We only live once, so why not make the most of it? The ‘Better Me‘ series hopes to give some ideas on how to add fun and meaning to our lives.
For some, New Year’s Day is just another day of the year. A day that offers little more than an excuse to eat, drink and party in excess. Oh, and not go to work. For others, New Year’s day is a chance to oust the old and welcome in the new: it’s a whole new chance at life. The idea of the New Year as a source of renewal underpins most New Year’s traditions, no matter where they come from or how old they are.
There’s nothing like a good old house clean to rid our surroundings of the old year’s dusty patina. In Sri Lanka, the Sinhalese whitewash and clean their homes to welcome the New Year. The Japanese don’t just clean their home, but their shops and offices too, so that the New Year finds all their surroundings in perfect condition.
Water and sugar
Puerto Ricans also enjoy a good house clean before the party begins. They then throw the old year out of their windows along with buckets of water and scatter sugar outside their homes to attract good luck.
Pouring water out of windows must hardly seem exciting to the residents of Hillbrow, Johannesburg. Not when they can see unwanted appliances flying out of their neighbours’ windows on New Year’s Eve. One resident claims to have thrown a whole bed off his balcony.
Colombians opt for smaller objects of the flying variety, though not any less dangerous: stray bullets fired in the air over the Christmas season have claimed many victims over the years.
Burn baby burn
In Ecuador, people burn sawdust-stuffed effigies of people who, to them, are reminiscent of the old year. This old tradition has acquired social and political significance as the effigies burned often represent politicians and celebrities involved in controversy or scandal.
What lies beneath
In Mexico and Bolivia, one’s choice of underwear is as important as their choice of outerwear when it comes to New Year’s Eve. Women seeking love and passion may be more successful in their pursuits if the New Year finds them wearing red underwear (hardly a surprise, if you ask me). Yellow underwear is said to bring luck while green will keep the money coming in. White is for hope and peace and pink for friendship.
Looking for love?
In Mexico, love comes to those who wear red underwear. In Ireland, the trick to finding love (or a husband) is placing mistletoe under your pillow on New Year’s Eve.
Let them eat grapes
In Spain, eating twelve grapes by the time the clock stops chiming brings twelve months of good luck. The tradition was started in 1909 by some vinegrowers who wanted to sell more grapes!
… or good old cake
But not just any cake. In Greece people eat vasilopita, a sponge cake in which they hide a coin or trinket. At midnight, a piece is cut for each member of the family and any visitors present, as well as Jesus, St Basil and the household. The cake pieces are handed round by order of age from eldest to youngest. The coin is said to bring luck to its finder.
Tall, dark and handsome
In England and Scotland, the first person to knock on one’s door after midnight is said to determine one’s luck for the year. A tall and dark “first footer” is believed to bring good luck, while red and blond hair could mean trouble.
Chime away your sins
In Japan, Buddhist temples ring their bells 108 times, for the 108 sins which people are capable of committing. The 108 bell chimes are believed to purify the soul and free people of their sins.
Jump up high
In the Philippines, children are encouraged to jump as high as they can so as to grow taller.
Another tradition in the Philippines is for people to dress in polka dots (or other round-shaped patterns) and eat round-shaped food like grapes. Round shapes are associated with coins and, therefore, wealth.
No matter how much people’s traditions vary from place to place, they do seem to have one thing in common: hope for a better future. However you choose to celebrate the New Year, make sure to celebrate with optimism.