San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Tico superstitions for a lucky 2011

If your ship didn’t come in this year, don’t despair. There’s always next year – and the eve of a new year might be just the time to practice some of the magical rituals handed down through generations in Costa Rican folklore to give your luck a little boost. Here are some of the most popular.

Late at night on Dec. 31, sprinkle a handful of rice in every corner of your house. The next day, sweep up all the grains with a new broom and save them in a little bag. The old wives guarantee this will keep food on the table all year.

Another way to keep the household cornucopia full: stuff a large loaf of bread with grains if rice, corn, coffee beans, black beans and sprinklings of sugar and salt. Tie the lucky roll in a red ribbon and hide it in a closet or cupboard. (If nothing else, this will keep the cucarachas well fed all year.)

Wear something yellow on New Year’s Eve and you’re bound to meet your true love in the year to come. If you already have a true love, wear yellow anyway; it ensures good luck throughout the year, especially if you wear it on Jan. 1, too. If you wear something new, you’ll be well dressed all year.

As the clock strikes midnight on Dec. 31, eat 12 grapes, one for each strike of the clock. It is said that those who don’t finish 12 grapes before the clock is done striking will have a year of bad luck.

If it’s travel and adventure you’re after, pack a suitcase and leave the house with it at exactly midnight. Walk at least one block to ensure a year full of travels.

To guarantee money all year, Ticos used to ask 13 different friends for cincos (five céntimo coins) before midnight Dec. 31. The tiny coins are extinct now, but the tradition lives on using five-colón coins.

If 2010 was a bad year, take a bath or go for a swim at the stroke of midnight to wash all the bad luck away.

To know what the weather will be like in the new year, make a note of the conditions on the first 12 days of January, known as the pintas because they “paint” (pintar) the weather for the coming year. If it rains on Jan. 5 – and it always rains a little in January to bring out the coffee flowers – then you know May, the fifth month of the year, will be rainy. If it’s windy on Jan. 7, expect a gusty July.

On Jan. 1 or before, cut a bouquet of the fuzzy blue or lavender wildflowers known as Santa Lucía that grow in pastures and on roadsides. Said to be medicinal for eye ailments, the plant is named after the patron saint of those with eye problems, and the flowers are essential New Year’s magic. As you cut them, recite with devotion: “Santa Lucía de enero, tenme todo el año con dinero” (Santa Lucía of January, keep me in money all year). A bunch of Santa Lucía blossoms in the house on New Year’s Day will keep you solvent all year. And if you dry them, wrap them in paper and carry them in your purse or wallet, you’ll never find yourself short of cash.

An old Tico belief holds that whatever you’re doing when the clock strikes 12 on Dec. 31 will characterize your year to come, so make sure you’re engaged in some worthwhile or pleasurable activity.

¡Feliz año nuevo!

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