New Year is just around the corner. Aside from watching the fireworks display from your apartment with your family or visiting places around the world where these spectacles are hosted, why don’t you have a look at this piece while you sip on the red wine? There’s lots of stuff to learn about New Year, more than the stereotypical feast and celebration held every December 31st to the strike of 12 midnight on January 1st.
The origins of New Year are ancient and people in the world have been celebrating this for around 4,000 years now. It traces the history from ancient Babylonians who used the first sight of the new moon following the vernal equinox. This pertains to a day in the latter part of March that has equal light and darkness, signaling the beginning of New Year. The civilization of Babylonia celebrated this occasion with a religious ritual known as Akitu. The word “Akitu” is Sumerian for “barley” which is harvested in spring. It spanned 11 days.
The festivities also celebrated the Babylonian empire’s victory over an evil sea goddess, with the battle spearheaded by their sky god, Marduk. Its people also honored their ruler during the New Year, quite different from the entertainment scenes of today in places like New York City, which highlight the dropping of the ball in Times Square. If not on the 1st of January, cultures like the Chinese would celebrate New Year around a few weeks after, which is either in the last weeks of January or sometime in February. Now, these still fall under the traditions we’ve used to have. What about rituals and activities considered bizarre? Here are surprising rituals and celebrations for the New Year that will surely even encourage you to try them.
12 Grapes Of New Year (Spain, Latin America)
Grapes are common symbols in the New Year dinner table, so what makes this tradition strange? Well, it is also known as the 12 Grapes of Luck and like your Days of Christmas, this time, they eat a dozen grapes right as the count strikes midnight, and the fireworks are launched. That’s a lot of to-do-list since there are traditions of jumping at the strike of midnight for kids, making noise, and cheering over liquor. This is what makes New Year countdowns fun.
With each bell sounding midnight, the Spanish and some people in Latin America, out of the colonial influence, would eat one grape per clock’s strike. You have to stuff yourself with 12 grades, one after the other, just as a bell rings. This early 20th-century ritual which started among vine growers in Alicante, Spain is a challenge since it is difficult to stuff this amount without misses. They say those who succeed in the challenge will have a prosperous year ahead.
Pouring Lead (Germany)
Everyone fights for knowing if they’ll be lucky or not in the New Year. You don’t have to if you are among those who perform the ritual of lead pouring to determine their fortune, or what they call Bleigießen. In Germany, the locals would melt lead pieces on a spoon over a candle. The melted lead will be poured in cold water. The different viscosities among the two liquids create odd-looking shapes from the tradition. Sometimes, the melted lead forms a ball shape in the water. This means luck will “roll your way.” If you see a crown shape, you are bound to be wealthy. If you see a star, you will be happy in the New Year. Critics have called out on this ritual since lead is dangerous for the health if inhaled continuously. It is important to have the protective gear while you undergo the ritual, and ask for a few persons to be with you around.
Breaking Of Plates (Denmark)
In New Year’s dinner, you break your palate to try out new tastes, but not breaking your plates. The Danish introduced the tradition of throwing plates and dishes on the front doors of people dear to you, for example, your neighbors or your friends. Aside from the fact it creates noise with the fireworks and the loud music, dispelling bad luck, the aftermath interpretation is what makes this ritual exciting.
In the morning, the locals would roam around to see how many broken pieces pile went in front of their friends’ doors, and also check in theirs. Those who got the most amount are touted most popular in town.
Colorful Underwear (Mexico, Brazil, Bolivia)
In Latin America, New Year revelers like to determine luck from the undergarment they wear during the festivities. Wearing red underwear will bring you a romance in the coming year, yellow will bring success, white is for peace, and green symbolizes health. No one for sure is going to peek through what underwear and color you are wearing as you take the New Year’s Eve dinner, but who knows, it doesn’t harm to give this a try.
Takanakuy Festival (Peru)
If this colorful undies tradition isn’t strange enough, in Peru, those celebrating the New Year will pick up bare-knuckle brawls, overseen by police to keep them safe and friendly. But to tell you, Peruvians would beat each other to celebrate the new year. Takanakuy in the language means “when the blood is boiling.” Well, this one should not be on your bucket list. The Japanese street fights have found their match.
108 Rings (Japan)
Not from a song lyrics, but 108 Rings in Japan is another New Year ritual you didn’t know is being done. At the arrival of midnight, Buddhist temples in Japan will have its bells sound exactly 108 times as a way of dispelling 108 evil passions that humans have, according to Buddhist beliefs. The bells ringing signifies cleansing from these “evil passions.” It is very ceremonial since 107 of the bells will be sounded on the 31st of December, during New Year’s Eve, while the 108th bell should be sounded at 12 midnight. The Japanese people also eat toshikoshi soba or buckwheat noodles to wish for longevity in the New Year.
Round Tradition (Philippines)
In the Philippines, New Year’s Day festivities are categorized under Christmas celebrations. This Catholic nation has the longest Christmas events in the world, which begins on the first night of early morning mass known as “simbang gabi” until the 6th of January or Three Kings in their calendar. During the New Year, they will display and have round-shaped fruits on the dinner table to symbolize luck. The locals will wear dresses with polka dots print, and work on giving away coins, also in the round shape, to children.
Potato Drop (United States)
A celebration in the Idaho state called “GlowTato” is very recent but instead of dropping a New Year ball, they drop a potato or a giant spud from above. Thousands of spectators watch as the 400-pound potato, internally lit up and glows drops from the sky. This gathering also has legs in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. If you think the annual New York city celebrations are dull, you may visit these places to see the dropping of the potato.
Do you have a New Year tradition to share? You can connect with History Code and share these with us. May you have a happy New Year!