Tag Archives: new years

Vietnamese New Year’s Superstition

Tags: Superstition, Vietnamese, Money, New Years


On New Year’s Day, if you want an [financially] abundant year, you should not spend any money.

Informant Info

Race/Ethnicity: Vietnamese

Age: 20

Occupation: College Student

Residence: Northwest Arkansas, USA

Date of Performance: March 2024

Primary Language: English

Other Language(s): N/A

Relationship: Sister


GP, the informant, was born and raised in Northwest Arkansas (NWA) to Vietnamese parents.


This tradition happens as a means of bringing in good financial luck. Practices like this are very common in Vietnamese culture during prominent holidays/dates. These practices are usually done to bring in good luck, good fortune, and good health.

New Year’s Eve Tradition

Nationality: American
Primary language: English
Age: 49
Occupation: Stay-at-home mom
Residence: Mercer Island, WA


Each year on New Year’s Eve, one minute before midnight, SD and her family would all grab wooden spoons and pots and pans. They would go outside on their deck and, at midnight, began to bang the spoons on the pots and pans loudly. As they did this, they shouted “HAPPY NEW YEAR!” very loudly. They did this for around one minute before going inside.


SD first remembers participating in this tradition with her father, mother, and siblings when she was about 7. Her father taught this to her and she believes it’s something he learned from his mother or grandmother. SD has perpetuated this tradition and now does it each year with her husband and son. She’s not sure what this tradition means. She finds it really funny and it brings her joy because it’s super obnoxious to neighbors, but you kind of have to laugh.


This family tradition literally rings in the New Year. I think that this tradition serves as a way to celebrate the beginning of the new year with energy and joy, perhaps something which the participants wish to bring with them into the next year. This tradition feels as if it belongs in the “play space” spoken about in Chapter 5 of Oring’s Folk Groups and Folklore Genres: An Introduction. The author of this chapter, Jay Mechling, notes that the play space allows people to do and say things they wouldn’t normally be able to in everyday society (98). I would argue that the minutes between the old year and the new year are very much a “liminal space,” one in which tons of different folk groups are participating in different traditions. The laws of reality/society sometimes don’t feel as if they apply in liminal spaces, giving them special qualities. While loud screaming and banging pots and pans would normally be grounds for a noise complaint, it isn’t in the liminal space of New Year’s Eve. This family tradition flaunts this, playing with social boundaries in a new way. Additionally, since it is so loud, it invites others to join in the celebration. While other family traditions can be very private and personal, SD’s is loud and in-your-face. I believe this may be a way of extending the joy and silliness of the tradition to others, inviting neighbors and everyone who can hear to have some of the good energy the tradition sends out. This belief is further reinforced by the cry, “HAPPY NEW YEAR!”, which is directed at those all around.

Family New Years Traditions


Each new year E.F.’s family (usually the youngest members) eats 12 grapes under a table at midnight for good luck in the new year. During this time the women wear red underwear to find love in the next year. In addition the whole family would walk around their home with luggage to manifest traveling in upcoming year.


E.F. was introduced to her family’s Columbian New Years customs growing up. She told me, “ I understand why we do our New Year’s tradition, to bring luck or romance or travel into our lives during the new year. It’s like manifestation. But I’m not really sure why we eat 12 grapes under a table, that’s always confused me”.


I think the the 12 grapes represent either the 12 months of the year or the 12 disciples of Christ, since the tradition has Catholic Spanish roots. The grapes are eaten possibly because they are connected to wine and celebration, signifying good luck. Eating the 12 grapes under a table might be to focus on positive intentions when eating, getting in the right headspace. In my friend’s second tradition I can easily understand why the women specifically wear red underwear to attract love. Women’s colors are white, red, and black, and the color red symbolizes the romantic (reproductive) stage in a woman’s life. Red underwear especially emphasizes romance in a woman’s life. Finally my friend’s third new years custom imitates the action of traveling by pulling out the suitcases and walking around, simulating being on vacation. These are all examples of homeopathic magic, by having non physical ideas being represented by physical objects in order to imitate a desired outcome in the new year.

New years luck

“Korea is pretty strict about how you treat your elders. One example I remember is on new years, lunar not Jan 1st, you’re supposed to bow down and say 새해 복 많이 받으세요 (saehae bok mani badeuseyo) which roughly translates to, I wish you receive lots of good luck. Its a full bow, you get on your knees, and there’s a specific hand you put on top of the other depending on your gender. If you do this, you get money in return, so there’s no reason not to. It basically allows the elders to pay for good luck and respect, and the kids get money”

My informant and I have participated in this act. We both do it every year, even if we have to facetime our grandparents. The saying can also be sort of like a ‘happy new year’ in that you can say it to your taxi driver without the whole bow. It became a tradition since it solidifies the hierarchy in the family.

This ritual often takes less than 10 minutes. In the past, my sister, dad, and I would do it during dinner, since with the time shift, it would be our grandparents breakfast. Like other rituals, its designed to control some part of the elder’s life, in this case their luck. There is a lot controlled during the ceremony also, such as how you bow and what your hands should be doing.

Miso Seaweed Soup

In our family, we usually eat seaweed miso soup on New Year’s Day. I remember my mom would wake up early before everyone and would make us breakfast, no matter how tired we were from the night before. Whatever food she would make us, seaweed miso soup would always be a staple part of our breakfast on New Year’s Day. She used to tell us that drinking the soup on the first day of the year would ensure good health for all of us throughout the year and thus, would lead to prosperity. That is a recurring theme in Japanese culture, you know..actually int any Asian cultures….to link prosperity to health. Anyway, now that I am away from home, I try to keep these traditions closer to me than ever before. Last New Years, I was not able to go back home but I made sure to make the miso soup for myself. Reminded me of home.

CL is a college student studying journalism. Originally from Japan, she moved to the United States with her family when she was ten years old. She tells me that even though they don’t live in Japan anymore, her family tries their hardest to not forget their culture roots. CL told me the above piece of information in a conversation about New Year traditions that we observe at our homes.

The above is an example of a folk food that is used to bridge cultural gaps and to feel closer to a family’s cultural roots. Despite leaving the country they were born, through certain cultural motifs such as food, it can be observed that people can feel closer to their cultures and communities. It is not the miso soup that holds meaning, but the act of consuming it on a New Years day that bears cultural significance. Thus, this shows that meaning is usually generated when an individual usually links an act to a widespread significant event (here, New Years Day) and integrates it into society.