While we all have our own personal New Year’s Eve traditions and practices for good luck, some cultures’ rituals date back hundreds of years. In the American south, people consume black-eyed peas in preparation for the new year. In Spain, they consume 12 grapes before flipping the page of the next calendar—one for each month. Still, there’s one tradition that might go as far back as the Middle Ages, and many Americans have never heard of it: wearing red undergarments on the night of New Year’s Eve.
The Dubious Origins of Red Underwear for NYE
Yes, it’s said to be a good luck charm if you wear red underwear the night of the big ball drop. But, where does this concept come from? The tradition is common among the Spanish, Italian, and Chinese cultures, but it’s difficult to pin down exactly who started doing it first. Some think it stretches all the way back to medieval times when women might have worn red undergarments to give themselves luck in love.
However, it’s more likely tied to the practice where medieval men would wear a piece of red fabric over their groins while sleeping. This was so witches could not cast spells on them and take away their fertility. Since it was believed that witches had more power during the winter months, and especially during the solstice or Yule, it’s plausible to assume this tradition could have come from this antiquated practice.
Ensuring Your Own Underwear-Related Luck
As you read this, you might very well be rifling through your own underwear drawer, hoping to find a pair of red, cotton panties or boxer briefs to throw on during the last evening of the year. After all, it couldn’t hurt. But there are a couple of stipulations one must follow in order to get the full New Year’s luck associated with this tradition.
First, most versions state that the underwear must be a gift, which means it won’t work if you buy it for yourself. Second, it must also be a new pair that you wear for the first time on New Year’s Eve. Finally, while some sources state that any kind of red undergarment will work—a sock or a garter, for example—we recommend sticking with the actual underwear itself, as it seems to be the most traditional option, according to its supposed origin.
So, this year, make sure you have your red underwear on to encourage good fortune and, you know, to protect yourself from witches.
By Julia Tilford, contributor for Ripleys.com