New Year rituals   Leave a comment

The fireworks and festivities are a given on New Year’s Eve, but what about some of the more unusual traditions.

Nothing quite rings in the New Year like the burning of an effigy or three. In Ecuador, gigantic figures stuffed with fabric and straw – called Años Viejos (Old Years) – are commonly burned at midnight. The effigies generally represent political leaders or other public figures in a satirical jibe at the year’s scandals and stories, not unlike a New Year’s version of the English tradition of Guy Fawkes.

Visit Spain on New Year’s Eve and you’ll witness a mass custom being enacted from the smallest bar to the grandest town square. On every strike of midnight’s clock, locals pop a grape into their mouths, making a wish with each swallow. It’s said that the tradition stretches back 100 years to 1909, when winegrowers conjured the idea up as a way to rid themselves of a particularly ample harvest. Whatever its roots, it’s an act that’s now as synonymous with Spanish culture as bull fighting and flamenco.

Custom dictates that a tall, dark, handsome stranger bearing a gift is what all Scots want to have crossing their threshold in the first moments of the New Year. Frankly it’s the kind of tradition Time Out would welcome any day, but there is special New Year significance here. In Scotland this practice is called first footing – a centuries- old practice that decrees a household’s first visitor predicts the inhabitants’ luck for the rest of the year. Our door will definitely be open.

Not that we want to reinforce any of the old clichés about Germans and their singular sense of humour, but we have been reliably informed that one of this great nation’s annual New Year traditions has, for the past 35 years, been to watch Dinner For One, a short English teleplay that spins on its punchline: ‘the same procedure as every year’. What larks.

New Year’s Eve marks the start of a three-day long celebration in Japan, where the dawning of a fresh 12 months is seen as a proper chance to start anew. On the stroke of midnight, Buddhist temples across the country traditionally ring their bells 108 times in a direct nod to the Buddhist concept of 108 worldly desires.
It is seen as a reminder to individuals to reinvigorate their efforts to overcome these over the course of the next 12 months. If all that sounds a little serious, start laughing – another Japanese custom dictates that it will bring you 12 months of luck if you do.


New York
The dropping of the ball in Times Square is a ritual that attracts thousands of visitors to the Big Apple every year. Wrap up warm, though – it gets mighty chilly.

The real party may be up the road in Edinburgh, where Hogmany is celebrated with the mother of all street parties, but to the rest of the world nothing quite rings in the British New Year like the sight of Big Ben and the London Eye back-lit in a pyrotechnic haze.

Fireworks light up the Eiffel Tower and the River Seine in one of the most romantic New Year’s Eves anywhere.

Rio de Janeiro
Over a quarter of a million people make their way to Copacabana Beach in Brazil’s party capital. If you want to samba and shimmy your way into 2009, this is the spot.

They really don’t do things by halves Down Under. The iconic Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge form the backdrop for one of the most superb annual fireworks displays anywhere in the world.


Posted December 30, 2008 by Rajesh_Gandhi in life, places

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