Irish Traditions for the New Year

Many cultures and countries have customs and traditions practiced or at least remembered on New Years Eve and New Years Day. I remember attending a French-Canadian New Years Eve traditional event arranged by our friend Mehmed Ali. The Reveillion – highly focused on food – was celebrated in historic downtown Lowell in the community room of the Shine of St. Joseph the Worker. It was fun and a shared cultural experience. With the Irish – when it comes to ringing in the New Year – the traditions are unique and somewhat superstitions.

Centuries ago it was customary to begin the New Year  with a spotlessly clean house. As a result houses were thoroughly cleaned because it signified a fresh start to the New Year.

Another tradition involved banging on doors and  walls of the house with Christmas  bread to chase the bad luck out of the house and invite the good spirits to come within. Some also believe that it ensures adequate bread for the coming year.

On New Year’s night, families sit around a table and would remember and pay homage to  those who has passed away that year before by setting a place for them at the dinner table and leaving the door unlatched.

A lot of meaning was also placed on who would be the  first person to pass through the door on New Year’s day. If it was a tall dark  handsome man, this would bring the home and it’s occupants good luck but if it was a woman – especially a red haired girl – it would bring hardship and grief!

Those who were single were advised to place sprigs  of mistletoe, holly and ivy leaves under their pillow so they would dream of  their future wives and husbands.

At midnight many would enter the house through the  front door and leave through the back door for good luck.

As we find here in America and locally in South Boston, there is the tradition of organizing New Year’s dips.  They are organized around the waters of either Irish Sea or Atlantic Ocean. People are made to go through ice cold waters with short swims.

This New Years Eve kicks off a very special year in Ireland! It is the start of The Gathering Ireland 2013, – a homecoming if you will –  a year-long celebration of all things Irish. Learn more here:

I offer this Irish toast to one and all for the New Year –

“May your troubles be less, And your blessings be more. And nothing but happiness  come through your door.”

One Response to Irish Traditions for the New Year

  1. nancye tuttle says:

    Enjoyable read on New Year’s traditions…I have been in contact with cousins today recalling the Scandinavian traditions that the Errickson side of the family – my mother’s side – practiced. One was burning a bayberry candle all the way to its nub on New Year’s and also Christmas Eve for good luck. Our maiden Aunt Jane always ate pickled herring as the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Eve and we always had cabbage of some sort, usually cole slaw, again for good luck….these traditions are so interesting. Happy New Year to you and yours!