CHARLOTTE, NC, December 27, 2017: For most Americans, the ball drop at Times Square signifies the traditional beginning of the New Year, but there are other traditions from around the world that are just as unique.
For example, the custom of making New Year’s resolutions dates as far back as 2600 B.C. with the Babylonians. So, using that as a guide, here are some other Day 1 traditions from around the globe.
New Year’s Traditions Around the World
Continuing with all good intentions of resolutions, the most common promises deal with diet, exercise, bad habits and other issues regarding personal wellness. Much like making the turn in a round of golf, a new year symbolizes a fresh start, which, also as in golf when the drive off the tenth tee goes askew, resolutions typically only last until January 2nd.
America’s New Year’s Traditions
In America, New Year’s is a time of champagne, fireworks, football, concerts, confetti, and parades. A time for gathering with friends and those we love to celebrate the year past and ahead.
Often the New Year’s Day menu consists of circularly shaped cuisine to remind us that the first day of the year sets the precedent for the upcoming days of the calendar. Eating any ring-shaped treat, such as a doughnut, hearkens to the idea of “coming full circle” which represents good fortune.
In the southern United States, black-eyed peas, collard greens, cornbread, hoppin’ John and Pot Likker soup are favorites. Other parts of the country find cabbage and pork more to their taste.
World Wide New Year’s Traditions
In Holland they eat fritters, or olie bollen. The Irish enjoy pastries known as “bannocks” and in India and Pakistan rice brings promises of prosperity. The typical Jewish tradition is eating apples dipped in honey.
There is frequently a midnight feast in the Philippines that consists of twelve rounds of fruit symbolizing each month of the year. Also popular is sticky rice and noodles, although chicken or fish are taboo because those creatures are foragers and, therefore, a symbol of bad luck for the coming year’s food supply.
At the stroke of midnight, Spaniards eat twelve grapes to represent each month of the year. Though a nice tradition, others might prefer to drink their way through the custom only to suffer the “wrath of grapes” in the morning.
Meanwhile, the normally ultra-fastidious Swiss prefer to drop dollops of whipped cream on the floor and allow them to remain there!
Putting your best foot forward
Being the first day of the year, it is always a good idea to “put your best foot forward.” Thus the superstition goes that the first person, therefore the “first foot,” to cross a threshold after midnight will predict the family fortune for the coming year.
The “first-foot” tradition has numerous variations, but the people deemed the most fortunate “first footers” are new brides, new mothers, tall-dark, handsome men or anyone born on January 1. By the way, “first footers” are also “Lucky Birds.”
The key to activating this superstition to the fullest, however, is not to let anything leave the house on New Year’s Day except people.
According to tradition, don’t take out the trash on New Year’s Day. Leave anything else you might want to remove from the house outside the night before. The only option, if you must take something out, is to replace it by bringing something else inside in order to maintain balance.
Also, you should avoid paying bills, breaking anything or shedding tears.
The New Year’s Tradition: Toasts and Icy plunges
Toasting is, of course, one of the most popular New Year’s traditions. In some parts of England, a punch-like drink called Wassail, after the Gaelic term for “good health,” is a favorite.
The Scots have their own version of Wassail which is a spice “hot pint” that is traditionally guzzled in honor of each other’s prosperity. The toast is also usually accompanied by a small gift.
Otherwise, champagne is the toast of choice throughout most of the world.
On the other hand, there are a few odd traditions such as running into a body of water in coastal regions as a means of cleansing or “rebirth.”
Some of the hardier northern regions of Canada, Scandinavia, the UK, the Netherlands and, even, the US enjoy a “Polar Bear Plunge” by diving into icy or semi-frozen bodies of water to raise money for charity.
Since religion was suppressed in Russia for many years, Christmas was banned, thus making New Year’s an even bigger celebration. In Moscow there are fireworks and a massive holiday party in Red Square. That celebration includes bright trees, which were forbidden until December 26th and that suddenly make an appearance during the week leading up to New Year’s Eve.
The French typically celebrate New Years by marking the first moments of New Year’s Day with kisses under the mistletoe, a custom most other cultures associate with Christmas.
Noisy New Year’s Traditions
The day’s weather forecast for the upcoming year’s harvest is also important in France taking into account aspects like wind direction to predict the fruitfulness of crops and fishing.
New Year’s just wouldn’t seem right without noise. Celebrations in the Philippines, for example, are very loud, believing the noise will scare away evil beings.
In ancient Thailand, guns were fired to frighten away the demons, but in China, firecrackers routed the forces of darkness. The early American colonies employed the sound of pistol shots.
Today, Italians let their church bells peal, the Swiss beat drums and North Americans sound sirens and party horns to bid the old year farewell.
Auld Lang Syne
And finally, the song, “Auld Lang Syne,” is sung at the stroke of midnight in almost every English-speaking country in the world.
Partially written by Robert Burns in the 1700’s, it was first published in 1796 after Burns’ death. Early variations of the song prior to 1700 were inspiring to Burns to produce the modern version of an old Scottish tune that literally means “old long ago,” or simply, “the good old days.”
And so from the “good old days” to the hopefully “good new days” of 2018, here’s wishing everyone a Happy and Prosperous New Year!
About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor is an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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