeert!”


The “don’t walk under a ladder” thing just makes sense. Things fall. People knock ladders over. Be reasonable.

What else?

Oh, being born a Southerner, I am under obligation to eat black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day, lest I suffer a terrible run of luck the next year. Fortunately, I love black-eyed peas, so I don’t see making a big pot of them that day to be any hardship at all, and I expect them like pie at Thanksgiving or pizza at Christmas.

(You don’t eat pizza at Christmas?! No wonder your luck is lousy.)

Today’s unrelated note: Although she is not a black cat, it can be serious bad luck if our calico crosses your path. I mean, she really likes to trip people, so watch it.

Today’s toast: To the superstitious: Good luck!