Snippetz Looks to the New Year By Reflecting on Tradition
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
by Lindsey Harrison
“Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right.” – Oprah Winfrey, American entertainer
As we say goodbye to 2016 and welcome 2017, many of us set our sights on the future and what it has in store for us. We hope for increased financial success; we hope for peace; we hope for happiness; we hope for luck. Although there is really no way to know what exactly the new year will bring, people around the world follow certain traditions for various reasons, one of which is to ensure that the upcoming year is a good one. Those traditions, while sometimes obscure, make sense; they are performed in the hopes that our futures are somehow affected by those customs. Other traditions, like how people ring in the New Year, might not be as easily understood. The best part is that we at Snippetz can bring all those interesting New Year’s traditions straight to you, all in one place! It’s brand new year, why not spend it with Snippetz?
IS THIS HOW YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO DO IT?
Everyone has their favorite ways to spend New Year’s Eve. Some of us like to watch the ball drop in Times Square from the comfort of our own living room. Others of us like to be in the thick of it all, whooping it up with the hordes of people who head out to an event like the traditional ball drop to get a more up close and personal experience. But not all ball-drops involve a ball; some places have put their own spin on the New Year’s tradition. Here are some interesting ones:
In Atlanta, Georgia, instead of dropping a big lit-up ball during the final countdown, the city drops an 800-pound peach during their First Night event. In Eastport, Maine, a 22-foot sardine made of chicken wire and wood, then decorated in silver is dropped on New Year’s Eve.
Not to be outdone, Port Clinton, Ohio, known as the Walleye Capital of the World, drops a 20-foot, 600-pound walleye as part of their traditional New Year’s Eve celebration. Also included in the celebratory activities is a walleye chowder feast, with walleye sandwiches, walleye cinnamon chips and walleye popcorn. In Lebanon, Pennsylvania, the townspeople drop a 100-pound, 16-foot stick of bologna while those in Dillsberg drop an 8-foot pickle made of papier-mâché. Jump over to Falmouth and you’ll witness a stuffed goat being lowered in place of the ball while in Wilkes-Barre, residents are treated with a big piece of coal that magically transforms into a diamond as the seconds tick away towards midnight.
The gold medal of alternative ball-dropping ceremonies has to go to Key West, Florida. The townsfolk there actually have three different “drops:” one is a conch shell, another is a pirate wench who descends from the mast of a pirate ship, and the last is a massive 6-foot-tall red stiletto shoe with a drag queen riding astride it.
STACKING THE DECK FOR A GOOD NEW YEAR
As we mentioned before, many traditions around the world center more prominently around the idea that certain efforts can be made at New Year’s to bring about good luck for the upcoming year. Some make no sense, at least not to us, but others seem pretty darn ingenious.
For instance, in Puerto Rico, it is believed that if you toss pots full of water out your windows on New Year’s, you’re additionally tossing out any evil spirits hanging around. Water plays a key role in New Year’s celebrations in Burma as well, although there, revelers aren’t tossing out water to get rid of evil spirits; they’re actually tossing water at each other as a blessing for good luck. Similarly, in Cambodia, celebrants wander the streets with squirt guns full of differently-colored water. The belief is that by squirting your friends and family with the colorful liquid, you are blessing them with a colorful future.
Just was water plays a key role in the way that some countries ring in the New Year, food is a major element in many countries. Many of us have probably heard of the southern tradition of eating black-eyed peas and rice, called Hoppin’ John, as a way to ensure good luck and wealth for the upcoming year. Some families may even throw in some collard greens which are meant to represent paper money, while the black-eyed peas represent coins.
Food is also important in Mexican and Cuban celebrations, which involves eating 12 grapes at midnight which is supposed to help bring about 12 months of good luck. In the Philippines, revelers load up their dinner tables with lots of food right at midnight which they believe will ensure a fruitful year. As with Mexico and Cuba, some people in the Philippines believe a magic number of a specific food, in this case seven round fruits, will bring luck. The round fruit symbolizes money and the number seven is considered a lucky number, as it is in many places.
In China, food is a major element in their New Year’s celebrations as well and as with the Philippines, people in China believe the shape of the food they eat, in this case dumplings, represents a promise of wealth. The dumpling is said to look like a gold nugget. But that’s not the end of China’s New Year’s traditions. Celebrants will spend the several days prior the holiday cleaning their houses from top to bottom but must completely stop on New Year’s day. The belief is that good fortune accumulates in that time and people fear they will sweep that good fortune away if they clean that day. Perhaps Americans should adopt a similar tradition, but make it one they observe all year ‘round (kidding).
Now, with all the cleaning going on in China, we can’t help but wonder what those people would think of the Danish tradition of throwing old dishes at their friends’ front doors. Apparently, the idea is that the larger the pile of broken dishes you have in front of your house, the more good will is being wished upon you and your family.
But throwing dishes is not nearly as, shall we say, unique as the South American tradition of hanging a newspaper- and firecracker-stuffed dummy in front of your house on New Year’s. At midnight, one lucky person gets to light the dummy. The purpose of the tradition isn’t exactly clear but it’s certainly interesting.
A less destructive tradition occurs in Vietnam when families plant a tree in the family garden on New Year’s Eve. The family then decorates the tree with red streamers and various bells in the hopes that evil spirits will be frightened away.
A tree is nice, a dummy is strange, but what about plain old ordinary people? This may sound strange but in Anglo-Saxon countries, the family’s luck is determined by the first visitor to show up after midnight. Dark-haired men, for instance, are considered the luckiest. And in Japan, celebrants often decorate their homes with paper lobsters. The idea is that the lobster’s curved back is similar to that of a hunched-over elderly person, which they associate with longevity.
However you choose to ring in the New Year, we at Snippetz hope you have a safe holiday and a prosperous new year!