Happy New Year…?

New Year festivities vary by date and according to where you live, your religion… 

bigben The English first-footer tradition requires that a dark-haired man be the first over the threshold after midnight. Traditionally he should bring with him bread, drink, coal – these bring good luck to the household.
Hogmanay The Scots’ Hogmanay is a global brand – they swirl around a fire ball and their first-footers must bring bread, coal or whisky for prosperity. Irish first-footing – if the first visitor on New Year’s Day is a tall, dark, handsome man that brings good luck, a red-headed woman means bad luck. The Welsh believe a first-footing woman or a red-haired man are unlucky.

Let’s take a look at New Years around Europe:

Happy New Year - champagne, grapes and party decoration The Spanish celebrate New Year’s Eve by stuffing down twelve grapes, one on each chime at midnight – and the traditional Spanish grapes are seeded! This tradition was started in 1909 when Alicante wine producers needed to dispose of their surplus harvest from a bumper year – and it stuck!
 Pomegranate The Greeks hang an onion outside their doors on New Year’s Eve as a symbol of rebirth. Then on New Year’s Day they break a pomegranate on their threshold for prosperity and good luck. They also bake a special bread with a coin hidden inside. The first piece of the cake is given to God, the second to the bread-winner, the third to the house, then the rest is distributed among others present. Whoever gets the piece with the coin will have good luck. If this proves to be in the house’s piece it signifies that spring will come early that year.
MarzipanPig Germans eat small marzipan pigs and jam doughnuts on New Year’s Eve. They also heat a piece of lead and throw it into cold water. The shape  it adopts is then interpreted to tell your fortune, a process called molybdomancy. Heart-shaped outcomes represent luck in love, round shapes are for general good luck, anchor shapes are worrisome, cross-shapes mean death!
DanishCake The Danes eat a Kransekage cake on the Eve and jump from or over chairs at midnight. They also place broken crockery on their doorsteps, so that in the morning anyone can use it to smash on friends’ doorsteps – the quantity of broken plates you find broken on your doorstep indicates how many friends you have!
RussianNewYear Russians write their wishes on a piece of paper, then burn it and drop the ashes into a glass of champagne (or vodka?) which they drink down to ‘guarantee’ they will have their wishes granted.

What about further afield?

NYball In New York’s Times Square  a six-foot ball is dropped down a tall pole at midnight. This tradition started back in 1904 and today it is not only broadcast from NYNY but also replicated in other cities.
RioNewYear Brazilians in São Paulo wear coloured pants on New Year’s Eve – red if they are looking for love, yellow if they seek money. In Rio white outer clothing is worn to ward off bad spirits and on the beach there is a tradition of jumping over seven waves.
EcuadorEffigies Ecuadorians create effigies to represent their enemies or misfortunes from the preceding year. They set fire to them on New Year’s Eve.
ChileanNewYear Chileans set out chairs in graveyards and see in the New Year seated among the departed.
CrescentMoon Egyptians wait for a new crescent moon and then their New Year is announced from a Cairo mosque and the news spread around the country.
PolkaDots Filipinos believe circular items are lucky at New Year so they wear polka dots, eat round fruits and throw coins to be sure of a prosperous New Year.
JapanNewYearCakes Japanese eat special decorative Mochis (rice cakes). They also ensure they have cleaned their houses, settled all financial matters and resolved any other outstanding issues – all before the New Year dawns.

Wait for it:

ChineseDragon The Chinese New Year does not happen until 19th February 2015 – it will be the year of the goat, its element is wood. New Year is celebrated by lion-dancing and the Chinese also clean their homes to expunge any bad luck. There are three year-numbering systems in China so this next one will be either 4652, 4712 or 4713.
IndianNewYear Indian New Years are confused – for many regions it is not until April 13th or 14th. In Odisha/Orissa they offer, pana, a fruit drink to their deities, Tamils celebrate Puthandu by lighting a lamp to drive away darkness, Punjabis celebrate by singing Jatta aayi Baisakhi songs.
 GuruNanak The Sikh New Year is March 14th which heralds their year 544, based upon the birth of Guru Nanak in 1472. The Hindu New Year is based upon a complicated calculation; the new year 5117 will also take place sometime in April.
BuddhistNewYear Buddhists celebrate New Year as a religious festival, visiting monasteries and shrines to pray and light candles. Chinese/Korean/Vietnamese Buddhist celebrate it at the end of Jan/early Feb, Tibetan Buddhists in March, Burmese, Sri Lankan and Thai Buddhists in April.
RoshHashana You have to wait until 13th September for the Jewish New Year of 5776, after Rosh Hashanah. This is the Day of Judgement and thus a time for assessing your spiritual status. It is celebrated by blowing the shofar, a curved ram’s horn – though not if it is shabbat (Saturday).
IslamicNewYear Islamic years consist of only 354 days so their New Year, Al-Hijra, is a moveable feast compared with ours. The next will be on 13th October 2015 – which will be their year 1437. It is rather a sombre affair focused on prayer. On the day, Shias recite sad poems about the martyrdom of Imam Hussain.


MayanCalendar For the Ancient Mayans (Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras) it is already all over! The 5,126-year-long cycle of their Mesoamerican Long Count calendar ended on 21 December 2012 –  this led to many predictions that the world would come to an end!

However (or whenever!) you celebrate New Year – have a healthy and prosperous one!

And, don’t forget where to come for great research…

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