Never has a new year been so anxiously awaited and saying goodbye and good riddance to a current year been so popular than right now. We are indeed so ready to drop the ball on 2020 but sadly, the iconic big ball in New York’s Time Square will drop but not in front of merry revelers and a massive crowd. For the first time in 114 years, this year the famous countdown so wonderfully hosted by Dick Clark for what seemed like hundreds of years, is going digital and will be livestreamed to quarantined homes across the globe. So 2020, right?
The tradition dates back to 1907 when a 700-pound sphere made out of iron, wood, and 100 light bulbs descended and marked the beginning of a new year. Since that first drop, seven different versions have been designed and used. The current version consists of a brightly patterned orb covered in LED lamps and Waterford Crystal panels and weighs nearly 12,000 pounds.
Also gone are many big New Year’s Eve bashes and galas as we’re all still asked (and in some cases, mandated) to refrain from socializing and congregating in large groups. So how, pray tell, are we to ring out the most tumultuous of years and ring in what is hopefully the light at the end of a very dark tunnel? Leaving behind the bad vibes of 2020 is on all of our resolutions list and I’m guessing just about anything goes this twisted year.
Food is always popular so it’s good to know that in a year when we could all certainly use a little more luck, many foods promise wealth and good fortune and are the perfect mates for those celebratory champagne toasts. We’ve all heard that making a dish of black-eyed peas is said to be lucky, but if you’re like me and don’t like those little dotted peas, no worries, we have options!
The pork and rice dish commonly referred to as Hoppin’ John with Greens consists of those peas, but adds to them ham hocks, turnip greens, and other ingredients to make a soupy delight. The turnip greens are said to symbolize paper money and the peas, coins. But, if you don’t like pork, fish is also considered a good luck dish based on the belief that fish only swim in one direction…forward…which is what we all strive to do at the start of a new year.
Germans believe having a spoonful of sauerkraut on New Year’s Day will bring blessings and wealth, but leave it to the Italians, who I believe have the best food on planet earth, to bring it with their traditional new year meal of Lentils and Cotechino, an Italian large pork sausage, similar to salami.
If you’re looking for a new and different way to ring in the new year in this most different of years, scan the globe as countries around the world have many interesting traditions, and in fact, one of the most popular ways of acknowledging a new year comes from English and German folklore.
It’s no secret that when the clock strikes midnight on December 31, young and old alike kiss someone. These days you actually choose who to kiss, but according to the original English and German folklore, you kissed the first person you come in contact with and it’s them who you’re to share good luck with. Be careful who you’re standing next to!
Another popular tradition and one that I love is participating in a Polar Plunge on New Year’s Day. I’ve done so for the past several years and admit it is my favorite New Year tradition and one that is so cleansing and invigorating. I did plunge on January 1, 2020, which apparently didn’t do any good, and am so bummed that our local plunge has been cancelled this year. If you’re wondering, this cool custom takes place in cities around the world and consists of running or jumping into frigid water on New Year’s Day. Until I did it myself I thought it was the craziest thing I’d ever heard but I was sold on the cold!
Still looking for a unique way to say Hello 2021? Here are some fun international ideas:
In Brazil everyone wears white on New Year’s Eve, which is thought to bring luck and peace. Brazilians also believe you can increase your luck by jumping over seven waves and make one wish for each.
If you wake up in Denmark and find tons of broken dishes in your yard or on your porch, consider it a good thing. Sounds crazy, but those crazy Danes go around breaking dishes on the doorsteps of their friends and family and believe the more shards you find, the luckier you’ll be. Danes also physically “leap” into the new year by standing on chairs and jumping off, making sure their feet are actually airborne at midnight and that they land firmly in the new year.
Spaniards also have some fun and quirky new year rituals. From Seville to Madrid, you might find people wearing red underwear on New Year’s Eve, especially if the undies were given to them by someone else. Spaniards are also known for their love of sherry, so it’s appropriate that grapes are also part of their new year traditions. Easting 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve is thought to ensure 12 months of good luck for the coming year. Ole!
Spain’s Mediterranean neighbor Greece also has a fruit-based new year tradition, albeit a bit more ferocious one. At the stroke of midnight, Greeks toss pomegranates on the ground and believe the more pieces that burst into pieces, the more abundance you will have in the new year.
In Ireland, people open their doors at midnight on New Year’s Eve to let the old year out and the new year in. This year we might want to include windows!
Keeping bad things away and evil at bay is the meaning behind dressing up in bear costumes and dancing from house to house in Romania. Now this I’d like to see!
This next tradition reminds me slightly of the King Cake Mardi Gras tradition of baking a baby inside each one, but this time it’s Bolivia, Greece, and other countries where it’s considered good luck to bake coins into desserts to celebrate the new year.
Scotland can lay claim to perhaps one of the most famous new year traditions, that of Auld Lang Syne. We all know it, we all sing it, but why?
Auld Lang Syne began as a Scottish poem written by Robert Burns in 1788 and then set to the tune of a traditional folk song. The well-known and beloved tune is used to bid farewell to the old year and is also sung at funerals, graduations, and other occasions. Its Scottish title can be translated into standard English as “old long since” and loosely translated in the first line of the chorus to “for the sake of old times.” Both it and “America The Beautiful” have the same meter, songwriter George M. Cohan quotes the first line of it in in chorus of “You’re a Grand Old Flag,” Beethoven wrote an arrangement of it in the original brisk strathspey rhythm as part of his “12 Scottish Songs,” and the tune is played and sung by the crowd at the conclusion of Edinburgh’s fabulous Military Tattoo, which I’ve had the privilege of seeing and highly recommend!
So there you have it, fun and festive ways to say hola 2021 and au revoir 2020. Here’s to a blessed 2021, where even in Ireland they’ll probably be saying “don’t let the door hit you” to 2020!