If you're eating a piece of toast and a dental crown pops out, it's a minor nuisance. You have to interrupt your week with a dental appointment. You brace yourself, in case the dentist tells you the crown has to be replaced, turning the incident into a major nuisance and unscheduled hit to your budget. Still, you take care of it and move on.
BUT, let that crown pop out on December 31 or on the following day or two, and the event morphs into an omen for the coming year. Me? I started the year with a crater where a molar should be. Bad karma seems inevitable, right?
I realized how pervasive this kind of superstition is when I heard friends and kin view the bad or good occurrences of the last few days in the same portentous light. My brother's oven blew a circuit New Year's Day (despite the fact that he was cooking good luck foods like pork and sauerkraut). Had it happened next week or 2 weeks ago, all he'd have is a broken appliance. Happening when it did, it could portend 52 weeks of, I don't know, undercooked food or something.
Traditional bad omens on New Year's Day include an east wind (which brings famine and calamities), carrying anything out of your house (I took brownies to a party, curse it), doing laundry (no problem there), and failing to make loud noises at midnight (to scare off evil spirits). The tradition of noise making for good luck has been around for thousands of years. In POISON TO PURGE MELANCHOLY, I showed the colonial American version, which was shooting off guns at dawn (also done on Christmas morning). My neighbors shoot off serious fireworks, ensuring we'll all start the year deaf, at least. I ring jingle bells, being more musical.
For good luck in 2012, you should have filled your larder and stuffed your wallet full of money (I wonder if it matters if it's someone else's money?). You should have paid all your debts before midnight December 31st, and seen the year in wearing a new garment. The first person you let into your house should have been tall, dark-haired and male (I wish).
You can read more good and bad New Year's omens at Snopes.com. If you know of any others, put them in the comments below.
Wishing you peace in the New Year,