Breaking Dishes for Good Luck on New Year’s Eve

I saw something the other day about children in the Netherlands breaking dishes against neighbors’ houses on New Year’s Eve. I thought, what!? Reading further, I learned it was a custom that is meant to bring good luck to the neighbors’ households in the new year. Again, I thought, what!? Then, last night, a little after midnight, our lovely German neighbors brought over a glass of champagne to celebrate. We stood under the stars in -5 C weather, looking at Christmas lights in the neighborhood, laughing, freezing, sipping, watching fireworks, and star-gazing. Mark noted that Orion was just behind the hemlocks in the forest behind us, Anne mentioned Cassiopeia, and I found the Pleiades.

While we were standing there chatting, I brought up this business of breaking ceramics and they said it was a German custom, too, based on the belief that breaking glass brings good luck. Seconds are delivered by the dump truck-load from ceramics manufacturers prior to New Year’s revelries for precisely that purpose, said Robert. Nowadays, Dutch

Broken Plates and Dishes in Denmark after New Year's Eve celebrations.

children sometimes place a little pile of broken dishes on neighbors’ doorsteps instead of the older custom, but the intent is the same: good luck in the new year. In our little town, right at the stroke of midnight, neighbors up and down the street rush outside and bang on pots and pans to ring in the new year. I hit my copper-bottomed frying pan with a wooden spoon and Mark rapped on a saucepan with a wooden spatula. Sound echoed throughout the neighborhood and it was a lovely percussive element against a backdrop of frost and fireworks. I have yet to research the background of this tradition and went along with what people did here in Canada when I immigrated, thinking it was simply their tradition. I did do a bit more looking into the dishes custom and found it is practiced in many European countries. Whether we break a dish or bang a pot, we’re following customs that are probably very old…but very much alive. Happy New Year!!

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