With the country in the grip of recession, and a Siberian chill expected to blow our way over the next fortnight, the words ‘Happy New Year’ might sound a bit hollow.

But here’s hoping that the next 12 months bring happiness, even if it’s just simple pleasures.

That may be all we have – because according to the 2009 edition of Old Moore’s Almanack, the future isn’t looking rosy.

Over the centuries, in times of crisis, mankind has sought support and meaning from astrological predictions.

Old Moore’s Almanack, an odd but strangely endearing publishing phenomenon, started as a weather forecast written in 1697 by physician and astrologer Dr Francis Moore. In 1700 he published Vox Stellarum, a collection of predictions hugely popular in the 18th and 19th centuries. Published annually as Old Moore’s Almanack, it predicts everything from world events to the best dates for successful angling.

The 2009 edition is peppered with adverts for clairvoyancy, talismans and cosmic powers. “It’s almost uncanny what this book can do for you!” cries one ad offering “exciting new horizons” to “timid, colourless” or “downhearted, frustrated” people.

There are ads for ‘sugar spells’; a ‘money miracle’ technique; psychological techniques for increasing height; personal horoscopes, and something offering “the power of speaking things into existence.” You can even reach Old Moore himself through a phone line.

In 2000, the old soothsayer warned that the first decade of the new millennium would be one of financial insecurity, with the same influences that produced the ‘Roaring Twenties’ in America, followed by the Depression of the 1930s. Moore reminded us that reckless spending would lead to the same mistakes.

He predicted last year to be a dreadful one for Prime Minister Gordon Brown; more ineffective government and the first faltering of our financial system. In 2009 we’re warned to take responsibility, rather than relying on the government. “The end of a cycle in 2010 may produce a correction similar to the Depression of 1929,” predicts Moore. “2009 may be the last chance to put your finances in order and protect yourself from events that could set us all back.” He advises a more old-fashioned approach to life; think carefully about spending, save a little and put financial problems on a safe repayment plan. He predicts that Barack Obama will start his presidential term this month on a wave of optimism and “a flurry of policy announcements creating the illusion of change.” But he warns that later in the year America will hit the economic buffers – and before then we need to lay plans for sorting out our finances. Eerie predictions or plain common sense?

Before you bury yourself under the duvet and decide to stay there for the whole of 2009, it’s worth pointing out that Old Moore doesn’t always get it right. For 2008 he predicted that Hillary Clinton might become the first female President of the United States. Surely anyone could have said that. And, despite a nod to the hike in oil prices, he predicted a year of general economic stability in Britain. Little did we know the rug would be pulled from under our feet faster than we could say “credit crunch”.

But there are countless Old Moore forecasts that proved spookily accurate – predicting the General Strike to the day, May 3, 1926; the atom bomb on Hiroshima in August, 1945; the Robert Maxwell fraud of 1991 and the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001.

So, what’s in store for this year? With “the full moon on January 11 falling in Cancer in a harmonious aspect to Saturn and Uranus”, 2009 is expected to get off to a good start. But Old Moore warns that “plans for a new generation of nuclear power plants could run into serious safety issues, perhaps as a result of an accident either in the UK or Pakistan.”

February may see a major reorganisation of the British education system and news of “a new, even more revolutionary form of computer.” And, while it’s difficult to imagine in the light of recent bloodshed, there is “great hope” signalled for the Middle East, with new Israeli/Arab peace talks announced.

March sees indications of electoral reform and predictions for April include announcements of major new spending in the NHS and social services and fresh demands on the British army, maybe in Africa.

May looks to be busy for world politics, with Cuba continuing its transition to a post-Castro phase; election and government changes in South Africa; instability across East Africa; the Israeli government closing illegal settlements and a pressurised Russia choosing between western-style democracy or benevolent dictatorship.

Property prices should show signs of recovery in June but there’ll be a rise in global tension. In July fringe religious cults may cause problems in America, while Britain can expect extremes in weather. Could August be Kate Middleton’s month? Old Moore suggests Royal celebrations, maybe an engagement… Meanwhile, Russia is likely to make threats against some neighbours and may turn off fuel supplies.

Violent weather conditions are expected in some countries in September, while in October some of our airports may be in gridlock, with warnings about crowded airspace causing concern.

Shocking revelations of international child trafficking could lead to new children’s rights laws next November, and in December watch out for spy scandals and prison breaks.

And what to expect from our celebrities this year? Old Moore singles out some stars who shone in 2008, such as Daniel Craig who made his second appearance as James Bond, in Quantum Of Solace. Old Moore predicts Craig’s big screen success will continue but he may venture on to the stage too.

Lewis Hamilton is warned to “cut down on his commitments and try to simplify his life,” while Ant and Dec will flirt with America and may make another movie. Cate Blanchett, who starred in 2008’s Indiana Jones And Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull, is in for “radical change”. Old Moore predicts offers of acting roles related to prison, poverty or politics. If you’re relying on a lottery win to sort your finances, turn to Old Moore’s Lucky Lotto Astro-Guide for 2009. I’m advised to stick to my favourite numbers – not particularly useful advice since I only buy a lottery ticket once a flood and rely on the ‘lucky dip’ method rather than set numbers.

Librans are advised to select numbers linked to romantic partners, Sagittarians should opt for numbers related to their car or bus service, and for Virgos “any numbers to do with a beloved pet will suffice!” There are astrological pointers to favourable winning periods during the 2009 racing season – Flat race, National Hunt race and greyhound racing – and the football pools and even lucky dates to play bingo in 2009. Mine are January 4 to April 11; June 6 to August 26 and October 15 to December 25, which covers pretty much the whole year, give or take a couple of months.

Old Moore has left no stone unturned in his 2009 predictions. He even offers the best sowing and planting times for the garden. It’s 8.10am to 10.05am from October 3 to 5 for planting radishes, early cabbages and cauliflowers in case you’re interested.

Happy 2009!