So I know that this is a day late and also that I didn’t post last week, and for that there is no excuse. I enthusiastically apologize and promise that it won’t happen again (and also that I will deliver those missing posts as soon as I can). That’s the most important announcement here.
The least important announcement is that I am in San Diego, and it is raining. It’s beautiful, and as someone who has lived in a long time in California without seeing rain (albeit San Jose area, which is not San Diego) the novelty of seeing precipitation in the Golden State has really gotten me hyped!
Anyways, San Diego is lovely, and I highly recommend Balboa Park on a beautiful sunny day. 🙂 So many museums! 😀 And street performers, from magicians to didgeridoos, and tasty food! It’s awesome. Go. Now.
I DO NOT recommend Sea World in a rainstorm. I especially discourage you from doing any water rides while water is falling from the sky. (You will regret it when you have to walk for miles soaking wet with no hope of drying off. Ever.)
But that’s not important; what’s important is that I’ve been slacking on these posts, so as penance, I am giving you not the usual 5 facts/tidbits of info that I normally do, but 10. So here goes –
10 wacky New Year’s Traditions from Around the World!
First stop – Spain.
In Spain, grapes are a symbol of welcoming in the new year. With each strike of the clock tower’s bells at midnight, one is supposed to eat a grape. Called “Las doce uvas de la suerte”, or “the 12 grapes of luck”, it was originally believed that the grape-eating would ward off evil and attract good fortune in the coming year. Each grape was supposed to represent one of the months in the year to come. Nowadays, it’s just a fun thing to do at New Year’s.
The tradition started circa 1895, but by the early 1900s farmers had popularized it across Spain, since a New Year’s that requires people to buy grapes is great news if you make a living selling grapes. The Puerta de Sol in Madrid is the most popular place to participate in this tradition, and also believed to be where this practice originated.
So if you want to celebrate like a Spaniard this New Year’s, you should probably go get yourself some grapes. Just make sure that you don’t eat any of the grapes before the stroke of midnight – that’s bad luck.
Now we go to Ireland, where people bang bread against the walls.
Yeah, it sounds a bit crazy. For years, Irish families would take their Christmas bread and bang it against the walls and doors of their home. It was thought that this would invite good spirits and good luck into the house, and drive away any evil spirits or bad fortunes left over from the past year. Some think that in times of famine, this tradition was meant to ensure that the family would have enough food to eat over the next 12 months.
In Denmark, there are a couple weird traditions. For instance, to symbolize the jump into the new year and the metaphorical triumph over any coming difficulties, one should leap off a chair (or the highest piece of furniture you can find) at the stroke of midnight.
However, I’d say the Danes’ attitude towards china on Dec. 31 is the strangest part of the Danish New Year’s celebration. On New Year’s Eve, it is customary to take china and smash it against the homes of all your friends. Since you only smash china on the doorstep of your friends’ homes, the more broken china you have to clean up, the more popular you are. So, in a weird (to my point of view at least) way, you want people to break dishes at your home on New Year’s Eve.
Romanians have a bear-y fun New Year’s (I’m so sorry). In Romania, people dress up as bears for parades, singing, and dancing to welcome the new year. It is thought that this custom originates from pagan traditions involving people dressing in animal skins and dancing from house to house to ward away bad luck. Others believe that this tradition started when the local Roma would carry bears into town (it was believed that bear cubs walking on one’s back would cure back aches).
Bears are traditionally accompanied by drummers and other musicians, as well as a “bear-tamer”. Together, they enter people’s homes, where they are welcomed; a bear entering your house is a sign of good luck – just as long as that “bear” is really just a human in costume! I don’t have a source for this, but I highly doubt that a real bear entering your home on New Year’s Eve is a good omen.
In Scotland, New Year’s is called Hogmanay. The festivities vary from region to region, but if I was a pyromaniac, I’d travel to Stonehaven. There, Scots celebrate by building spheres of flammable tidbits (e.g. newspapers, sticks, old paper), attaching them to non-flammable rope or chain, and swinging them around. The parades that follow are bright and populous as people turn out to welcome the new year by swinging wire cages in the air. The tradition is thought to have originated with ancient bonfire traditions from pre-Christian times.
In Siberia, the tradition of exchanging gifts around a Christmas tree doesn’t happen until New Year’s – and the trees are more wet than in the West. Christmas trees are planted under water, which is usually frozen over. This necessitates some pretty extreme dives, causing people to set world records while pursuing the deepest, coldest, most inhospitably located New Year’s tree. For obvious reasons, this is not a widespread tradition; it’s only observed by professionals, specifically around Lake Baikal. Still, it’s a cool way to celebrate the new year!
In Turkey, the New Year is closely associated with the color red. Everything is red, from decorations to clothes to underwear. It is common to give red lingerie or underwear as a New Year’s gift; if one wears scarlet small clothes on Dec. 31, it is supposed to bring good luck in the year to come. Usually, this crimson gift is only given to women though.
Ecuador has several fascinating customs for New Year’s, my favorite being the burning of effigies called viejos. These dolls, life-size and made with stuffed old clothes and masks, are made in the image of notable persons from the previous year, especially those individuals that are… not well-liked, shall we say. For instance, Donald Trump is a very popular viejo this year.
At midnight, all the viejos are set ablaze, symbolizing the burning away of all the bad luck of the old year and the ushering in of the new. Imagine! All the people you don’t like (or just celebrities in general) burning bright when the clock strikes 12. What a great way to start the year!
To add to the fun, the doomed dolls leave widows behind. Ok, that’s a weird sentence, but stick with me! Men dress up as viudas, the widows of the burned effigies, on New Year’s Day. Starting in the early morning, they obstruct traffic and beg for money to buy beer. Some sing and dance, refusing to let cars pass until their desired price is paid. So yeah, burn “Donald”, but make sure you have money to buy “Meleania” a drink the next day!
Now to lovely Italy for an especially romantic New Year’s Eve! Every year, thousands gather in St. Mark’s Square in Venice to welcome to new year with a kiss – literally! Couples gather in the square (where sometimes they are treated to kissing lessons!) and wait until the stroke of midnight, when they kiss under a Venetian sky aglow with spectacular fireworks! Pro tip: if you’re looking to up your dating game in 2017, this is the ideal date. Just sayin’.
Finally, we return to my home country, the U.S. of A. for the possum drop. Brasstown, North Carolina is home to many possums. Thus, instead of dropping a ball like New York City does on Dec. 31, they drop a possum in a glass pyramid. For the past couple of years, a fake possum has been used because of concerns from animal rights groups, but with those exceptions a live possum has always been used – and don’t worry, the possum isn’t dropped so much as lowered.
Many festivities take place to build up to the great possum drop, including the Miss Possum Queen pageant. All contestants are men dressed up as women. Just so you know.
I’m really sorry this is so late, but am comforted knowing that it is at least up before 2017 (technically). You have my word – the posts that are missing shall be delivered, and posting should be back to normal in the new year!
Anyways, I’m wishing you all a lovely 2017! Happy New Year!