As another new year arrives, I wanted to understand what I was celebrating, and how other cultures celebrate. For me, New Years Day has never been a big to-do. I make a resolution for the year, eat a good meal, and spend quality time with family. However, the start of a new year is very important to some cultures. I wish I could talk about them all, but there are too many to cover in just one article. However, I hope I increase your understanding of the importance of the new year to other cultures.
While some traditions may seem nonsensical to some, to others they are very serious. In Columbia, it is tradition to eat twelve grapes at midnight to ensure one month of good luck for the upcoming year. In some cities like Barcelona and Madrid, entire communities gather around to share the grape eating tradition. It’s great that these communities can gather together to share one common tradition of joy and eating.
While there are some traditions that are to the point, others are more symbolic. In Denmark, a common tradition is to stand on top of chairs and, at exactly midnight, jump off. The sentiment is to make a leap (of faith) into a new year of hope. Another common but somewhat messy tradition is to throw old plates and glasses at the doors of family and friends to banish old spirits. I sure hope that not wearing shoes outside is one of the banished spirits.
There are certain cultures that don’t even celebrate New Year’s Day on our New Year’s Day. For example, China’s new year is never on the exact same day. According to the different websites I researched, there is no way (that we know of) to make sense of the rate of change. Why question it anyway? Just like our culture, the theme of Chinese New Year is about reinventing yourself. It is a time to clean up your house and achieve a resolution. Another theme is giving. Red cards with significant money are given to friends and loved ones.
While there are subtle and simple traditions, some do hardcore partying. In Kenya and Zimbabwe, there is a huge music festival called Kilifi New Year. One unique element is that the New Year celebration is three days long. It lasts from December 30th to January 2nd. The tradition is meant to promote diversity and expression. It culminates with the burning of a large wooden sculpture just a time to eat food, share and play in a kid-friendly waterpark.
For Australia, winter time is summer time. I envy that a lot because they play outdoors and even party in boats. This is one of the more laid back traditions I’ve seen so far. The beach is also a popular location to celebrate this holiday. Unlike in so many cultures, the theme is celebrating the past year as opposed to rushing into a new one.
The DOGE is OUT.