Wednesday, December 11, 2013

New Year's Eve: Countdown of the World's 12 Most Interesting Traditions

Madalena Pierangelino, Marketing Intern 

3… 2… 1… HAPPY NEW YEAR! The famous countdown as we wait for the clock to strike 12 happens only once a year, but it is surprisingly not the only way to ring in the New Year. New Years, the chance to start a new year and new goals, is one of the only holidays that the entire world shares. Almost every country has its own defining tradition that creates a new exceptional meaning to this day. In Spain, they eat grapes. In Brazil, they wear brightly colored underpants. And there are many more bizarre traditions out there. Let’s countdown this New Year’s with twelve of the most interesting celebrations that will be occurring around the world this January 1st.

12. Philippines
From circular fruits to polka dots, Filipinos believe the shape of the circle represents prosperity. Round fruits and sweet candies are set as centerpieces and believed to bring a sweeter year. And people sport polka dots for a touch of extra good luck! At midnight it is also common to throw coins in the air to enhance wealth.

11. Japan
Spend December 31st in Japan and you will have your day already planned out. The normal routine consists of cleaning the house to purify the year to come, eating long noodles to symbolize a long life (which seems to work considering they are home to some of the oldest people in the world), watching a popular singing contest, and visiting the temple. At midnight, Buddhist temples throughout the country chime their bells a whopping 108 times. The reason behind the large number lies in the long-standing Buddhist belief that there are 108 human sins. So, each ringing of the bell is said to rid the sins of the year before.

10. Spain
In Spain you will find crowds squeezed together in all the main plazas with grapes and sparkling wine in hand. At midnight the Spanish quickly gobble one grape at each of the 12 chimes. Each grape symbolizes one month of good luck in the year to come.  

(My sister who lived in Madrid, Spain celebrated New Years with fresh grapes in the Plaza Mayor.)

9. Denmark
The Danish ring in the New Year literally by throwing plates and glasses against the doors of friends’ and families’ houses. They also get a jump-start to the year by physically leaping off chairs as the clock strikes twelve, supposedly swearing off bad spirits and bringing good fortune.

8. South Africa
If you are walking through downtown Johannesburg on NYE, heads up! Residents like to take the term “out with the old, in with the new!” literally by throwing their old, used appliances out the window.

7. Estonia
This eastern European country has a hearty appetite. On New Years Day, citizens try to eat a total of seven times. Men who eat this much are said to have the strength of seven men and it ensures that the household will have a plentiful year of food.

6. Finland
In Finland on New Years, a common custom is dipping a molten piece of tin into a cup of water and then interpreting it. The metal takes different shapes and reflects certain meanings. If you see a heart or ring shape, expect a wedding, a ship means upcoming travels and the form of a pig signifies a prosperous, food-filled year.

5. Colombia
On New Years Eve in Colombia it looks like the entire country is packing up and leaving, but really the suitcases are completely empty! The legend states that if you carry an empty suitcase around the block, it will bring you a year full of adventurous travels.  

4. Scotland
Don’t let the skirts fool you; the Scots celebrate the new year with the very manly act of swinging giant fireballs. People from all over the world come to see the townsmen parade down the streets in their kilts and poles with flaming ends, which symbolize the sun and are believed to purify the year to come.

3. Panama
Muñecos are imitations of real-life people that Panamanians burn in a New Years bonfire. The hand-made life-size dolls often represent world-famous celebrities. In the past they have burned celebs like Michael Jackson, TV-stars like “Ugly Betty’s” America Ferrera and political figureheads like Fidel Castro. It sounds violent, but it is actually a flattering gesture. The muñecos serve as a symbol of the old year, and burning them scares away evil spirits to start the new year spiritually fresh.

2. Belarus
In Belarus, New Years Day revolves around games for unmarried women in order to predict who will get married the upcoming year. In one traditional game, girls sit around a circle with a pile of corn in front of them and a rooster is let loose. Whichever corn pile the rooster runs to first is the lucky future bride!

1. Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia and Venezuela
Most people use New Years as an excuse to dress up and wear sequins, but in these four countries the key to your New Years outfit is unseen – your fashion statement is your underwear. The color of your under garments determine your goals. If you are searching for passion you wear red, for good health wear blue, for happiness white, and if money is on your mind you wear the yellow, which seems to be the most popular choice.

Happy New Year!
It seems that with each years end, there is a wacky way to bring a brand new beginning. Whether you want love, good luck, food or fortune, there is a myriad of options to celebrate. Some countries’ traditions may seem stranger than others, but at the end of the day, no matter the language or the tradition, we all share the same optimistic phrase – Happy New Year!

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