By Suzanne Sparrow Watson
Well, here we are again, ready to ring out the old and ring in the new. Personally, I’ll be glad to ring out the old since it did such a good job of ringing me out this year. But hope springs eternal for 2020. There is something inherently optimistic about a new year. This year we also get the double whammy of anticipating a new decade. To get us in the mood for New Year’s Eve I researched some of the more unique ways people celebrate the new year around the world. Trust me, after reading about some of the customs you’re going to feel a whole lot better about your stale bottle of champagne and Cheetos.
The 12 Grapes of Luck – In Spain and some Latin American countries, one New Year’s tradition is to eat 12 grapes, one for each month of the coming year, to secure prosperity. Here’s the challenge: you need to eat one grape with each bell strike at midnight. I think this would be a whole lot easier if we could drink our grapes in a nice Chardonnay. The likelihood of me choking on a grape is quite high with this one.
Pouring Lead – Who doesn’t want to know what the next year might bring? In Germany, people melt small pieces of lead in a spoon over a candle, then pour the liquid into cold water. The bizarre shapes from the lead pouring (or Bleigießen as it’s known) are supposed to reveal what the year ahead will bring. If the lead forms a ball, luck will roll one’s way, while the shape of a crown means wealth; a cross signifies death and a star will bring happiness. It kind of puts a whole new spin on “get the lead out”.
Scarecrow Burning – In Ecuador, people build scarecrow-like dolls of politicians, pop stars, or other notable figures to set them alight. Burning the año viejo (old year) is meant to destroy all the bad things from the last year and cleanse for the new. You can see the potential here, right? Is it possible to build a scarecrow that exactly replicates Washington DC?
Round Food, Round Clothes, Round Everything – In the Philippines, the start of the new year is all about the money. The locals believe that surrounding themselves with round things (to represent coins) will bring money or fortune. As a result, clothes with polka dots are worn and round food is eaten. I think this one is right in my wheelhouse. After all, cake and cookies are both round. By this measure I should be Bill Gates by now.
Tossing Furniture – “Out with the old” is the motto in Naples, where people toss everything from toasters to fridges off their balconies. Getting rid of old possessions symbolizes a fresh start in the new year. To prevent serious injuries, most locals stick to small and soft objects for their throwing tradition, though it’s still a good idea to watch your head should you travel there. Nothing like being hit on the head by a refrigerator to put a cramp in your Italian vacation.
Animal Spirits – Rural Romania is steeped in tradition. New Year’s Eve celebrations include mask dances and ceremonies about death and rebirth. Dancers dress up in furs and wooden masks depicting goats, horses, or bears, then dance from house to house to ward off evil spirits. The dance of the bear is the most popular. According to pre-Christian folklore, if a bear enters somebody’s house, it brings prosperity, health, and good fortune. Yeah, tell that to all the people at Tahoe who have “entertained” bears in their house.
The Potato Drop – With less tradition but more high-tech, the people of downtown Boise will welcome the new year by dropping a giant spud from the sky. More than 40,000 spectators turn up to see the internally lit, 400-pound “GlowTato.” Frankly, my husband and I love Boise and have been visiting there for more than 30 years. Lately it has been overrun by Californians escaping the taxes and high housing prices and it has changed dramatically. I think the Potato Drop is a “jumping the shark” moment for this formerly low-key town.
Personally, I’ll be sitting in front of a fire eating a great dinner and watching the Utah Utes beat the Texas Longhorns in the Alamo Bowl. It may not be exciting but it beats getting hit on the head with a Barcalounger.
Bob and I would like to wish all of our subscribers and readers a very happy and healthy 2020.