The Instant Expert: New Year celebrations and traditions

Ring out the old and bring in the new with customs to invite wealth and happiness into your life in 2012.

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WHAT IS AULD LANG SYNE? A song that no one knows the lyrics to. Published by the Scottish poet Robert Burns in 1796, and popularised by the Canadian bandleader Guy Lombardo in New York City in 1929.

IN BRIEF Brightly coloured underwear is in order tomorrow in Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela. Red means love, yellow money.

WELL, YEAH If a tall, dark and handsome man is the first to cross your threshold tomorrow in Scotland, you'll be especially lucky.

EAT... Black-eyed peas. They swell when they're cooked, symbolising prosperity.

WEAR... Polka dots. They're shaped like coins.

DON'T CRY Tears tomorrow will set the tone for 365 days of sadness.

DON'T CUT Using scissors tomorrow will cut off any wealth that might have been due you.

A BROBDINGNAGIAN BALL That December 31 dropping-of-the-ball tradition in New York's Times Square began in 1907. The first ball was made of iron and wood. Today it's Waterford crystal, weighs 485 kilograms and is 1.83 metres in diameter.

GRAPE EXPECTATIONS In Spain they eat 12 grapes at midnight tonight, assuring 12 happy months ahead.

EAT... Some kind of greens, such as collard greens, chard, cabbage and kale. The colour, of course, is that of money.

DON'T EAT... Poultry. Birds scratch in the dirt, meaning if you eat chicken or turkey tomorrow you'll have to scratch for a living all year.

BE IT RESOLVED The Babylonians may have been the first to make New Year's resolutions, and the rest of us have been shattering them ever since. The early Christians believed reflecting on one's mistakes and resolving to improve oneself was imperative on the first day of the new year.

A BANG-UP JOB Loud noises and fire were thought in ancient times to repel evil spirits. Hence the New Year's Eve tradition of fireworks, and spectacularly so by the Chinese, who invented the explosive stuff.

NOTHING GOES OUT Do not shake out a rug tomorrow, do not throw out the rubbish, do not take a dish you've made in your kitchen to the neighbours - nothing must subtract from your household's wealth and good luck in the new year.

STILL, OPEN UP For the New Year to come into your home, you have to let the old year out, so open your doors and windows at midnight.

EAT... Lentils and round fruits. See polka dots, above.

WEAR... New clothes. This helps ensure you'll get more of them in the new year.

DON'T DO LAUNDRY And don't wash the dishes, either. You don't want a member of the family to be "washed away" during the year.

WATCH THE WIND If the wind blows from the south early tomorrow, 2012 will be a year of fine weather and prosperous times. If from the north, a year of bad weather looms. If from the east, expect famine and calamities. If from the west, there will be plenty of milk and fish but also the death of an important person. If there's no wind, we'll have a year of joy and good fortune.

EAT... Doughnuts. See lentils, round fruits and polka dots, above.

Eight noted curmudgeons on resolutions

MARK TWAIN "Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual."

OSCAR WILDE "Good resolutions are cheques that men draw on a bank where they have no account."

FM KNOWLES "He who breaks a resolution is a weakling. He who makes one is a fool."

JOEY ADAMS "May all your troubles last as long as your New Year's resolutions."

JAMES AGATE "New Year's resolution: to tolerate fools more gladly, provided this does not encourage them to take up more of my time."

HELEN FIELDING "I think it would be much more sensible if resolutions began generally on January 2."

HENRY MOORE "I think in terms of the day's resolutions, not the year's."

ANAIS NIN "I made no resolutions for the New Year. The habit of making plans, of criticising, sanctioning and moulding my life, is too much of a daily event for me."