Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Year's Traditions

When we lived in New Jersey, it was traditional to ring in the New Year with Dick Clark and watch the ball drop in Times Square. We also laughed at all the silly people freezing their butts off while we sat all warm at home but I digress. Whether we hosted a party, went to a party or spent a quiet NYE at home, we did so while watching the festivities in the City.

Now that we live in Las Vegas our new tradition for ringing the new year is to watch the fireworks over the hotels on the Strip. Last year we sat in a heated car until the last minute, got out to watch the display, wish each other a Happy Happy and ran back in the car. It was unusually freezing cold!

Aside from how you spend the evening, there are also certain traditions/superstitions that are practiced to ensure good luck, good fortune, happiness and more in the new year. One year we celebrated NYE with another couple we were good friends with. The husband brought over a pot of lentil soup and insisted that when the clock struck midnight we each eat a spoonful of the soup. Doing this was supposed to bring us good fortune in the coming year. The soup was good, the fortune so-so.

My great-grandmother was full of these rituals. She believed that you should have all your laundry done and your house clean before the midnight hour or else the new year would find you always washing clothes in a filthy house. She also believed that you should pay off all necessary debts or else you would be continually broke and owing other people.That's easier said than done these days. She had food traditions, too. Eating red cabbage meant good luck. However, cabbage leaves some people gassy, which means bad luck for the others around them.

Anyway, here's a short list of New Year's traditions from around the world. Extra commentary by me is in blue at the end.

At midnight, it's customary to eat 12 grapes, one at each stroke of the clock. Each one signifies good luck for one month of the coming year. Unless you choke on grape # 3.

The Finnish predict their fortunes for the coming year by casting molten tin into a container of water and interpreting the shape the metal takes after it hardens. A heart or ring shape means a wedding, a ship signifies travel, a pig means lots of good food. Or that you've made a pig of yourself in the last year.

Round shapes which represent coins, symbolize prosperity. There are heaps of round fruits on dining tables. Some folks eat precisely a dozen fruits at midnight. Polka dots are also thought to bring good luck. So dressing in a polka dot dress should get you lucky! 

Unmarried women play games to predict who will get hitched in the new year. In one game, a pile of corn is put in front of each woman and a rooster is let loose. Whatever pile he approaches first shows which woman will be the first to marry. This is worse than standing to catch the bride's bouquet.

People stand on chairs and jump off them at the same time at midnight to banish evil spirits and bring good luck. Unless you fall off the chair or go through the floor, then the evil spirits have the last laugh.

Central & South America
Folks wear special underwear in places like Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia and Venezuela. Red means love; yellow means money. Brown means dirty.

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