Is It Unlucky To Wash Laundry on New Year’s Day?

On the whole, we’re a superstitious bunch of people, refraining from walking under ladders, never travelling on Friday the 13th etc. But have you heard about the bad luck surrounding laundry on new year’s day?

According to tradition, it’s supposed to be unlucky to do laundry on new year’s eve or new year’s day. But is it really unlucky? Well, that depends on your belief system and how superstitious you are.

In this article we look at superstitions concerning washing clothes at New Year and much more besides.

Why Is It Considered Bad Luck To Wash Clothes On New Year’s Day?

According to legend, washing clothes or doing laundry on new year’s eve or new year’s day means you’ll be washing your luck away. Even more chilling is the tradition that says that doing washing on the first or last day of the year means washing a loved one away.

Whether that means they’ll leave you or die is unclear, but it could be enough to prevent you from washing clothes on either of these days.

There’s also the belief that doing laundry on the first day of the year signifies that you’ll be doing laundry all through the year to come. However, in most households, that’s true whichever day of the year you do the laundry.

Some people also believe that doing an average amount of laundry on new year’s day will result in larger loads needing to be done throughout the year.

Where Does This Superstition Come From?

There are various explanations as to where the superstition of washing clothes at new year is unlucky originates. The most likely one that we’ve been able to find is the Chinese tradition.

In Chinese tradition, the first 2 days of the Chinese new year are to be celebrated as the birthdays of the Water God. Washing your clothes on either of these days is seen as a sign of disrespect.

As the Chinese link water to wealth and prosperity, throwing dirty wash water away is considered to be symbolic of throwing your wealth away at the beginning of the year.

Why Shouldn’t You Do Laundry on New Year’s Day?

There’s a good argument for not doing laundry on new year’s day and it’s this; New year’s day is often the last day the whole family will be together for a few months. This means it shouldn’t be wasted on washing when you could be having some quality family time.

What Other Superstitions Are Associated With New Year’s Day?

laundry room with pile of clothes

There are several interesting superstitions associated with new year’s day from all around the world. Let’s take a look at some of them.


Apart from the washing clothes superstition, the Chinese also believe that cleaning at all is considered to bring bad luck. This is particularly true of sweeping with a broom on new year’s day.

According to this Chinese tradition, the cleaning should all have been done before the new year starts. However, Chinese new year falls at a different time to western new year, so we don’t know if the same rules apply. 

Plus as this tradition was founded before the advent of vacuum cleaners we wonder if you could still clean your house as long as you don’t use a broom. 


In Scotland there is the tradition of “first footing” which says that the first person to enter your home in the new year influences the way your luck falls for the coming year.

The requirements for a lucky first footer are pretty specific and include a man with dark hair carrying a number of items which include;

  • A Coin
  • A Piece Of Coal
  • A Piece Of Bread
  • A Glass Of Whisky

According to tradition, this person has to be the first person over the threshold of your home on new year’s day.


New Year’s in Belgium is celebrated by eating chocolate, wishing well to everyone you meet, kissing at midnight and raising a glass to absent friends. In some parts of Belgium the well wishing is even extended to animals as well.


The Swiss believe that good fortune follows those that throw a scoop of ice cream on the floor on new year’s eve.


In Ireland they have a new year’s tradition of banging loaves of Christmas bread against the walls and doors to ward off evil spirits and encourage a healthy, wealthy new year. 

They also believe that placing a sprig of mistletoe, holly or ivy under your pillow on new year’s eve will make you dream of your future love.


In Columbia people carry empty suitcases around the block on new year’s eve to bring a new year full of travel.


In parts of Brazil they believe that jumping over 7 waves will bring good fortune in the year ahead. They also wear white in Rio De Janeiro to bring in a peaceful year.

Brazilians also believe that eating lentils at new year means they will have good fortune throughout the year.


On new year’s eve, Italians traditionally eat lentils for wealth and prosperity. This tradition is believed to date back to Roman times. Lentils being round resemble Roman coins which is where this tradition is supposed to have begun.

South America

It’s traditional in South America to wear brightly coloured underwear on new year’s eve. Apparently if you’re looking for love, you should wear red underwear, and yellow underwear represents luck and wealth.

Leading up to the new year market stalls carry a wide range of brightly coloured underwear just for this purpose.


On new year’s eve in Russia, people will write a wish for the year to come on a piece of paper. They must then set the paper on fire and place all of the ashes in a glass of champagne.

They have to drink all of this before 1 minute past midnight for the wish to come true.


In the Philippines round items are considered to be lucky at new years. The circular shape represents money and that means the more round things you have at new years, the wealthier you’re likely to be throughout the year.

Traditionally 12 different round fruits would be placed on the table, one for making every month of the year prosperous.

This tradition can also mean having  anything round. From wearing polka dots, carrying coins or eating round foods like cakes, biscuits, rolls or donuts.

South Africa

Open Window

It is the custom in South Africa to throw clutter out of their windows on new year’s eve to symbolise good fortune and a fresh start.


In Denmark they save all of their broken crockery up all year. They then throw them at friends and neighbours houses to apparently spread good luck.


Estonians believe that the more food you eat on new year’s day, the more food you will have in the coming year. The minimum required number of meals is 7 but as many as 12 meals are still considered to be lucky.


In Guatemala on new year’s eve, it’s traditional to go outside of your home and face the street then throw 12 pennies behind you. This is supposed to ensure wealth and prosperity for the year to come.


At midnight on new year’s eve in Ecuador, people burn scarecrows stuffed with newspapers. The burning of the scarecrow symbolises the burning of bad luck.


The Peruvians have a Christmas tradition called Takanakuy, which is a fist fight with neighbours on Christmas day. For the new year they believe that good luck will come if they wear new clothes, place coins in their shoes and spread rice around the house.


In parts of Spain they believe that eating 12 grapes at midnight is a sign of good fortune for the year to come.


In Portugal it is traditional to ensure all wash baskets are empty because they believe that dirty clothes bring bad luck. They also believe in putting clean sheets on their beds to bring harmony and happiness in their love lives.

As well as refraining from arguments on new year’s as this is said to create a precedent for the year to come.

Other Common New Year’s Traditions


As well as these regional traditions there are some that are more widely practised including;

Letting The Old Year Out & The New Year In

There is a tradition whereby the front and back door of the home are opened at the same time. To let the old year out and the new year in.

Kissing At Midnight

A popular tradition in many parts of the world is kissing the one you love exactly at the stroke of midnight. This is said to keep the relationship happy all through the year.

Having A Full Wallet

It is said that if your wallet is full of money at midnight on new year’s eve, you’ll have a prosperous year to come.

Spending Time With Friends

There are traditions that say that spending new year’s eve alone will mean you’ll have a lonely year. The opposite is to spend new year’s eve with friends which ensures you’ll not be lonely for the rest of the year.

Keep Tears At Bay

According to certain traditions, if you cry on new year’s eve, you’ll be crying throughout the year to come. This means all tears including tears of joy as well as sadness.

Make A Lot Of Noise

Making a lot of noise at midnight on new year’s eve is said to scare away any evil spirits and ensure you have a trouble free year. This is probably where the tradition of letting off fireworks at midnight came from.

In some places people bang pots and pans at midnight in order to make enough noise to scare away spirits intent on causing mischief or harm.

Should You Believe In New Year’s Superstitions?

Whether you should believe in any of the superstitions and traditions mentioned above is for you to decide. However, one thing worth remembering is that there are probably quite a few that you never knew.

If that is the case, maybe you should ask yourself whether not doing any of the traditions you never knew about has had any detrimental effects on your life so far? 

Do you have or know any more superstitious practices associated with new year’s day? Let us know in the comments.

SEE ALSO: How Often Should You Clean Your Washing Machine?

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it bad luck to do laundry on new year’s day?

According to some traditions and superstitions, it is considered to be bad luck to do laundry on new year’s day. However, it’s also considered to be unlucky in some parts of the world to have any dirty laundry left in the wash basket on new year’s eve.

Why do Italians eat lentils on new year’s eve?

The tradition of eating lentils in Italy is said to go back to Roman times. It is said that as lentils are round they represent coins and eating them at new years ensures wealth and prosperity throughout the year to come.

Why do the Swiss throw ice cream on the floor on new year’s eve?

It is believed in Switzerland that throwing a scoop of ice cream on the floor on new year’s eve ensures good fortune for the following year.

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