Don’t Do Laundry on New Year’s Day Origins of the Superstition of No Laundry on New Year

Don’t Do Laundry on New Year’s Day: Origins of the Superstition of No Laundry on New Year

As the new year nears and the holiday season comes to an end, some superstitions give some people pause, making them hesitant to do certain activities like laundry on the symbolic first day of the year. Where did the idea that washing clothes on New Year’s Day is bad luck come from? Is there any truth to this superstition and other similar ones about what not to do as the old year fades into the new? In this article, we’ll explore the origins and reasoning behind avoiding laundry and other tasks on January 1st.

Popular New Year’s Superstitions and Traditions According to folklore, doing laundry on New Year’s Day may wash a family member away or wash away good luck in the coming year. While this superstition gives some people serious pause, many other traditions are focused on attracting good fortune and prosperity as the calendar resets.

Common New Year   customs and superstitions

  • Eating black-eyed peas, collard greens, and pork on New Year’s Day for luck and prosperity in the South
  • Emptying one’s pockets on New Year’s Eve to bring in the new year with no debts
  • Opening cupboards and pantries on New Year’s Eve to allow the old year’s fortune to leave
  • Cleaning the house thoroughly before the holiday to sweep out bad luck
  • Leaving your home spotless to welcome good luck in the new year
  • Kissing someone special at midnight on New Year’s Eve to set the tone for the coming months
  • Celebrating with traditional New Year’s dishes like sparkling wine, molasses cookies, and baked ham in parts of the U.S.

While some superstitions like not doing laundry on the holiday seem totally random and even silly in the modern age, many have roots in cultural traditions and ancient folk wisdom. The changing of the calendar year held deep significance for many past societies around concepts of renewal, luck, mortality, and more.

The History Behind “No Laundry on New Year’s Day”

References to New Year’s superstitions related to laundry and washing clothes date all the way back to the mid-1800s in Western culture. Of course, the symbolism and metaphors even predate the modern popularity and mechanization of washers and dryers.

According to folklore experts, the concept links metaphorically to themes of loss, renewal, annual cycles, spring cleaning, harvest, and more all tied to the changing of the annual seasons. Here are some symbolic interpretations of the no laundry superstition:

  • The rush of water may represent the passage of time, whisking away a family member by the stroke of midnight as the sands run out on the old year.
  • Doing laundry may signify prematurely “washing” one’s fortune or luck down the drain before the year has hardly begun.
  • The old year has not fully expired before welcoming in the new annual cycle prematurely.
  • Taking down decorations, cleaning, and laundry signify officially ending the holiday season and good luck associated with year-end abundance and celebration.

As with many folk beliefs and household rituals around major transitions, the no laundry superstition links metaphorically to letting go of the past and uncertainties around change and upheaval.

What Does Science Say About New Year’s Superstitions?

Modern social scientists have analyzed the psychological role and social functions of traditions, rituals, folklore, and taboos around uncertain or emotionally fraught transitions. Superstitions and customs can provide:

  • A sense of hope, control, meaning, or empowerment
  • Connections to family history, identity, and belief systems
  • Emotional reassurance through symbolic gestures of renewal
  • Order, structure, and behavior norms around chaotic periods

So while avoiding laundry itself likely has no rational impact in the modern world, the belief itself fills psychological needs and affirms values around self-determination, prudence, and interdependence with loved ones.

Regional New Year’s Lore from Various Cultures Beyond laundry taboos, many New Year’s superstitions connect to regional history and cultural beliefs around luck, mortality, prosperity, and unknowns. Traditions include:


  • Red is lucky – people wear red and give money in red envelopes
  • Fireworks scare away bad spirits
  • Many avoid taking medicine or cutting hair to avoid washing/cutting fortune away


  • Write down a wish, burn it, and sprinkle the ashes into a champagne glass to make it come true
    Pennsylvania Dutch
  • Mush “good luck” foods like pork and sauerkraut at midnight to increase prosperity
  • Open backdoors at midnight to release the old year


  • “First footing” – the first guest sets luck for the year, ideally a tall, handsome stranger
  • Take out trash – symbolically removing old year’s scraps
  • Sing “Auld Lang Syne” with loved ones


  • Eat 12 grapes at midnight – one for each month
  • Freeze a spoon under your pillow – to keep yourself sharp in the coming year

So whether you swear by eating peas, cleaning house, keeping those laundry machines at rest come January 1st, or quietly scoff at such “nonsense,” New Year’s lore and rituals show no signs of disappearing anytime soon. They persist as meaningful practices affirming optimism, prudence, prosperity, and purpose even in modern society.

Don’t Do Laundry on New Year’s Day

As the glittery confetti settles and the champagne flutes dry, a fresh year stretches before us, brimming with possibility. But amidst the resolutions and revelry, whispers of an ancient superstition stir: don’t do laundry on New Year’s Day.

This curious custom, woven into the fabric of folklore for centuries, carries a weighty message: washing clothes on the first day of the year washes away good fortune. Some believe it symbolizes washing a loved one away, casting a somber shadow on a day meant for optimism. Others see it as washing away prosperity, sending your potential success swirling down the drain.

The origins of this superstition are as diverse as the cultures that embrace it. Some trace it back to pagan beliefs about cleanliness and purity, where laundry held the power to cleanse not just clothes, but also negativity and misfortune. Others link it to agricultural traditions, where the first day of the year was seen as a time to plant seeds for future abundance, and any activity like laundry that “emptied” the home was considered unlucky.

Regardless of its source, the laundry-free New Year’s Day tradition endures. In Southern Europe, it’s believed that washing clothes on this day will bring tears throughout the year. In China, it’s seen as disrespectful to the water gods, potentially leading to drought. And in Japan, it’s associated with washing away wealth and happiness.

Of course, not everyone subscribes to these beliefs. In the face of modern sensibilities, the superstition can be seen as quaint, even humorous. But even for those who don’t take it literally, a laundry-free New Year’s Day can hold a certain symbolic power. It’s a day to break with the ordinary, to shed the old and embrace the new. It’s a chance to focus on family, friends, and fresh beginnings, untangling ourselves from the mundane chores of everyday life.

So, whether you see it as a potent superstition or a charming tradition, banishing the laundry basket on New Year’s Day offers a unique opportunity. It’s a chance to step into the new year with intention, leaving the past behind and making space for all the possibilities that lie ahead. After all, who wants to spend the first day of a brand new year wrestling with dirty socks and overflowing hampers?

So, let the washing machine rest. Put your feet up, raise a glass (of something other than sudsy water), and savor the promise of a fresh start. Remember, a clean slate doesn’t require a clean laundry basket. Just an open heart and a spirit ready to embrace the year to come.

And hey, if you absolutely must do laundry, maybe consider tackling those delicate items you wouldn’t dare trust to the machine. Hand-washing a few special pieces could be a mindful way to mark the occasion, imbuing your New Year’s wardrobe with a touch of personal magic.

Happy New Year, and happy (laundry-free) beginnings!

Laundry on New Year’s as a Sign of Outlook for the Coming Year

Some interpretations analyze habits on specific holidays as metaphorical signs of the overall year to come. Just as thorough spring cleaning rituals symbolize preparation and eagerness for warmer seasons, tasks done on New Year’s Day may indicate someone is “getting ahead of themselves” or lacking proper closure with the passing period.

As with many superstitions, much depends on attitude and mindset. For the deeply superstitious avoiding laundry completely to avoid washing away good fortune, doing a load may cause deep anxiety or a self-fulfilling negative psychological outlook undermining themselves.

However, someone may do some washing as a simple practical task without deeper meaning or worry behind it. Perhaps for them January 1st holds little mystical significance compared to cultural or family traditions. If laundry provokes no real deep dread or resistance tied to the date itself, this contrasts with those who strictly avoid combining the activity with New Year’s at all costs.

So laundry itself likely has no magical impact one way or another for the year ahead. But associations tied to the ritual, the emotional weight and meaning it carries, and how those reflect broader outlooks may have self-fulfilling consequences tied to morale, confidence, and self-concept shaping choices that unfold in life.

Is Laundry Really “Washing a Year of Luck Away”? Common New Year’s Superstitions and Omens Debunked Of course, for every believer staunchly avoiding laundry or pinning hopes on black-eyed peas, plenty of modern skeptics dismiss New Year’s superstitions as groundless myths with no rational basis. However, the prevalence of these traditions raises interesting psychological questions. Why do they stubbornly persist through changing times if wholly irrational?

As touched on earlier, several key social and emotional drivers perpetuate folklore passed down through generations:

The Need for Meaning and Hope

When facing profound existential questions or uncertainties about the future even in the modern world, rituals provide a means for feeling in control. Superstitions connecting innocuous actions like laundry or eating to themes of fate give people agency through symbolic influence over realities beyond their control.

Affirming Bonds and Identity

Traditions perpetuated across generations allow members to demonstrate belonging, values, and shared history that define groups. This helps cement identity and meaningful social ties.

Managing Uncertainty and Anxiety

When unable to predict or control outcomes, superstitious rituals alleviate underlying dread of the unknown through coded symbols, actions, and shared beliefs.

While no empirical evidence supports household luck or fortunes being determined by peas or pennies in pockets on one specific day, the practices fill emotional needs and social functions. So rituals endure as “folk science” allowing participants symbolic influence amid profound existential uncertainty.

And just as science cannot definitively disprove or prove laundry’s impact one way or another on luck or mortality, neither can it fully capture complex social psychology and drivers behind why people adamantly believe as they do around lore. So the timeless appeal of New Year’s superstitions likely rests in deeper emotional roles they play during landmark transitions that challenge certainty.

Laundry on New Year’s Day – Harmful or Harmless?

Ultimately, whether to avoid or embrace laundry on January 1st comes down to personal views and meaning assigned to the activity. For those who fear washing away good fortune, skipping the ritual prevents underlying dread and anxiety provoking worse consequences through self-fulfilling mindsets. However, for more skeptical modern people viewing the holiday as any other day, laundry likely carries no more special significance than mundane tasks like checking email.

Rather than judging others’ beliefs or folk rituals irrational, the phenomenon warrants deeper curiosity into complex social and psychological functions served. Even groundless myths and lore allow human groups to construct order amid chaos together.

So whether you dare tempt fate washing every dirty sock in sight come New Year’s or dutifully leave baskets overflowing until January 2nd, seemingly nonsensical superstitions may reveal deeper truths about social bonds and confrontation with life’s great unknowns.


In Summary – Key Takeaways on the New Year’s Laundry Taboo As another year comes to a close, don’t be surprised if certain friends or family adamantly avoid running any loads on January 1st while others casually fold laundry amid football game hullabaloo and toasting sparkling ciders. Remember these key points on the cultural lore and psychology behind a tradition many still strictly uphold in the modern world:

  • The New Year’s laundry taboo dates back over a century as both seasonal metaphor and symbolic guard against “washing away” year’s fortune prematurely
  • Traditions manifest timeless social needs for order, hope, identity, and managing uncertainty amid transitions
  • Rituals carry emotional weight and meanings tied to outlooks; laundry itself has no magical impact
  • No rational evidence supports fortunes being determined by menial tasks on any single day
  • But folklore fills complex roles that scientific facts fail to capture
  • So don’t judge what you may see as irrational beliefs too harshly or assume foolishness
  • In chaos, people collectively construct myths, rituals, and purpose where existence offers no assurances

The new year brings changes, unknowns, and upheaval along with hopes, dreams, and determination. Don’t underestimate or dismiss the deeper personal and social drivers behind quirky traditions or frightening folk taboos passed across generations. Even laundry on New Year’s links to timeless confrontation with life’s great uncertainties and our shared quest for purpose, order, and significance together, come what may in periods of transition.

Happy New Year! May your fortunes remain fully intact through however many loads are washed. Feel free to share your thoughts or strange superstitions and rituals around the holiday in the comments below!

FAQs: Don’t Do Laundry on New Year’s Day

Q: Why shouldn’t I do laundry on New Year’s Day?

A: There are several reasons, depending on the particular superstition:

  • Washing away good fortune: Laundry is seen as symbolically washing away prosperity and luck for the coming year.
  • Washing away loved ones: Some believe it signifies washing a family member away, potentially bringing death.
  • Disrespecting the gods: In some cultures, it’s considered disrespectful to the deities associated with water or beginnings.
  • Starting the year with chores: Others view it as setting a pattern of hard work for the rest of the year.

Q: Is this superstition still relevant today?

A: It’s up to you! Some embrace it as a fun tradition, while others view it as outdated. Ultimately, it’s a personal choice whether to follow it or not.

Q: What happens if I do laundry on New Year’s Day?

A: Relax! Superstitions are subjective, and there’s no scientific evidence to back this one up. If you accidentally do laundry, focus on the positive intentions of the new year.

Q: What are some alternatives to doing laundry on New Year’s Day?

A: Plenty! Here are some ideas:

  • Spend time with family and friends: Enjoy festive activities, play games, or share a special meal.
  • Plan and set goals: Reflect on your past year and write down resolutions or aspirations for the future.
  • Engage in personal activities: Read a book, take a walk, practice mindfulness, or do something you enjoy.
  • Volunteer or help others: Giving back on New Year’s Day can bring good karma and start the year on a positive note.

Q: Are there similar superstitions about other activities on New Year’s Day?

A: Yes! Many cultures have traditions about what to do (or not do) on this special day. Some common ones include:

  • Not taking out the trash, to prevent wealth from leaving the house.
  • Eating black-eyed peas or lentils, for good luck and prosperity.
  • Wearing new clothes, symbolizing fresh beginnings.
  • Avoiding arguments or negativity, to set a positive tone for the year.

Remember, traditions and superstitions are often about creating symbolic meaning and setting intentions for the future. Whether you choose to embrace the “no laundry” rule or not, have a happy and prosperous New Year!

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