As 2018 is coming to an end and we prepare to ring in the new year, have you thought about your New Year’s Eve plans? Maybe you are hosting a party or staying in with your family to watch the Time’s Square ball drop at midnight. Whatever your plans may be, there are traditions that we tend follow year after year. What you may not realize, though, is that many of the traditions we celebrate here in South Central Texas have been passed down from generations past who brought their own special touch from their corner of the world to ours. With our region being diverse with many cultures’ influences, we thought we’d share some New Year’s Day traditions that other countries follow. Maybe you’ll recognize some of them in your own family traditions, or even start some new ones!
Frohes neues Jahr! (or Happy New Year in German). Since German culture is a particularly strong influence in the Guadalupe Valley region, take a look at some of the German traditions followed when celebrating the New Year—do any look familiar to you?
Giving lucky charms
- Many people tend to bring their friends and families little gifts on New Year’s Eve with the intention to bring them good luck. Some of these lucky charms include toy “Gluckspilze” (lucky mushrooms), ladybugs and little pigs.
Drinking a big bowl of “Bowle”
- “Bowle” is a German term for punch. This is a must party drink on New Year’s Eve.
- For their last meal of the year, many Germans pick meals that can last over several hours, such as fondue.
- Raclette is another popular New Year’s Eve meal. Raclette is cheese melted on a table-top grill, accompanied by meats, pickles and potatoes.
- “Bleigiessen” which means “lead pouring” is very common tradition in the German culture. People take turns holding a piece of lead or tin and melt it in a spoon over a small flame. They then throw it into cold water and interpret the shape. The shape of the lead/tin is supposed to reveal what the year ahead will bring.
Dinner for One Sketch
- For those who prefer to stay in and relax on New Year’s Eve, it’s likely they’ll watch the British TV sketch, “Dinner for One.” On December 31, 1963 it was broadcast for the first time on German TV and has continued to be broadcasted on New Year’s Eve ever since. This 18-minute, black-and-white show is a favorite of Germany on New Year’s Eve and has won a Guinness world record for most repeated TV show of all time.
Chancellor’s New Year speech
- Every year the chancellor makes a New Year speech that is broadcast to the nation.
New year countdown
- Germans kiss and hug friends and family at midnight. They will also call friends and family they are not with. And, they celebrate with fireworks! It is believed that loud noises drive out evil spirits.
Toast of champagne or “Sekt”
- The universal toast at the stroke of midnight is another tradition Germans follow. They either toast the new year with champagne or Sekt (German sparkling wine).
Felix Año Nuevo! (or Happy New Year in Spanish). Mexican culture is another strong influence around GVEC service territory, from the annual San Antonio Fiesta festival to the Teatro De Artes De Juan Seguin and much more! Take a look at some traditions followed in Mexico to bring in luck to the new year:
Eating 12 grapes
- A grape is consumed with each chime of the clock’s bell at midnight to bring luck to the new year. Very tricky stuff! Spain also follows this tradition.
- To bring in good fortune to the new year, many people eat a spoonful of lentils, similar to how in the United States we eat black eyed peas. Another tradition is giving guests handful of dried lentils for prosperity.
Throwing a buck of water out the window
- This may sound unusual, but in Spanish culture throwing a bucket of water out the window signifies throwing out the old year and welcoming in the new. Cuba also follows this same tradition.
Sweeping coins into the house
- When 12a.m. hits, it’s tradition to symbolically sweep the old year out the door and sweep in 12 coins from the outside in the house, this represent fortune and prosperity.
Out with the old in with the new
- Taking a bath and cleaning your house by mopping the floors with water and cinnamon are all part of New Year traditions for new beginnings and renewal.
Wearing colored underwear
- Many people tend to wear colored underwear to bring in good luck for the new year. Yellow symbolizes prosperity and happiness, red symbolizes love and passion and white symbolizes hope and peace.
- After midnight, it is a popular ritual to walk an empty suitcase around the house or block to bring good travels in the coming year. In Cuba they circle their house with a suitcase when the clock strikes midnight.
- A common new year practice in Mexico is placing candles on a white plate surround by lentils, beans, rice, corn, flour and cinnamon. The candles are left to burnout, the remaining waxy foods are collected and buried to promote good fortune and abundance of food for the coming year.
- Similar to others, the Mexican culture also lights fireworks to ring in the new year. They believe it frightens the evil spirits away and welcomes good luck to the new year. Many people like to continue the celebration with a late feast after enjoying fireworks at midnight.
Just for fun, here are some of the other New Year traditions you may have never heard of from other places around the world:
New Year carol: Often children will sing carols to receive money from friends and family.
Lights Out: When the countdown begins, families turn off the lights, so they can start the new year with fresh eyes.
Eating Vasilopita: Vasilopita is a cake or bread with coin or another small object hidden inside. Whoever receives the slice with the coin gets good luck for the next year.
Burning wishes: The Russian culture writes wishes down on sheet of paper, burns it, then puts the ashes in a glass of champagne and drinks it down to make the wish come true.
Santa-like figure: They also have a New Year’s tree and a Santa-like figure named Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost) who distributes gifts to children with his granddaughter, Snegurochka (Snow Maiden).
Fashionistas: Filipinos enjoy wearing polka dots on New Year’s Eve, while carrying coins in their pockets. Round objects signify prosperity, so many families eat and display round fruits such as oranges and grapefruits.
Temple Visits: Many people celebrate that year’s animal and visit temples, where the bells chime 108 times.
Clean House: Also, it is important to clean the house to resolve conflicts from the past year, so you can start the new year with a clean slate.
Presents: In Scotland it is common to bring presents to your friends and family on New Year’s Eve. If you are “the first foot” to enter a person’s house, you have to come bearing gifts, which are usually small tokens, such as bread and whisky.
Bonfires: Bonfires and large fireballs are also common traditions.
Plate smashing: In Denmark it is common to smash plates and glasses against their houses for good luck on New Year’s. For extra good luck, they stand on top of a chair and leap off at midnight
Breaking in the new year, literally: In Johannesburg, it’s common to throw old furniture and appliances, like TVs and radios, out the window. Talk about starting the new year with a smash!
Celebrating the new year is always a special time and no matter where you are from, it brings the world closer together. Every culture has unique New Year traditions, but whether it’s eating black eyed peas on New Year’s Day to bring us luck, to toasting the new year off with champagne or kissing at the stroke of midnight—it is something we all celebrate! The cultural ties we have in the Guadalupe Valley bring us closer together as a community and allow for us to make New Year’s Day one of happy memories with our friends and families. Maybe this New Year you can start a new tradition with old roots? From all of us at GVEC, we wish you a happy New Year filled with love and happiness!