New Year traditions are bound to the end of the closing year and the beginning of the new one, we always hope will be better than the old one. So, traditions are usually tied to concepts like wealth, peacefulness and fortune, recalled with gestures in order to ward off ill-luck, also connected to gestures.
New Year in Italy
Here in Italy, on New Year’s Eve we use to gather, with family, around the table for a classic dinner, while waiting for midnight.
Menu may vary from region to region, but usually fish dishes, panettone or pandoro, and sparkling wine are a must. According to tradition, you should eat lentils and raisin, as they symbolize abundance and wealth, so the more you eat, the more you’ll get rich during the year. The most usual recipes is lentil soup, with stuffed ham hock or cotechino: these are very fat meats, also symbolizing abundance. People warding off ill-luck may also eat grapes and dried fruit to have wealth and fortune.
At midnight an old people’s tradition has it that old stuff (like the calendar of the ending year, but also chipped dishes and similar) should be throw out of windows and doors, to eliminate negativeness cumulated during the past year… of course, it is a brutish and potentially dangerous tradition, nowaday almost completely disuse. Also fireworks and crackers, besides cheering up, should throw evil spirits out. You can also repel them by opening a window in a room with light off just before midnight: then you need to open a window in another room, lightned, to welcome kind spirits. After midnight you could welcome a priest (but a tall man with black hair should should be convenient as well), to bring fortune for the new year. Of course, don’t forget to hand some mistletoe on the threshold. On January 1st, in case you go out, take care that your wallet is “full”: the new year should begin with wealth. And if anybody ask you for a loan of money, give it, as “loaned money will come back multiplied by hundred”! Giving gifts will also guarantee abundance during the year. Ando do not forget to wear red underwear!
There also are a few more specifical regional traditions. For example in Verona area young people use to run about the streets while singing local well-wishing songs. In Abruzzo they think that on the stroke of midnight river water changes into gold. Piedmontese people can “undestrand” how will the new year be according to the first person they run into in the street: an old person or a humpback will bring you fortune and long life; a child or a priest will bring you bad luck. In Emilia Romagna country people use to start any work they should do during the year: in this way they are sure they will be able to complete them before the end of the year. Similarly, in Abruzzo women use to start any housework. According to another belief, by observing weather of the first 12 days of the year you will know the weather of the 12 months (of course, there is no scientific basis at all!). Last, but not least, also according to country tradition, you can understand the trend of wheat price: pick 12 grains from any ear of wheat, put them in a circle of embers on the fireside, and associate a month with each grain. The grain which will jump forward will indicate a price rise for the month associated.
New Year Around the World
As you know, the different time zones around the world mean midnight strike in different moments around the world, so celebration will start in different moments too, of course with different traditions as well!
In Spain they use to eat 12 grapes, one per each stroke of the clock of Puerta del Sol, in Madrid, to guarantee wealth for the new year, then they toast with glasse with a ring inside.
In Greece they use to offer gifts to the youngest ones, and each person crossing the threshold must crack a pomegranate: the more seeds will fall onto the floor, the more prosperity there will be.
Breatish people love New Year, and after the eve’s dinner, based on turkey stuffed with chestnut, enjoy playing games like setting a bowl with liquor on fire and trying to pick some dried fruit from the bottom of the bowl… or jumping inside a circle of lighted red candles, without snuffing them out.
In Germany they use to toast with a typical drink, made with red wine, cinnamon, cloves, orange zest and rum, and to offer raisins and dried fruit to family and friends as a sign of fraternity. They also use to pour melted lead in water to get to know the future: if lead makes a ball, future will be rosy.
In Russia New Year is celebrated twice (on December 31 and on January 13). They use to dress a tree and, at midnight, to eat plums, dried fruit and Olivier salad, accompanied by champagne and vodka. Also at midnight, they use to open the door to let the new year “come in”.
In Japan they use to welcome the new year by doing houseworks and decorating houses with pine branches and straw. At midnight temple bells toll 108 times (like Buddhist elephants), so that people will atone for their done.
Sputh America is especially festive. Thay use to wear yellow cloths to welcome with joy the new year. They have the 12 grape tradition too, like in Spain. They also use to pour a glass of wine behind their backs, to pull away negativity.