By the time the last of the sugar cookies are eaten and all the gift have been unwrapped, we barely have a chance to jot down a resolution or two and reflect on how quickly 2017 has passed. Another year is coming to an end and it’s time to usher in a new one.
There are lots of ways to welcome in the New Year. Your family might stay up until midnight to bang pots and pans, pop open a bottle of bubbly and watch the ball drop in New York’s Times Square. Many believe that sharing a kiss at midnight is a sign of good luck.
For some folks, the New Year signals a day to relax, watch football and unwind from the flurry of holiday activity. My husband Nick and I review our successes with last year’s resolutions before writing down 10 attainable goals for the coming year.
People from all corners of the world participate in many of customs and traditions, unique to their culture and history. Here’s a sampling of some memorable and unique ways to say good-bye to old Father Time and greet Baby New Year. Perhaps you’ll add one or two to your family celebration.
GOOD LUCK GRAPES
If you are in Spain or Portugal for New Year’s Eve, you can share in the local custom of selecting twelve grapes from a bunch. Then as the clock strikes midnight, eat them one at a time making a wishing with each grape as a way to bring good luck for the next twelve months. Latin American countries share this custom. In Northern Portugal children go caroling from home to home and are given treats and coins.
DOWN UNDER CELEBRATIONS
In Australia and New Zealand, New Year’s Eve falls when summer is in full-swing. Fireworks symbolize the crossover from New Year’s Eve, marking the end of the old year, to New Year’s Day, which signaling the beginning of the New Year. The largest and most elaborate fireworks occur at midnight in Sydney Harbor, an iconic Australian landmark. On this night, the harbor is lit with spectacular fireworks, where hundreds of cultures unite for the Harbor of Light parade.
Because New Zealand is located close to the International Date Line, it is one of the first countries in the world to welcome the New Year. It is celebrated as a day to relax, visit family and friends, perhaps attend a horse racing carnival or other summer day fairs. Instead of football, New Zealanders watch cricket.
January 1st is an important date in Greece because it is not only the first day of the New Year but also St. Basil’s Day. A traditional Greek celebration features Vasilopita, a cake with a silver or gold coin baked inside. On New Year’s Day, the cake is sliced as a blessing to the home and to bring good luck for the New Year. The first piece is for St Basil, the second for the house, the next for the most senior member of the household down to the youngest member and often includes absent family members. Whoever finds the coin in their piece of cake will be lucky for the next year.
To predict the future, families in Germany and Austria melt a small amount of lead by holding a flame under a tablespoon, then pour the lead into a bowl or bucket of cold water. The resulting pattern is interpreted to predict the coming year. A heart or ring shape means a wedding, a ball means luck will roll your way and a pig signifies plenty of food in the year ahead.
SOUTH OF THE BORDER
Bolivians who want to travel in the New Year must take their luggage to the door of the house or go upstairs. Another custom is to wear your underwear backwards: Red is to be lucky in love; yellow is for wealth. At midnight, Bolivians turn the underwear frontwards symbolizing moving forward into the New Year. Some Bolivian families make beautiful little wood or straw dolls to hang outside their homes to bring good luck.
Brazil may be the most celebrated locale to welcome in the New Year. Millions of people from around the world travel to Rio de Janeiro’s shores, especially in Copacabana to experience the majestic fireworks light up the sky above the beaches. Your good luck will increase if you can jump over seven different waves while making your New Year’s wishes, one for each wave. Brazilians believe lentils signify wealth, so on the first day of the New Year they eat lentil soup or lentils and rice.
At midnight on New Year’s Eve, Mexican families open the front door and symbolically sweep out the old year before tossing coins on the ground and sweeping them into the house wishing for prosperity in the coming year. To symbolize renewal, Mexicans also throw a bucket of water out the window.
AULD LANG SYNE
The most popular New Year’s Eve song, is actually an old Scottish song. Poet Robert Burns transcribed and refined the lyrics after hearing them sung by an old man He published the song in the 1796 edition “Scots Musical Museum.” “Auld Lang Syne” translates as “old long since” and means “times gone by.” Bandleader Guy Lombardo popularized the song in 1929 and turned it into a New Year’s classic.
The birthplace of “Auld Lang Syne” is also the home of Hogmanay, the rousing Scottish New Year’s celebration. Shortly after midnight on New Year’s Eve, neighbors pay visits to each other and impart New Year’s wishes. They are called “first footers” and traditionally, bring along a small gift. You will be especially lucky if a tall, dark and handsome man is the first to enter your house after the New Year is rung in. The Scottish also believe that you should clear your debts before “the bells” ring at midnight.
HOW TO SAY HAPPY NEW YEAR
Brazilian: feliz ano novo
Brazilian Portuguese: feliz ano novo no brasileiro
Chinese (Cantonese): Sun nien fai lok
Chinese (Mandarin): Xin nian yu kuai
Czechoslavakia: Scastny Novy Rok
Finnish: Onnellista Uutta Vuotta
French: Bonne année
German: glückliches neues Jahr
Greek: ef̱tychisméno to néo étos
Hawaiian: Hau’oli makahiki hou
Italian: Buon anno
Portuguese: Feliz Ano Novo
Philippines (Tagalog): Manigong Bagong Taon
Spanish: Feliz Año Nuevo; Prospero Ano Nuevo