The British place their fortunes for the coming year in the hands of their first guest. They believe the first visitor of each year should be male and bearing gifts. Traditional gifts are coal for the fire, a loaf for the table and a drink for the master.
For good luck, the guest should enter through the front door and leave through the back. Guests who are empty-handed or unwanted are not allowed to enter first.
In Germany people would drop molten lead into cold water and try to tell the future from the shape it made. A heart or ring shape meant a wedding, a ship a journey, and a pig plenty of food in the year ahead.
People also would leave a bit of every food eaten on New Year’s Eve on their plate until after Midnight as a way of ensuring a well-stocked larder. Carp was included as it was thought to bring wealth.
The more popular name for the Vietnamese New Year is Tet, where as the formal name is Nguyen-dan. Tet is a very important festival because it provides one of the few breaks in the agricultural year, as it falls between the harvesting of the crops and the sowing of the new crops.
The Vietnamese prepare well in advance for the New Year by cleaning their houses, polishing their copper and silverware and paying off all their debts.
At the first toll of midnight, the back door is opened and then shut to release the old year and lock out all of its bad luck. Then at the twelfth stroke of the clock, the front door is opened and the New Year is welcomed with all of its luck.
In Haiti, New Year’s Day is a sign of the year to come. Haitians wear new clothing and exchange gifts in the hope that it will bode well for the new year.
An old Sicilian tradition says good luck will come to those who eat lasagna on New Year’s Day, but woe if you dine on macaroni, for any other noodle will bring bad luck.
In Spain, when the clock strikes midnight, the Spanish eat 12 grapes, one with every toll, to bring good luck for the 12 months ahead.
The Peruvian New Year’s custom is a spin on the Spanish tradition of eating 12 grapes at the turn of the year. But in Peru, a 13th grape must be eaten to assure good luck.