Weird, wonderful New Year traditions
South Africa / 29 Dec '12, 4:36pm
The Mayan calendar ended and the world carried on. Now a new year looms and there are many traditions and myths that mark the change of the calendar in different parts of the world.
South America: People wear bright underwear to bring them good luck in the new year. Those looking for love opt for red while those seeking fortune wear yellow.
File photo. Credit: REUTERS
Denmark: The Danish throw their old plates at their friends’ and neighbours’ doors as a sign of good luck and friendship. Cleaning up isn’t much of a bother because the higher the stack the more friends one has. The Danes also leap off chairs at midnight to banish bad spirits from the New Year.
Germany and Austria: Molten lead is traditionally used to read the future. The lead is poured into a bowl of water and the various shapes formed by the lead are indications for the year ahead. A ball means luck across the year, an anchor foretells eventual need of help, while a cross spells death.
Ecuador: Ecuadorians celebrate the new year by gathering and burning portraits or something else that represents the previous year as a way to get rid of the past. Thousands of these fires light up the country on New Year’s Eve.
Philippines: Those hoping for more money in the new year can try the Filipino tradition of dressing in clothes with circular patterns like polka dots and eating circular food like grapes. The circular shape echoes the shape of coins and is meant to bring prosperity in the new year.
Germany: The British classic Dinner for One is usually screened during the festive season but the Germans have turned this into a tradition. It has become so popular that it even has its own catchphrase: “same procedure every year”.
Puerto Rico: Puerto Ricans literally wash away the old year by throwing buckets of water out of the window to clean out the old year. They also clean and decorate their homes.
Spain: At midnight, Spaniards try to consume a grape at each chime before the clocks stops chiming to bring in the new year. The “12 grapes of luck” tradition has been carried over to other Spanish-influenced countries like Mexico, the US and the Philippines.
Belarus: Unmarried women compete in games of skill and power to determine who will be the first to get married in the new year. One of the games involves setting piles of corn before each lovely lady. Whichever corn pile a rooster approaches first indicates the lady who will marry first.
Ireland: Another one for those single ladies: unmarried Irish women place mistletoe under their pillow in the hope of catching a man in the new year. The tradition is also believed to bring good luck.
Mexico and Chile: In Mexico, New Year’s Eve is considered the best time to communicate with dead spirits and convey messages, or ask for guidance. Chileans have a similar practice and set up chairs beside the graves of loved ones to bring in the new year together with their departed relatives and friends.
The Midnight Kiss: An old classic that is celebrated across the world is sharing a kiss with your sweetheart in order to ensure true love. This kiss is also believed to wash away the bad memories of the past and mark the beginning of a new year filled with love and happiness. -Independent on Saturday