Imagine yourself in the glow of a fireplace on New Year’s Eve. Everyone is smiling, watching a small tin horseshoe melt in the ladle you’re holding over the flames. When the horseshoe is completely molten, you carefully pour it into a nearby bucket filled with snow from outside. Sputtering, the liquid metal congeals into a hard bumpy mass. Then each person takes a turn, afterwards holding their cooled metal pieces near a candle, casting shadows on the wall, portending the future. “Bubbles!” cries your friend as he spies your piece. “You’re getting money this year, so don’t forget me!” Your younger sister laughs as she examines the shadow of her irregular disk. “A bee…I’ll be married at last!” Your neighbor studies his piece closely, the smooth curves reminding him of a basket, indicating that he’ll be successful finding a bounty of mushrooms in the forest to fill his basket.



Horseshoe kit
Uuodenvuodentina kit


The Finnish custom of melting tin horseshoes probably came from Central Europe through Sweden, first practiced by the gentry who were able to afford it, but soon spreading to everyone. Today you’re likely to do this over the stovetop. The horseshoe, made of an inexpensive lead alloy, comes in a kit from the grocery. You use cold water in your bucket, and a lamp instead of a candle to illuminate the globs of metal. Instead of buying new horseshoes each year, you reuse last year’s. Interpretation of the prophetic shapes can be literal or symbolic, limited only by the imaginations of the people enjoying “Tin Time,” often enhanced by alcoholic beverages. The world’s largest uuodenvuodentina reportedly weighed 41 kilograms, cast by the Valko Volunteer Fire Department from Loviisa in 2010.

Bleigiessen for good luck


Similar to the Nordic tradition of melting horseshoes, the New Year’s custom of Bleigiessen is common in Germanic countries. Lead chunks are melted in a spoon over a candle. Lists of shapes with their meanings often accompany the kits that are sold in anticipation of the holiday. It’s also customary to exchange Glücksbringer charms, “bringers of luck,” on both New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. These might be jewelry, talismans for the home, or specially molded edibles often made of marzipan. This delicious mixture of ground almonds or cashews with sugar has been used for making treats in Europe, the Middle East, and India for many centuries. Hufeisen, or good luck horseshoes, are one of the most commonly offered gifts bringing prosperity in the coming year.



Mankind has been using metal over six thousand years. Its strength and beauty have long associated it with magical powers. Molybdomancy, or divining the future by dropping molten metal into water, has certainly been practiced for much of that time. Evidence suggests that the domestication of the horse coincided with improved metallurgical skills. Prehistoric man hunted horses for food, but at some point began maintaining herds for selective breeding, eventually using them for carrying, pulling, and riding. According to one theory, metal in chariots and wheels enabled larger migrations and more destructive warfare. The first known metal horseshoes appeared during Roman times. It’s no wonder that horseshoes symbolized power!

Antique card from Belgium, around 1913

Horseshoe for New Year

Belief in the positive connection between horses and metal has endured through the ages in spite of religion and science. Whether hung in the home or worn on the body, horseshoes are thought to provide protection. Many people believe that sleeping with a horseshoe under their pillow on New Year’s Eve will bring good luck.

New year horseshoe


A new year symbolizes the chance for a fresh start. Studies show that people who focus on good luck actually attract it. Confidence that something positive is coming your way will guide you to seek it, generating a self-fulfilling prophecy. As American writer Bret Harte observed, “Good luck happens when preparedness meets opportunity,” so start your New Year right with a good luck horseshoe!