Old Year Traditions

By Thomas Yannick

Usually, at this time of the year, we get bombarded with resolutions and self-improvement nonsense. Ads litter our newsfeed telling us to sign up for the latest piece of high-tech gym equipment. Thanks to the whirlwind commonly known as 2020, I think we could all use a bit of indulgence and self-love no matter the shape or form. We deserve to pat ourselves on the back for getting through a hectic year without having to make promises that we are going to fix certain aspects of our lives. We have been doing a lot of adjusting lately–and we are exhausted. Instead of making a list, I like to reflect on what Cavett Robert once said, “Character is the ability to carry out a good resolution long after the excitement of the moment has passed.” I will leave the resolution talk with that quote and instead present you with some interesting New Year’s traditions from around the globe–because now is a time for celebration.

In many parts of the world, traditional New Year’s dishes feature legumes, which are thought to resemble coins and herald future financial success. Examples include lentils in Italy and black-eyed peas in the southern United States. In Spain and several other Spanish-speaking countries, people bolt down a dozen grapes right before midnight, symbolizing their hopes for fruitful months ahead. Pigs represent prosperity and progress in certain cultures. Therefore, pork appears on the New Year’s Eve table in Cuba, Austria, Hungary, Portugal, and many other countries. In Holland, Mexico, and elsewhere, ring-shaped cakes symbolize that the year has come full circle. The Greeks bake special Vasilopita cake with a coin inside, bestowing good luck in the coming year on whoever finds it in his or her slice. In Norway, Risengrynsgrøt (rice pudding) is served with an almond hidden inside. It is said that whoever finds the nut can expect 12 months of good fortune. (It pays to be good friends with the chef.)

There are hundreds of good-luck rituals woven into New Year celebrations, and some are used to clear a path for successful futures. Fireworks on New Year’s Eve started in China a millennium ago as a way to chase off evil spirits. The Japanese hold New Year’s Bonenkai or “forget-the-year parties” to bid farewell to the problems and concerns of the past year and prepare for a more promising new year–something we can all relate to. Adios 2020! People use this time to say goodbye to grudges, disagreements, and misunderstandings between friends and family.

However, one of the most iconic traditions started in 1907. And since, dropping a giant ball in New York City’s Times Square at the stroke of midnight has also become a highlight in many countries around the world. Millions of people watch the event (even those in different time zones) which has taken place almost every year since its inception. Over time, the ball itself has put on some holiday weight. Starting as a 700-pound iron and wood orb, it has grown into a sparkly sphere, 12-feet in diameter and weighing nearly 12,000 pounds! Various towns and cities across America have developed their own versions, from dropping pickles in Dillsburg, Pennsylvania to dropping a stuffed possum named Spencer in Tallapoosa, Georgia.

Another custom that is common around the globe is singing songs to welcome the new year, including the ever-popular “Auld Lang Syne” sung in many English-speaking countries.

The practice of making resolutions for the upcoming year is thought to have first caught on among the ancient Babylonians, who made promises in order to earn the favor of the gods and start the year off on the right foot. (They would reportedly vow to pay off debts and return borrowed farm equipment.) So being nudged to start new healthy habits is not a novel idea. It managed to survive many years, cross the oceans, and retain relevance today. So, as you celebrate the end of the year and the beginning of the next, just remember to be present in the moment. That is all that really matters. I will leave you with an inspirational quote from Mr. Motivation himself, “Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach.”– Tony Robbins.

Have a Happy and Healthy New Year!

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