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Even though my siblings and I were raised traveling the world with our parents we never hesitated to dive-in and experience new cultures and the traditions or foreign nations as well as those of our own nation’s varying regional cultures. it has been a steadfast southern tradition in our family to welcome in the first day of the New Year with black-eyed peas, ham and cornbread. It is believed that eating pork and black-eyed peas will bring good luck, prosperity and good health in the coming. Even in the years that have seemed particularly daunting we always reminded ourselves that it could have been much worse had we skipped this tradition This year we are hosting the welcoming of the New Year for our family and our friends know the door is open, even if only to stop by and eat one tiny black-eyed pea!

It occurred to me that we often just accept traditions and don’t even understand how and why they were adopted as common practice. This year I did a bit of research and found that the reason black-eyed peas are served on New Year’s day is because they symbolize prosperity due to their resemblance to coins. Adding leafy greens like collards, kale, or cabbage, represents paper money — and more prosperity. They’re good for your health too, but the point is, the more foods that resemble money, the better.

Superstitious or not, if you believe in the power of positive thinking, here are a few traditions you may wish to try this year.

  1. In Spain, wearing red underwear on New Year’s Eve means that you will have prosperity and good luck in the upcoming year.
  2. Also in Spain and many Latin American countries, eating 12 grapes at midnight ensures good luck and health in every month of the new year. (The trick is to stuff in one grape for each strike the clock makes, so grab the smallest ones you can find!)
  3. In order to chase out the bad luck of the New Year, the Irish bang white bread against the walls.
  4. In Ecuador, it’s customary for each family to burn a scarecrow at midnight. The scarecrow represents the negativity of the previous year, so burning it ensures positive energy and good luck as the new year begins.
  5. Brazilians jump seven waves for good luck — one jump for each day of the week.
  6. In Greece, smashing a pomegranate outside one’s door at midnight is said to bring good fortune. The red color and seeds of the pomegranate represent fertility, love, happiness… and a big mess on your doorstep.
  7. If you’re in Germany, be sure to find a chimney sweep or a fireplace, because touching ashes is the key to good luck in the new year. Like seeing Santa Klaus on Christmas, the appearance of the chimney sweep is a good omen.
  8. In Japan, cleaning and sweeping on New Year’s Eve is good luck, but doing so on New Year’s Day could actually sweep away all of the good luck of the year! So consider this your free pass not to do any household chores after your New Year’s Eve celebrations. (Better stock up on those paper plates.)

Happy New Year! May 2014 be your best year ever!