Iliana Woloch ‘24, News Editor
Every year, when New Year’s Eve comes around, there is one main aspect of the holiday that immediately comes to mind: the ball drop in Times Square. While this is an integral part of the evening here in the US, other parts of the world have their own unique traditions that center around the promise the next year brings.
In many cases, the prospect of a fresh start brings many people hope for the year to come, and many traditions have formed around the idea of good luck and new beginnings. This common feeling of hope results in some very interesting practices that have woven their way into cultures all over the world. In Spain, it is a widespread practice to eat one grape at each stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve. If you succeed in eating all 12 grapes in time, it will bring you good luck in the coming year. Other traditions throughout the world that stem from the same hope are quite different, however. In the Philippines, it is believed that wearing polka dots brings good luck, while in Scotland, the first person to cross the threshold of a home after the clock strikes midnight must carry a gift to bring good luck.
In China, luck is embodied in the form of a dragon. Chinese teacher Mrs. Sandy Shi said, “Dragons are believed to bring good luck to people. In Chinese culture, dragons possess qualities that include great power, dignity, wisdom, and auspiciousness.” Dancers wear costumes and honor the creature as part of their Chinese New Year celebrations as a way of ensuring luck in the year to come.
Similar to the hopefulness the new year brings, some traditions are meant to symbolize rebirth or a fresh start in the coming year. In Greece, an onion is historically hung on the front door of homes on New Year’s Eve, which is meant to symbolize the reborn year. On the following day, children may be awoken by their parents tapping said onions on their heads to further their luck in the coming year, and represent waking up to a new beginning.
However, not all of these traditions—passed down through generations—center around the prospect of happiness and love in the new year. Rather, some focus more on the prevention of ‘evil spirits’ or other factors that might bring bad luck in the new year. One of these countries is Denmark, where residents celebrate by throwing old or chipped plates and glasses at loved one’s doors to banish bad spirits. Similarly, Panamanians burn effigies of television characters, political figures, or other well known figures that are meant to represent the old year and are meant to ward off evil in the year to come.
Some countries have traditions similar to those many practice in the U.S. as well. For example, Germany takes the well known American custom of fireworks to a whole other level. When reflecting on his time spent in Germany over New Year’s, South Lyon German teacher Mr. Brian Sole said, “I remember looking out around midnight and there were fireworks filling the sky throughout the whole town.” The practice began as a way to scare away evil spirits, and slowly evolved into a lighthearted tradition that brightens the night.
Whether one is celebrating in the Americas or Asia, in Belgium or Brazil, the start of a new year is a chance for those all around the world to reflect back on the past 12 months, as well as look forward to, and plan for what is ahead. No matter how everyone rang in 2022, it is time to start the first of these 365 days with an open mind for all that lies ahead.