During this highly celebratory season many people around the world like to participate in the traditions that have been handed down to them throughout the years, especially how to bring in the New Year.
In most English speaking countries the song Auld Lang Syne is sung at the stroke of midnight. But did you know where that song originated? It is an old Scottish song originally published in 1796 by the poet Robert Burns. After hearing it sung by an old man from Ayrshire Scotland, he refined the lyrics somewhat to what is sung today.
Different foods represent different meanings for the New Year. Special breads and cakes, are eaten, do long noodles represent long life, field peas represent coins and money, herring abundance and pigs good luck.
At midnight a kiss is shared that derives from masked balls of the past. Supposedly the mask symbolized evil spirits from the previous year and a kiss is the purification into the New Year. In southern US, a traditional dish called Hoppin’ John, a combination of pork, beans and greens, is served for New Year’s Eve.
A custom called “first footing’ is practiced. It is believed that the first male that sets foot in your house after midnight will bring good luck. He brings a gift of money, bread for the table, drink for the master or coal for the fire to ensure that the family will have an abundance of these in the coming new year. And, the guest must enter through the front door and leave through the back for good luck. Oddly enough, the first person must not be blond, red-haired or a woman since these bring bad luck. Those that are empty handed or unwanted must not enter first.
In Spain they eat grapes for the New Year. They eat 12 grapes, one by one, representing each month of the coming year. If one of the grapes is sour, lets say the sixth one, then June will not be a good month. Instead of being in Times Square to celebrate midnight, Spaniards are at the Puerta del Sol in Madrid. Here at every stroke of the square’s clock the revelers in the square or those watching at home eat a grape. This tradition started at the beginning of the 20th century when the grape crop was abundant and has spread to many Spanish speaking countries.
If you live in Denmark don’t be surprised to find a pile of broken dishes at your doorstep on New Years Eve. During the previous year old dishes are saved so they can be thrown at your friends doorstep. The more broken dishes you have, the more friends you have. At midnight, the Town Hall Clock strikes 12 in Copenhagen.
The German people try to tell the future of the coming New Year by dropping molten lead into cold water. As an example, if you see a ring or a heart shape it means an imminent wedding, a ship a journey, or a pig for an abundance of food. If you see people leaving a bit of food on their plate from their New Years Eve dinner it does not mean they are picky eaters but rather a way of insuring a well stocked pantry.
January 1 is St. Basil’s Day, one of the forefathers of the Greek Orthodox Church. A special bread is baked with a coin hidden in the dough. The first slice is for the Christ child, the second for the father of the household and the third for the house. If the third slice holds the coin, then spring will come early that year.
In Sao Paulo, Brazil, La Paz, Bolivia and other parts of South America they put much emphasis on a certain piece of clothing. Do the ladies wear their finest dress or men their black tie and tux? Maybe, but what is really important is your underwear. For good luck you must wear bright colored underwear, red if you are looking for love and yellow if you want money. It seams to me if you show your underwear you might get both at the same time.
These are just a few traditions that are celebrated during New Years Some make sense, some sound a little out there like in, but no matter how you celebrate, have a good time and have a HAPPY NEW YEAR. Best wishes for 2014!