Home to some of the most unique superstitions in the world and a whole host of traditions dating back centuries, the arrival of a new year has always been a time of hope and excitement in Ireland.

Irish New Years Eve traditions in Ireland long ago were important in that they determined the luck of the house for the coming Year and many traditional Irish superstitions existed around this day. Anything that happened on this day was considered ominous for the future and the nearer to the midnight hour when the year actually began, the more significant. It was believed that there was only a certain amount of luck in the world and you had to do everything you could to make sure you got your share of it! At the stroke of midnight on December 31st, those seeking good luck in Ireland were recommended to enter their house through the front door and leave through the back.

In Ireland long ago it was important to begin the New Year with a spotlessly clean house signifying a fresh start to the New Year. A popular new years eve traditional Irish belief was that the first person to enter the house after midnight should be black haired and also male to guarantee the luck of the house for the coming year. If it was anyone with red hair it would bring hardship and grief! To prevent this, families sometimes sent out a dark haired member of the family immediately after midnight and had them walk back in though the door. All dark haired neighborhood boys would visit the houses and be welcomed with gifts of sweets or money.

Also known as ‘the night of the big portion’ since people would eat a larger than normal meal to ensure food in plenty for the coming year. Another way of ensuring plenty was to make a cake which was then pounded against the door of the house three times while a prayer was said by the housewife . This would chase the bad luck out of the house and invite the good spirits in. In other areas the man of the house would take three bites out of the cake and then throw it against the front door, in the name of the Trinity and banish hunger from the house. After this the family would then gather up the fragments of the cake and eat it. Many farmers repeated this ceremony at the door of the byre to ensure plentiful fodder for the cows. People tried to ensure that no food was taken away from the house on new years eve and beggars knew better than to approach a house looking for food.

Another Irish superstition that’s passed the test of time involves banging on the doors and walls of the family home with Christmas bread. It might sound crazy, and probably is, but this one is all about chasing bad luck out of the house and inviting good spirits in before the start of the new year. Another simple yet enduring superstition involves which direction the wind might be blowing from. Should it come flying in from the west, then all of Ireland will be looking forward to a great year ahead. But say it comes from the east then something far worse could be on the cards. Another New Years Eve Irish tradition was that young girls put mistletoe, ivy and holly under their pillows on New Year’s Eve, in hopes of dreaming about their future husband.

On New Year’s Eve night, families would remember those who has passed away that year before by setting a place for them at the dinner table and leaving the door unlatched.Well into the evening on New Year eve in Ireland there would always be a small group gathered around the fireplace, laughing and joking. Sooner or later, the conversation would turn to reminiscing about Ireland. The old ones, well on their way with a few glasses of the hard stuff, would get all misty-eyed as they remembered times past and the stories would begin in the light of just the fire and candles burning in the windowsill.

Many thanks to Wikipedia for some of the info used in this article.

Images courtesy of Wikimedia.

© John A. Brennan 2022. All Rights Reserved.

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Tags: Folklore, Holidays

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