By Haddon Libby
Here in the United States, it seems that the most popular way to ring in the New Year is with a flute of champagne while amongst friends and family and sharing a kiss with that special someone. As with many around the world, Americans often watch fireworks whether in person or in front of a television.
In many Spanish speaking cultures, New Year’s Eve is not complete unless you eat twelve grapes for luck. This tradition finds its roots in 1895 when grape growers started the tradition to reduce their surplus of grapes. Interestingly, Argentinians have a similar celebration except that they eat beans. Many Spanish cultures also carry a suitcase around their house or around the block in order to bring more travel in the New Year.
Rather than grapes or beans, Estonians eat parts of twelve meals as this tradition is supposed to help you have the strength of many men. The entire meal is not consumed as a portion is meant to be left of the spirits of ancestors who visit homes while you sleep.
The Finnish tell each other their fortunes on New Year’s Eve with molybdomancy. Besides being difficult to pronounce, molybdomancy is the act of melting lead in a pan on the stove and then throwing the molten metal in cold water. The resulting blob of metal is then analyzed under candlelight to determine what fate may come to that person in the upcoming year.
People in Denmark celebrate the end of the year by making a dessert called kransekage that is decorated with fire crackers and flags. Kransekage is a cone-shaped cake. The Danes also smash dishes on their doorsteps to insure many friendships in the New Year.
Greeks prefer to smash pomegranates on their doorsteps in order to bring prosperity and good luck. They also hang a kremmida (onion) outside their doors as a symbol of rebirth with the new year. Besides cleaning up the pomegranate mess the next morning, parents tap their children on the head with the onions before going to church.
Japan’s Buddhist temples ring their bells 108 times as they welcome the New Year God, Toshigami. They also clean their homes as part of an effort to sweep away bad luck while sending notes called nengajos to friends and family in recognition of the New Year and their friendship.
An Italian tradition is to wear red underwear.
Single Irish women place sprigs of mistletoe under their pillows on New Year’s in an effort to gain luck and a husband with the New Year. Folklore warns the Irish that the arrival of tall, handsome men on your doorstep on New Year’s Eve will bring good fortune while red headed women will bring nothing but trouble.
In Scotland, the New Year is called Hogmanay celebrated by setting barrels filled with tar on fire and rolling them down the street as a symbol of the burning up of the year gone by.
Ecuadorians also use fire to ring in the New Year as they like to build effigies of their enemies from the past year that they then burn in the streets.
Many Germans celebrate by eating doughnuts, pigs made of marzipan and watching the 1920s British play, “Dinner for One” on television.
Finally, in Serbia, Deda Mraz (no relation to Jason Mraz) visits houses leaving presents under spruce trees. They then celebrate the New Year thirteen days later in recognition of the Julian calendar. In case you were unfamiliar with the Julian calendar, it was created by Julius Caesar and is very similar to the Gregorian calendar that the world uses today. The only significant difference is that they believe the year is comprised of 365.25 days, 0.02 days more than the calendar that we use today – thus the 13 day difference.
On behalf of the entire CV Weekly family, I personally would like to wish you and your family love, luck, health and prosperity in the New Year.