7 Irish New Year traditions to bring good luck to Derry households in 2023
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There are a lot of traditional Irish traditions that people have used for hundreds of years that are seen to bring good luck and fortune to the household for the year ahead. Many of these traditions were rooted in superstition and old pagan rituals and they include:
1. A clean house
Many New Year traditions involved starting as you mean to go on. A clean house was seen as a fresh start so the floors were polished and the windows scrubbed in preparation for the new year celebrations. Don’t take the Christmas decorations down just yet though, these need to stay up until January 6 - the day of Nollaig na mBan or Womens Christmas. Nollaig na mBan used to be celebrated as a day where women could finally get a rest from the Christmas celebrations but in more modern times, it is a day for women to get together and share a meal to keep the tradition alive.
2. ‘First footing’
The first foot through the door was a very important one in times past. If the first person through the door was a dark haired man with a gift for the household - usually a silver coin, food, and a drink - usually whiskey. This guaranteed the household would have plenty of luck and good fortune for the year. People with red hair, especially women, need not even try it as they were seen to bring bad fortune. Anybody coming empty handed would also be turned away until the ‘first footer’ was already in with their arms full. This is still practiced in Derry, Donegal and other parts of Ireland.
3. In one door, out the other
If you visited a house after midnight, you would come in the front door and leave through the back door. This was said to bring good luck too.
4. Eat your fill
New Years Eve was known as Oíche na Coda Móire or ‘the night of the big portion’ because people would eat as much as they could to ensure they would have plenty to eat in the year ahead
5. Knocking the bread
It was custom to bake bread on New Years Eve and give it three knocks on the door of the house while the woman of the house says a prayer. This chases the bad luck out of the house and invites the good spirits in. The families would then eat the fragments of bread to make sure none was wasted.
6. Extra seats for the dead
New Years Eve is a time for reflecting on the past and looking forward to the future. A place was often set at the table for those who had died that year and stories would be told about the dead person. The door would be left unlocked too so their spirit could come and go as they pleased.
7. Mistletoe under the pillow
Single women and girls would sleep with mistletoe under their pillows so they could dream of their future husband.