It’s been a little over a week since the beginning of 2020 and I’m afraid I may have gotten off to a bad start already.
When I was about 8 or 9, I remember being home alone and expressing my unbridled joy at the stroke of midnight by leaning out the front door, banging two pots together, and screaming “Happy New Year” to the neighborhood.
Some years later I discovered that people are supposed to kiss their significant others or some significant person at midnight. I did that one!
Until recently, that’s been the extent of my knowledge of New Year’s traditions and superstitions. I was blissfully unaware of all the work involved in greeting a new year.
Not that I’m superstitious, but in the interests of safety, once I learn of a superstition I feel obligated to pay attention to it “just in case.” Ignorance was not only bliss, but a lot less work.
|My New Year Dinner|
Several years ago my Southern friends informed me that it’s necessary to eat black-eyed peas, collard greens, and cornbread on New Year’s Day. The cornbread represents gold for wealth, and I guess the greens also represent abundant money. Who knows what’s going on with those peas? At least they’re tasty. I’ve made this meal every January 1 since, but I’ve recently discovered I’m supposed to be eating lentils as well. I suppose next year I could add lentils to my Hoppin’ John.
Unfortunately, I didn’t learn of many traditions from other parts of the world until after the holiday this year.
For instance, in Cuba and Spain people eat a dozen grapes at midnight to insure good fortune for each month. In the Philippines grapes aren’t necessary but round fruits of any kind are on the menu. Chicken, turkey, and lobster, however, are frowned on in many cultures because they scratch backward when eating, and we want to move forward.
Certain activities are supposed to contribute to a good year. In some countries people walk in a circle carrying a suitcase so they’ll have good travel experiences. Holding silver in your hand at midnight brings good fortune, was well as jumping off a chair, and in Denmark, hurling plates and glasses at a wall. In South Africa people toss old appliances out the window, which I guess begins the year with an uncluttered house. In Japan people don costumes depicting the year’s animal and dance to the local temple. In some South American countries people hang a toy lamb from the front door—who knows why? In Mexico people sing a hymn called “Dando los Dias” all night, ending up at the home of a person named Manuel in honor of St. Emmanuel, patron saint of New Year’s.
There are ways to get rid of any bad vibes left over from the previous year, like tossing a bucket of water out the window and sweeping the floor.
Fire plays a significant role in many beginning-of-the-year traditions. In Scotland the men swing giant blazing fireballs over their heads, while in Panama and Ecuador people burn effigies of political figures to get rid of old energy. (No comment on that one!) Many cultures celebrate with fireworks.
Refraining from certain actions is also necessary. Do not wash the dishes or do laundry. Don’t start the year with any debts, and don’t take anything out of the house. (What about those appliances you’re tossing out the window?) Don’t start the year with bare cupboards.
Clothing is important. In some South American countries a person must wear white while jumping over ocean waves seven times or throwing flowers in the sea. Lacking an ocean, a person can control the year’s luck by wearing the appropriate color underwear. Yellow brings good luck, red or pink luck in love, blue good health, and green a better year than the last one. Black, though, brings bad luck. Without getting too personal, I think I may be in trouble with that one.
And finally, the first person to enter your home sets the tone for the entire year. The ideal is a tall, dark, and handsome man bearing gifts. Well, of course it is! You’re supposed to stay home until this person arrives, which may not always be practical, but may be worth it.
Now that I’ve become aware of all these requirements, I can see that I should probably begin my celebration a few days early next year in order to fit them all in. It’s already too late for this year. So wish me luck and Happy New Year to you!
Do you have any special New Year traditions?
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