Bringing in the New Year, Traditions Around The World
By Kevin Cain
As a child on New Year’s Eve, I remember my father going outside of the house and placing a lump of coal and a dry slice of bread on the step. It is rather a blurred memory as it was many years ago, and it was a ritual that was never ever explained to me. I just thought that my dad had one or two libations too many and was acting about to get a laugh, which he was prone to do at times.But this memory brought about my natural curiosity of how other brethren around the world celebrate the new year. Apart from the actual fact that different religions and races believe that the turn of the year occurs at various dates and times, I was particularly interested in how people actually celebrate the event.
Great Balls of Fire
In Scotland, New Year is called “Hogmanay,” and the Scots take the occasion very seriously indeed, as it does involve alcohol after all. It has its roots with the Vikings, when the Norsemen observed the winter solstice in late December. One of the most explosive celebrations is held in Stonehaven, the locals create balls from paper and other flammable materials and then set fire to them whilst swinging them around their heads on ropes or wire.
The Bear Necessities
Chasing away evil spirits as the year turns is a pretty popular pastime at New Year. But in Romania they take things pretty much to the limit. There is an old rural tradition that’s gaining popularity in the towns and cities, in which townsfolk dress in elaborate bear costumes and menacingly move from house to house to drive away any evil presences.
Russian Good Cheer
In Russia many people write down a New Year wish, then set fire to it, placing the burning parchment in a champagne glass. The drink must be quaffed before the last chimes of the clock for good luck to be bestowed upon the person and their wish fulfilled.
Eating-in the New Year
If you are visiting Estonia during the festive period be prepared to add one or two extra pounds. New Year’s Day is a race to see just how much food can be consumed within 24 hours. Estonians try to eat seven, nine or twelve times during the day as they are all perceived as lucky numbers. The more a person eats, the more they will be blessed with good luck. Therefore any plump people that you might bump into in Estonia are very lucky indeed.
The Grapes of Good Fortune
It is a popular tradition in Spain, Mexico and other Latin American countries to consume twelve grapes at each strike of the clock on New Year. The custom is thought to bring the person prosperity and good fortune in the coming year, and in some countries some people believe it also wards off evil spirits.
Saving up old crocks or unwashed dishes in the months leading to New Year in Denmark is a very popular occupation. The reason behind this is that it is traditional to throw old china and crockery at your neighbour’s front door. There seems to be scant information why this supposedly brings good luck but it sure must be a fun event, unless you happen to open the door when a missile is in full flight.
Mixed Up Iceland
Iceland has many strange traditions full stop, but around New Year things get a little out of hand with more strange events than you can shake a stick at. Talking cows, seals turning into humans, the dead rising from their graves and elves that like to move house. It all sounds like the Christmas spirit has been poured in large quantities and things are getting a little out of the realms of the unbelievable not the believable.
The Has Beans
If you happen to be in South America during New Year and in particular Argentina, then it is advisable that you donn Pink Underwear, as that is a way to guarantee that your love life will be successful in the following year. It does not seem to matter if you are male or female just be comfortable with your pink side.
Also in Argentina eating beans is a very important practise for your employment prospects. Consuming ladle fulls of beans will ensure you keep your current employment and even may lead to an improvement of circumstances. I rather think that colleagues would rather sit downwind of your desk if you are a believer in this tradition.
Colombian Carry Out
Don’t be surprised visiting Bogota or other parts of Colombia if you think everybody is going on holiday or on a mass exodus. It is tradition that Colombians carry suitcases around with them all day on December 31st, not because they are considering robbing a bank or something, but because Colombians love to travel, and carrying luggage around all day signifies a travel-filled year ahead.
Fighting Fit For The New Year
You may think you live in a rough neighbourhood, but in one Peruvian village a good old punch up is the way to see out the old year.Any lingering issues you may have with noisy neighbours, or annoying relatives are all sorted out by having a Cowboy Saloon style fist fight. It does not matter what sex you are, if you have a gripe then knock seven bells out of each other and then wipe the slate clean for the coming year. Many Peruvians New Year’s dinners are eaten through a straw as a consequence of this rather endearing old observance.
Wherever you happen to be over the changing of the year, here at Chaiyapruek Towers we hope that you join in and enjoy the local customs. Most are not as scary as some of the traditions listed here, and many hold great symbolism to the native people.You never know, by having fun and joining in, you may bring good fortune in the future, even though it may involve losing a few teeth and helping a few elves to move house.