Welcome 2015 with some (unusual) traditions from across the globe!
The New Year. Humanity’s “restart” button. A time filled with hope and the endless possibilities that come with a new beginning.
Of course, new beginnings can be had at any point in one’s life; regardless of time of the year. However, there is something about turning that last calendar page and starting a fresh leaf that transforms just about anyone into a cockeyed optimist. Or, at the very least, causes one to be somewhat more positive about their general outlook in life.
Named for Janus, the two-faced Roman god of beginnings and transitions – with one face looking forward, and the other looking back – January proves the perfect time for learning lessons from the past and setting new goals for what is to come. Resolutions are made (never mind that they are often broken when February rolls around), and the unnecessary (past mistakes, failures, bad decisions; you know the drill) is discarded; leaving one free and unhampered to embark on the promising journey ahead.
Ringing in this time of hope; the New Year – usually observed on January 1, the first day of the year on the modern Gregorian calendar and on the Julian calendar – is one of the most anticipated and celebrated events across the globe. It is ushered in with diverse traditions, and in varied ways (some customs admittedly a tad more unusual than others.
These ways of welcoming the New Year may be traditional, to some people; but they may also provide some fresh ideas for your own New Year celebration.
Cycles and Circumcision
The New Year’s tradition dates back to ancient times, and – like many other holidays – has its roots on pagan tradition. Historians trace it back to ancient Babylon, during which it was celebrated as an eleven day festival on the first day of spring. Back then, many cultures relied on the sun and moon cycle to peg the “first” day of the year. Early festivities honored the Earth’s cycles.
It was only when Roman Emperor Julius Caesar mandated the use of the Julian calendar that January 1st became the common day for the celebration.
In later years, Christianity did away with the pagan, earthy rites, and declared the New Year holiday in honour of the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ.
Needless to say, much of the tradition has changed since the days of celebrating Earth cycles and Christ’s circumcision.
The stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve usually heralds an explosion of colour, as fireworks light up the skies in many countries across the globe. Pyrotechnics have become a festive tradition to meet the New Year; as have midnight countdowns and champagne toasts to good health, wealth, and cheer in the coming year.
In some places, such as China and the Philippines, New Year’s Eve is a blast. Literally. Aside from fireworks, revelers explode firecrackers and employ noisemakers to create a din, believing the happy ruckus an effective way to ward off evil spirits seeking to bring bad luck in the New Year.
See spot(s) jump. Jump, spot(s), jump.
In Filipino culture, Polka dots are a favorite pattern for outfits donned on New Year’s Eve. It is unclear how and where this custom originated, but it has become a widely-held belief in the Philippines that wearing polka-dotted clothes – or anything with circular prints – on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day will bring prosperity throughout the year (the round shape symbolizing coins.) The practice has also grown to include the eating of round fruit.
Additionally, Filipino children are made to jump 12 times, when the clock strikes 12 on New Year’s Eve. This is thought to be rooted in Spanish tradition, and is believed to bring a physical growth spurt over the next year.
Tolling bells and twelve grapes
Spain has a tradition that is as seemingly strange, as it is highly observed. On New Year’s Eve, families and friends gather in town and city squares – or in front of the television set, on which the program is broadcast – to await the final tolling of the church bells for the year. At the stroke of midnight, with each of the bells’ twelve peals, one grape is consumed. Tradition has it that those who succeed at eating all twelve grapes in time will be blessed with a prosperous and lucky new year. Green grapes are preferred for this custom, as the skin is smoother and thinner, therefore making the grapes easier to chew and swallow.
This Spanish ritual has been adopted by other nations – such as Mexico and the Philippines – which have had close historical associations with Spain.
Looking for a more exciting way to usher in 2015? Then you may want to try the good-old New Year’s Eve Mexican tradition of donning brightly colored underpants! Yes; the brighter or more colourful, the better. This tradition is thought to bring good luck and prosperity, as well as luck in love. Those looking for financial luck usually wear the colour yellow; while those looking to get lucky in love put on the colour red.
People in Bolivia also observe the New Year’s underpants tradition; except they wait until midnight to put on the brightly colored knickers, believing that the change in underwear will bring a change in fortune.
Up in smoke
Looking to leave painful memories behind, as you enter the new year? Then burn a picture which represents it. At least, that is what folk in Ecuador do. Ecuadorians gather outside their homes on New Year’s Eve to burn photos that serve as memories of painful incidents, or times they would rather forget. As the photos go up in smoke, it is believed that so do the memories of these past incidents, which hinder future progress.
Give; and it shall come back to you
Holding on to the universal principle of sowing and reaping, the people of Turkey believe that helping out needy, less privileged folk will ensure happiness throughout the coming year. As such, on New Year’s Day, many Turks participate in community service-oriented and fundraising activities.
The belief is that by helping out a person in need, one will stay happy because of the sense of fulfillment and blessings that come with doing something good for another person.
In Chile, many people have taken on the habit of visiting their deceased relatives on New Year’s Eve. The practice is said to have started in 1995, when a family made local news after they scaled the fence of a local cemetery in order to welcome the New Year with their father, who had passed away. The practice has since caught on, with thousands of families flocking to graveyards after 11 pm.
Dish one’s for you
The Danes have an extra-unusual way of ushering in the New Year. It is common practice in Denmark to throw old and used dishes at a friend’s front door on New Year’s Eve, as a sign of your friendship, and of unwavering commitment, loyalty, and integrity.
Sealed with a kiss
In the United States, it is a time-honoured tradition to kiss loved ones on midnight of New Year’s Eve. It is believed that a midnight kiss will make the next year beautiful, as well as seal the love between those sharing the kiss and help erase any negative memories.
So go ahead. Put on a polka dotted outfit. Wear yellow or red underpants. Eat those grapes and jump 12 times. Smash some dishes. Kiss. But whatever you do, don’t forget to dive into the New Year. Suck the marrow out of it. Just do it. LIVE out your 2015 to the fullest!