Happy New Year!

Hogmanay is usually one of the biggest Scottish celebrations. For many years, it was a bigger event in Scotland than Christmas, particularly when Christmas celebrations were forbidden by law.

As we pass from 2021 into 2022, we thought we’d find out how the start of a new year is marked in other countries…

We have a tradition of First Footing and bringing gifts to friends and neighbours to ensure prosperity in the New Year. The Danes ensure good fortune by smashing plates on their friends’ doorsteps. The more debris, the more popular you are. 

Food naturally plays an important part in the celebrations in many countries. In Brazil, eating lentils is said to ensure prosperity, as is eating seven raisins. In Columbia and Spain, people eat 12 grapes at midnight, accompanying each one with a wish for one of the subsequent months of the year. In a similar vein to our silver sixpence in the Christmas pud, the Austrians look for a lucky charm in their suckling pig, which is followed by ice cream. The Estonians seem to be world champions at stuffing themselves silly, making seven, nine or twelve trips to the table on New Year’s Eve, each trip representing strength.    

In other countries, the focus is on scaring away evil spirits. Japan and South Korea use bells to see in the New Year. In Japan, the bells are rung 108 times, presumably this is sufficient for evil spirits to move somewhere quieter. Aside from bell ringing, Japanese families mark the New Year by cleaning and decorating the entire house together, a suggestion we can’t see gaining popularity in teenage bedrooms. The Puerto Ricans take this cleaning frenzy even further, cleaning their homes, cars, gardens and streets. Some even through buckets of water from their windows to expel bad fortune. 

Of course, some customs seem quite peculiar. The Swiss, for example, place a pile of whipped cream on their floors and leave it there to ensure prosperity and abundance. In some parts of Romania, people dress as dancing bears, which have the power to protect and heal people as well as scaring off evil. In the Philippines, polka dot clothing, round food and pockets full of coins are said to bring luck and prosperity. The Vietnamese choose to start the year in a brand new traditional outfit, while the Italians also favour new clothes and symbolic gifts. In some parts of South America, choosing the right colour of undergarments can influence what the coming year holds.  Red underpants bring love, while yellow improves your bank balance and green is lucky. 

In Johannesburg, some residents in the Hillbrow district- presumably big fans of Marie Kondo – like to start the year without any unwanted items, so they throw old furniture and unwanted appliances out of the window. Falling fridges and microwaves could mean someone else’s New Year starting with a trip to hospital. 

In parts of South America, it used to be common to take a walk on New Year’s Eve carrying an empty suitcase. The suitcase walk was supposed to ensure that the year to come would be full of travel and adventures. Maybe we should all dust off our cabin bags and give this a go? 

Wherever you find yourself in the world and whatever colour your pants are, we wish you all a great 2022!

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