Keep on the good side of the gods (and maybe cows and pigs too) with these tips.

The first few days of the New Year mark a time of change, when we think about the past year and what the next year could bring. In the U.S., people typically choose a few resolutions for the new year: goals that we set with the hope of improving some aspect of our lives, like going to the gym regularly or not eating so much Kentucky Fried Chicken.

In Japan, the first three days, especially, are a time for visiting shrines to pray for good luck and success in the new year. While of course it’s also a time for bargain shopping and eating deadly mochi, the focus of New Year’s is much more spiritual than other holidays. Making the first visit to your local shrine is the most important New Year’s tradition, but there are also many beliefs about how you should spend your time at home, because what you do in the first three days of the new year may determine the luck of the year-to-come. Here are six things to avoid during that time to bring the best fortune to your home, according to Japanese tradition.

1. Don’t clean 

This is one we can get behind: don’t do housework in the first three days of the new year! Supposedly the Japanese New Year’s god, Toshigami-sama, comes for a visit sometime in those three days to bring luck to each family, and if you’re cleaning. it drives him away. Plus, by doing laundry, and cleaning sinks, bathtubs, and toilets, you’re flushing a lot of good luck down the drain with all that water. In short, waiting patiently for Toshigami-sama to come and bring you good luck is much better than bustling around cleaning your house, and we really couldn’t agree more.

2. Don’t use knives

Knives are dangerous…you could cut yourself! And by cutting yourself in the first three days of the new year, you may also cut off your good luck for the year. To prevent this, in Japan, people typically cook a great deal of osechi ryori, a lucky New year’s meal, and ozoni, a hearty soup with meat and mochi, on December 31, so they don’t have to cook at all in the first three days of the year (if you’re not that ambitious, we recommend popping into your local convenience store and picking up some bento instead) In some regions, t’s also considered unlucky to cut your fingernails during the first three days, so it’s probably just best to be safe and just avoid cutting (hair, paper, etc.) altogether.

3. Don’t use fire to cook, and don’t boil food

The first three days of the new year are a time for rest, and that includes the gods too. So avoid cooking with fire, because the god of the cooking stove, Ojin-sama, will get angry, and one thing you don’t want in the new year is an angry god on your hands.

The reason why you shouldn’t boil food, besides angering the cooking stove god by using the stove, is because boiling food produces scum on the surface of the liquid. Aside from being gross, scum is a symbol for the bad things in life, so by boiling food you’re allowing the bad things to come to the surface, and that’s no good.

But you’re not supposed be cut anything anyway, so you should be fine with this rule!

4. Don’t eat four-legged animals

This specifically refers to beef, pork, and horsemeat, though it may be extended to other animals as well. The reasons behind this tradition are unknown, but it’s thought to be a custom influenced by Buddhism, which holds a policy of killing no living creatures and eating no meat. There aren’t any known spiritual repercussions to eating hamburgers in the new year, but if you’re worried about it, go vegetarian for three days. Chicken is also fine to eat (although we’re not sure why two legs are better than four), so you can get some karaage (Japanese fried chicken) instead, if you wish. Eggs and fish also have no legs, so you can eat those as well, but we’re honestly not sure where squid fall on the spectrum. Do they have four arms, or four legs? Do their tentacles count? These are the important questions.

5. Don’t fight

Getting along with your friends and family in the first few days of the new year sets you up for good relations for the rest of the year. While fighting with someone won’t ruin your entire year, and it may not affect your relationship with the gods, it will affect your relationships with the people around you. Really, it just starts the year off on the wrong foot, and can bring about bad juju for the year ahead.

6. Don’t spend a lot of money

Oops…we already broke this rule. While New Year’s is the best time to shop because you can get awesome lucky bags, you should actually try to avoid spending too much money, if at all, in the first few days. It is believed that if you spend too much in the new year, you won’t be able to save money throughout the year. Honestly, superstitions aside, that’s pretty solid advice; the less money you spend now is more money in the bank later! Naturally, though, the gods won’t begrudge you if you drop a few coins in the shrine donation box, you know what I’m sayin’?

The bottom line is: take it easy, leave the chores for later, and spend light, and the gods will bring you good luck! We have to admit though…we’ve pretty much failed all of these, except maybe number five. But to be fair we’ve cleaned, cooked, and spent money in the new year pretty much every year, and we’re doing all right! Besides, there are lots of ways to boost your luck, like eating these lucky (and cute!) Cozy Corner osechi desserts. Just be sure to split it with friends…because it might count as spending too much if you just buy it for yourself.

Source: Livedoor News via Hachimakiko
Top image: Pakutaso
Images: Pakutaso (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)