By- Angela Padrón
Every December 31st, people ring in the New Year. Although there are similarities around the world in the way the holiday is celebrated, there are some rituals and customs that are unique to different cultures and countries.
In some places, people believe that certain foods eaten on New Year’s Eve can bring good tidings in the new year. For instance, in Latin American countries and in Spain, people eat twelve grapes at midnight to represent each month of the year. They believe this will bring them luck. In some countries, like Chile, people eat lentils instead of grapes. Some southerners in the U.S. cook black-eyed-peas to consume on New Year’s, which reminds them of coins that will bring them good fortune in the future. Many people toast with a glass of champagne and wish their families, friends, and anyone else in the room good luck and fortune in the new year.
Continuing with the theme of “luck,” some people believe that if you hold onto money at midnight, that will lead to economic success in the new year. In some countries, people who dream of a year full of travel have been known to walk around in circles at midnight, carrying a suitcase! Others toss the water out of their window, over their shoulder, or onto their front yard in order to get rid of the bad luck from the old year or to signify fewer tears, or less sadness, in the future. Some people even believe that wearing a certain color of underwear on New Year’s Eve can change the outcome of your year to come. For example, if you wear yellow underwear, you will be blessed with prosperity and success. Wearing red will shower you with love and romance, and white underwear brings peace and harmony. Green leads to good health, but black is bad luck!
In New York City, there is a huge celebration in Times Square each New Year’s Eve. No matter the weather, people gather to listen to different musicians and bands perform. Then one minute before midnight, they watch a giant 700-pound ball of lights slowly descend on a pole while they count down to the new year. When the ball finally drops, there is confetti and kissing! That’s right—people turn to a loved one—or maybe even a stranger!— for a kiss. This tradition happens around the world in the hopes of avoiding loneliness in the months to come. Other countries and places in the U.S. have their own version of the “ball drop” as well, with elaborate fireworks, dancers, and other forms of entertainment.
Getting rid of negative energy is another popular custom around the world on New Year’s Eve. In certain Latin American countries, people create large effigies of people who have been prominent in their lives or in the news during the year, including celebrities or governmental figures. These large muñecos are put on display and then burned in a bonfire, which helps shoo away evil spirits and bring good vibes in the new year. Many people also make lots of noise by shaking rattles, blowing horns, lighting firecrackers, or beating pots and pans to scare away evil spirits and negative energy. And for those who are convinced that a clean house means a house rid of evil spirits, they will spend New Year’s Eve cleaning and dusting!
No matter how you celebrate New Year’s, it’s clear there are many ways to wish prosperity, good fortune, and good health for yourself, friends, and family.