European New Year Traditions
Belgium: If you are living in the countryside, country life may become a little more exciting once a year for those with livestock. It is a known tradition for farmers to wish their herd of cattle a Happy New Year and bless them. This is supposed to bring luck for the upcoming year. Let’s hope so, but what is the cattle’s destiny?
Well, if that does not put you in the mood for New Year in Belgium, more normal practices take place leading to the stroke of midnight. Children write letters of gratitude with decorated cards to their nearest and dearest, the adults pop the champagne and set off fireworks and kiss. Perhaps there may also be some hors d’oeuvres … beef anyone?
Serbia: Serbians have the best of both worlds when it comes to Christmas and New Year because they have an opportunity to celebrate together, both the Catholic calendar and the Orthodox calendar. Sava Church in Belgrade, is one of the world’s largest Orthodox churches and the Orthodox calendar celebrates Christmas on the 7th January and New Year on the 13th January. Enough history, but this leads to an Orthodox New Year tradition where a priest will throw a crucifix into the Danube. The first person to jump in and retrieve the crucifix will be blessed with a healthy year. It cannot be confirmed how many people participate but, after jumping into those icy waters in January, its useful the priest is already on hand in case the crucifix is not retrieved.
Denmark: Usually when you drop and chip a piece of your finest porcelain dinner set or crockery, you carefully place it in the bin. Not in Denmark, where you will place the chipped item to one side and save it. It may not seem neighbourly, but on New Year’s Day the Danes will take their chipped crockery and hurl it at their friends or families house, to show their affection. It makes you wonder if the original chip was caused by a poorly placed throw?
Greece: On New Year’s Eve the Greeks turn to gambling with an affiliation towards dice and cards games. They will play at home or in the casino and hope that during the New Year happiness will shine on the winners.
South Africa: More throwing of unwanted belongings celebrated both indoors and outdoors on the Hillbrow Estate in Johannesburg. On the inside of buildings and high-rise blocks are the residents. On the outside, goes the residents’ personal unwanted appliances. They are not taken down in the elevator and placed carefully by the street for collection but instead, discharged through the windows of the buildings to the street below. Nowadays, due to the dangerous nature of this tradition, police and army personnel are drafted in to maintain some order on the Hillbrow Estate, as fridges, microwaves or beds rain down. The residents believe this is a way to get rid of unwanted belongings and welcome in a fresh start to the New Year. Not a recommended tradition, nor idea to start the trend in your local neighbourhood. That said, it may be an opportunity to get rid of that unwanted Christmas present?
The Festival of Lights is a more appropriate year end activity taking place in Nieu-Bethesda, Cape Town. The Festival of Lights promotes a powerful symbol of hope and beauty bringing together people no matter what their background. Maybe the attendants at this Festival could pop along to Hillbrow Estate beforehand for some unwanted lamps and light fittings, as inspiration towards the light decorations.
Japan: Japanese culture is full of superstitions and this also relates to the New Year when there are several interesting traditions, some of which are listed below:
- People dress up as the zodiac animal of the upcoming year and attend a temple where a bell is rung 108 times, which is a lucky number. Joya No Kane is also a Bhuddist tradition of striking a bell 108 times. The 108 strikes each represent unnecessary emotions like anger or sadness, that will be left behind as the last strike is made upon midnight.
- Oosouji is known as the big clean up. Japanese families will make a deep clean and cleanse of their house in the lead up to New Year ready for a fresh start.
- On New Year’s Eve it is a tradition in Japan to refrain from making any excessive noise and maintain peace. Even the police may be patrolling to make sure there is quiet on the streets. Sounds ideal!
- Kagami mochi is a crate of mirror stacked rice cakes and bitter orange with a leaf still attached. The owner of the house will put these on display inside their house to protect it from burning down in the coming year. There is also a tradition where a Japanese person will try and polish off this round snack to guarantee a long and happy life, although there are some reports this has been known to lead people choking to death.
- Omamori is the acquisition of good luck charms during the first seven days of a New Year. Simultaneously, take the old good luck charms to the temple for a ceremonial burning. If you keep the old good luck charms you will have bad luck.
- Omikuji relates to fortune lottery papers found at shrines or in temples. If the fortune lottery paper is good then keep it for the year. If the fortune does not read well, then tie it to the temple so you do not have to carry it with you for the rest of the year, otherwise you will have bad luck.
Thailand: In Thailand Songkran New Year festival is celebrated in April. Be careful to dress in your waterproofs and wrap up any belongings like mobile phones and cash in plastic because you are in for the soaking of your life. Everybody piles on to the streets in colourful clothing and throws buckets of water over each other. Beware of water bombs and water pistols as nobody escapes! The celebration signifies purification, cleaning and making a fresh start for the New Year.
Latin American Countries
Colombia: Quite often a New Year’s Day walk is a great way to bring in the New Year if the weather is favourable. However, in Colombia on New Year’s Eve, locals will walk or run round the neighbourhood block with an empty suitcase. The reason is that the forthcoming year will be filled with adventure and travel…. well, just maybe the whole world should all try this one under the recent and current circumstances!
Peru: Now here is a way to move ahead and let bygones be bygones. The festival of Takanakuy occurs on the 25th December leading up to the New Year. The festival takes place in the Chumbivilcas Province and involves the usual festive eating, drinking and dancing. However, there is one crazy New Year tradition that might flair up after a few too many? Fistfights are set up between the locals that have chips on their shoulders with each other from the past year. This way they can punch each other senseless, wipe the slate clean, give each other a hug and promise to see each other again in twelve months’ time.
Argentina: Isn’t it amazing how all that paperwork builds up throughout the year. Paperwork that has its special place in the house that just seems to build up and get higher and higher on a weekly basis. Well, don’t panic because in Buenos Aires, Argentinians celebrate leaving behind the past year and entering the New Year by shredding all those old paper documents. At noon the windows open and the shredded paper is flung into the streets in a downpour of confetti. Just don’t shred the wrong paperwork as the numbers of households having their electricity cut off seasonally increases during the first few weeks of January.
All in all, some pretty wacky ways to receive the New Year in different places around the world. Here at Queenplay, it is hoped you can spend your New Year in a fulfilling way and we wish you the very best of luck and happiness in 2022.