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New Year

At midnight, when the angels ascend to the heavens to praise God, all the family members were together to welcome the New Year. It is impossible to emphasize, in such a small space, the wealth of cultural manifestations related to the New Year's Eve, they vary from one culture to another, but it is known that their celebration is universal.

New Year

Article available in: PT-BR ESP

Last update: 28/07/2022

By: Virgília Peixoto - Center for Folklore Studies - Joaquim Nabuco Foundation

Waiting for the New Year
“Old Year
We’ll never see it again.
New year,
We'll soon receive.
See, see what our
good God did.”


A song that starts this way marked the year-end holiday season at my house. Pain, sadness and joy were mixed. At midnight, when the angels fly to heaven to praise God, all family members were together to receive the New Year, always represented by a newborn child, and the Old Year, by an old man with soft features. The richness of cultural manifestations related to the New Year's Eve can’t be expressed in such a small space. They differ from one culture to another, but the celebration is universal. The many civilizations have known different calendars. January 1 was universally recognized, with difficulties, since the adoption of the Gregorian calendar, as in the case of the decimal system. Time is clearly the great honoree.


The old god Chronos. Besides the general symbolism of Saturn, we refer here to the images of time derived from the East, so frequent in the Lower Roman Empire. Sometimes represented with four wings, two extended as if they were flying and two tied as if they remained quiet, thus alluding to the dualism of time as passage and as ecstasy.


Time is also represented with four eyes, two in the front and two in the back, symbol of concurrency and the present between the past and the future. A meaning that also has the faces of Janus. The mithraic Chronos is the more characteristic one, the deification of infinite time, which derives from the Persians’ Zervan Akarena. His image is human and rigid, sometimes bisomata (lion's head). When the head is human, the lion's forehead appears on the chest.


The body of the effigy appears wrapped in the five turns of a huge serpent (again the dual feeling of time: the passage tangled to eternity), which, according to Macrobius, represents the course of God in the elliptical of time. The lion, in general, is associated with solar cults and the emblem of time while representing its destruction and devouring (CIRLOT, 1968). And in this symbolism of the god Chronos, the New Year’s Eve rituals represent, nowadays, a magic and charms celebrating its arrival.


Magic and ritual involve cultural aspects such as the table with its special foods, clothing, the house, the spirit of peace and joy, the financial situation. Let's start with the table. Before midnight on December 31, the houseperson must pick up 12 muscat grapes and divide them among 12 family members. At midnight, the 12 people together will make a request to Jesus Christ and his 12 apostles: “Just as the year has 12 months, may we do not lack health, prosperity, peace and money during the year 1990.”


As soon as the 12 people make the request, they must chew the grape and keep the seeds in their wallet, pocket or purse in the entire next year. In ancient Greece, “merchants celebrated feasts in honor of the god Mercury on May 15 and offered him, for sacrifice, a pregnant sow, praying for protection of their affairs and forgiveness for their old-fashioned way”. (CÉSAR, GETÚLIO, 1975).


This ritual may relate to a well-known custom of the people of Pernambuco, or the Brazilian in general, which is eating pork on New Year’s Day. According to the people, the pig is an animal that roots food by pushing it forward, which means it brings good luck because it pushes forward. While people don’t eat goat and chicken because they are bad luck, for they don’t attract money. As for the goat, superstitions continue after death, since it is bad luck to have goat leather at home.




LENTILS: One tablespoon is enough to ensure a plentiful table all year long. The origin of this superstition is Italian and was brought to Brazil by immigrants.


POMEGRANATES: Eat seven parts of it to attract money and keep the seeds in the wallet.


GRAPES: For the Portuguese, eating three, seven or the amount corresponding to your lucky number guarantee prosperity and plenty of food. Also, to guarantee money, keep the seeds in your wallet or purse until the next New Year’s Eve.


PORK: Must be the main course of supper, served at midnight. As the pig roots forwards, it guarantees full cabinets all year long. Avoid turkey, which scratches backwards.


NUTS, HAZELNUTS, CHESTNUTS AND DATES: Brought here by Arab immigrants, they are recommended to ensure abundance (CRUZ, 89).




NEW PANTIES OR UNDERWEAR: They bring luck in love because they leave misunderstandings behind. They are recommended mainly for those who are starting a relationship, to ensure the future.


WHITE CLOTHES: A relatively recent habit brought to Brazil due to the popularization of African religions. White represents light, purity, goodness.


ANY YELLOW PIECE: It can be an intimate piece of clothing, a scarf, a band or a small yellow bow (which must always be in your bag). Yellow represents the power of gold and, supposedly, attracts money.


A CASH BILL INSIDE THE SHOE: The Eastern people say that energy enters our body through the feet. This explains the money in the shoe to attract more wealth.


NEW SHEETS: The tip is special for newlyweds. New sheets on the first night of the year leave the possible threats of last year in the washing machine (CRUZ, 89).




The houseperson must clean the house by sweeping it back-and-forth and leaving the trash outside, according to some people; others say throw it in the sea (polluting the holy nature). Burn the brooms and bury the ashes. Nothing broken should be left in the house (vases, bottles, glasses, plates and mirrors). Wash the edges of the house with coarse salt and water, or sea water. Spray the house with holy water in the four corners. The best option is to paint the entire house, put new bulbs (do not leave burnt bulbs). Check that the shoes are upside and that the clothes are not inside out. And the flowers in the house must be yellow to attract gold. All this to bring good luck, good fluids in the incoming New Year.




JUMP ONLY ON YOUR RIGHT FOOT: You will be attracting good things to your life, since the Bible says that everything on the right is good.


THROW COINS: From the street to inside the house (if you live on the ground floor, please). They say it attracts wealth to everyone who lives in the place.


JUMP THREE TIMES: With a glass of champagne in your hand, without spilling a drop. Then throw all the champagne back, all at once, without looking. You leave behind everything bad. And don’t worry about getting others wet: Whoever gets hit by champagne will be guaranteed luck all year long.


CLIMB ON A STEP: On a chair or anything on a higher level. Folklore says it pushes you to your will to rise in life. Start, of course, on the right foot.


MAKING NOISE: A way to scare away the evil spirits, practiced by ancient peoples. Such as whistle, drumming, beating pots and pans, exactly at midnight. They say that no evil can resist.




Or throw roses in the water mirrors for Yemanja. The African goddess protects her faithful ones with health, love and money all year long (CRUZ,89). The doors and windows of the houses must be open and the lights on. Staying awake is a good omen. Another custom is to receive the New Year with fireworks, bells ringing and music, all at midnight. Finally, the wishes, requests, sympathies and dreams.




To start the year “on the right foot”, we must establish a link between our will and the high cosmic forces that rule the universe. The sympathy of the three white roses is a way to have peace all year long, maintain good health, increase money and preserve harmony at home. We take three white roses, undeniably white, and put them in a white vase or transparent glass never used before. We put together six coins and a chive. We put water in it and let it stay that way for seven days. We change the water after seven days, take the chive out and change the roses. We just let the coins in. This must occur every seven days, preferably on Fridays, all year long. Whoever does that will have peace, money, health and harmony at home.




You can’t find happiness with money, however, without the money we can’t survive, and we end up finding unhappiness. Sometimes we experience difficult situations that can lead us to be without the vile metal. Leaving a job, the end of a business, a family disease, are facts that impoverish those who do not have much already. The sympathy of the small animals can bring money all year long. Take 21 small coins. Look in the bush for an active anthill, that is, an anthill that has ants coming and going. Find out where the ants are getting the things they take to the anthill. Then place the 21 coins at the entrance of the anthill.




Miss Conceição Tavares, a woman considered as half-saint, healer, benzedeira and prayer, who lived on the Southwestern of São Paulo, used to teach this sympathy to those who always wanted to have plenty of food, but mainly a lot of money in the pocket: The person buys a handkerchief and, on the night of December 31, wet it exactly at the time of New Year’s Eve, then place it to dry. Then collect it before the sun rises. Tie a few nickels inside the handkerchief and only open it at midnight next December 31. From then on, the practitioner will never lack money.




During New Year’s Eve, wear pink, blue and yellow pieces of clothing. Put your most valuable cash bill inside the sock, on the right foot. At midnight, sit on a chair and raise your right foot. Keep your foot up and hit the floor three times with your left foot. Then lower the right foot. Eat 31 grains of the same green corn cob, offering each of them for each day of the month. This way you won’t lack the daily bread all year long.




You must plan everything beforehand to make this sympathy. You must be away from home, celebrating elsewhere, with friends or relatives at the time of New Year’s Eve. Before you leave, around 10 p.m., set the house table for a supper with the following requests and don’t forget to cover it with a clean white towel. Place seven bowls on the table. Pay attention to the number, since it must always be odd. Each bowl must contain, respectively, salt, sugar, cooked lentils, boiled white beans, popcorn, candies, different sweets and wheat flour. Also place on the table three glasses of any sweetened juice. Make sure everything is correct and leave the house. When you return, after midnight, take a little from each bowl and put everything in any bag. Also take the three glasses of juice, which can be paper cups. The next day, very early, take everything to a very beautiful garden and leave it there. What is left in the bowls you use to make food. On the last day of the year, at midnight, anyone brave enough to go to a crossroads and call an Exu, hand him 13 coins simultaneously light a pack of red candles and another of black candles, will earn a lot of money in business all year long. Many people perform this Candomblé ritual in Fernandenópoles (SP) (Rossato). The popular Saint Benedict is easily found in many homes, especially in the countryside. His painting or image is always put in the bedrooms or in the kitchen, because it is common to put coins in a small bowl at the feet of the saint. On New Year’s Eve, this money is collected to give to a home, or to a church, or to buy something for the poor. According to popular belief, this act brings luck to those who collaborate and brings health to the family that has the painting or the image of the patron saint of cooks and slaves.




Never spend the New Year’s Eve with empty pockets. Eating 12 green grapes at midnight on New Year’s Eve to have money every month of the year is also good. Keeping the cap of the bottle of champagne used in the New Year’s Eve party in a safe place, which has made a lot of noise, attracts money. Smoking the house at the end of the Year and at New Year’s Eve, with a smoker made with coal, sherry and sugar, besides attracting luck and money, it also takes away the bad luck of the old year. On King’s Day (January 6), put three pomegranate seeds inside the wallet to have money all year long.




In New York, the Times Square clock announces the time of hugs and screams. In London, the Big Ben’s bells ring. In Paris, fireworks at the Eiffel Tower. In Rio, the ones faithful to Yemanja throw flowers into the sea. In São Paulo, marathon runners greet the new champion. It’s midnight in the world, night of December 31. And, considering the time zone differences, promises are made, wishes are thought, misunderstandings are overcome. A magical moment when we want to believe that the change of the date on the calendar can give a new meaning to our life. To our dreams. Whether superstitions work or not, it doesn’t matter. All we want is to start the year on the right foot and, therefore, with a lot of partying and joy. A plentiful table, music, friends and relatives nearby, we all do “magic tricks” to ensure that the year will be perfect. But what explains all this? Is there any source to believe in superstition? (TAVANO,89). Finally, on Reveillon (Wake up) poor and rich celebrate the arrival of the New Year. Offerings to Yemanja are made in most of the Brazilian coast. As this custom, there is also the sympathy of the waters. If you live near the waters, take white roses, perfume and many coins, and throw everything with a lot of faith in the sea. Not everything was said, but a little was. The right thing is to wait for the champagne bath, or sea bath and wake up for the New Year. In time to party, there is no crisis, “I can lack everything in life, /rice, beans and bread, / I may lack love / … I just don’t want to lack cachaça.” Here’s the picture of the party. When there is no champagne, wine, whiskey, there is always the good and Brazilian cachaça.

Recife, July 1, 2003.


sources consulted

FOTO nesse texto. Disponível em: <>. Acesso em: 7 out. 2016.

how to quote this text

PEIXOTO, Virgília. New Years’ Eve. In: PESQUISA Escolar. Recife: Fundação Joaquim Nabuco, 2003. Available from: Access on: month day year. (Ex.: Aug 8. 2020.)