Listen to your animals talk…
Gallery checks out obscure New Year practices from around the world
words | Georgie Clifford
Everybody loves celebrating New Year, whether to celebrate the year they've had, look forward to the new one or just to party away. All around the world people celebrate the coming of a new year in different, weird and wonderful ways. Wouldn't it be interesting to join in on a different tradition for the holiday?
For example if somehow, for whatever reason, you fancy being from Ecuador for this time of year, call it "Ano Vjeno", create a scarecrow resembling a fake person or dummy and stuff it with old newspapers and firecrackers. Place it outside your home, just as the tradition suggests, and at midnight set your dummy on fire. Boom. Literally. The old year is forgotten and the new one begins.
If perhaps you feel you might have been Chinese in another life or want to elongate your celebrations, their traditions might entice you. They create money trees. Yes, money trees. Dancers climb upon one another, creating a human ladder to reach the "lucky money" in high places. Bringing the fantasy to life, they decorate them with old coins and paper flowers.
Rumour has it that in Denmark it's a good sign to have a pile of broken dishes outside your door at New Year. They save their old dishes all year round to throw them at their friends’ homes. However flattering it may be, seeing as the idea is that the more broken dishes you have the more friends you have, I probably wouldn't suggest this one. Then again, who wouldn't love to have a scratched up door and more of a mess to clear up? Regardless, it's a sure symbol of friendship and good luck.
The kids might like this one. In Greece, ‘St Basil’ fills the children's shoes with presents at midnight. What a mixture – Jersey's tradition of Santa and stockings alongside Greece's St Basil and shoes!
Many countries have traditions they believe will bring them good luck. For example, in Puerto Rico the children like to throw water out of the window at midnight in order to rid their homes of evil spirits. (Hopefully defenceless passers-by avoid walking below windows at midnight to avoid a good drenching.) In Spain, the people eat 12 grapes – one grape for every stroke of the clock, representing each month. Ah, those healthy Spaniards. Switzerland let a drop of cream land on the floor on New Year’s Day for good luck while the French eat a pile of pancakes for good health. It's at times like these that being French sounds appealing. Belgian farmers like to wish their animals a Happy New Year – quite lovely. Bless those Belgian farmers.
Looking for a conversation starter with our current influx of Romanians? Tradition dictates that they try to listen for their farm animals talking on New Year’s Day. Sorry to let you know, but if you've always hoped your pet secretly possessed the talent of speaking, it's very bad luck if they do. Luckily, the animals still haven't spoken up so the good luck continues. The Japanese seem to follow pretty random (to us) traditions. For example, for good luck and happiness, seaweed or ferns are hung over their doors and rooftops and "Forgetting-year" parties are held in order to say goodbye to the year just passed. Family and friends are forgiven for any disagreements or misunderstandings that may have previously taken place which sounds rather inspirational, really. On New Year's Eve, bells are rung 108 times to diminish 108 problems or troubles.
They say it broadens the mind to know about other cultures and many seem to have unusual and exciting ways of celebrating the particular event of New Year. Perhaps some of the traditions wouldn’t be so effective in places other than where they take place, as I can’t imagine a Jersey Bean being overly happy with water poured over their heads or smashed plates on their doorsteps. Nonetheless, it’s always interesting to know how others celebrate and what brings them together. Enjoy your holidays and good luck in your New Year.