Friday, December 28, 2012

Fun Friday Facts #57: New Year’s Traditions Around the World

Happy New Year everybody! Don’t get too excited, there are still three more days of stupid old 2012 to get through. But hey, at least the world didn’t end, right?

What if it did, and I slept through it?

1) In Austria, people celebrate the New Year by eating suckling pig and decorating the table with candy pigs called marzipanschwein.

Look at this cute shit. ~ Alice Weigand

It’s possible that the mid-Atlantic peppermint pig tradition evolved from this one.

2) Many countries, including France, traditionally eat a special cake on New Year’s Eve, Christmas or Epiphany (6 January). In France, the cake is a puffy pastry filled with almond paste (frangipane), and looks like this:


The cakes, known as “king cakes” in the cultures where they are eaten, are served to “draw the kings” to the Epiphany.

"Oooh, I didn't realize there would be cake!"

A trinket, historically a broad bean but now more often a small plastic or porcelain figurine, is baked into the cake. Throughout the Middle Ages, whoever found the bean in their slice of cake was named the King of the Bean and given to preside over the rest of the evening’s festivities. By the 19th century, many cultures began putting symbolic tokens in their cakes, meant to tell the fortunes of their finders. Finding a ring in one’s slice of cake, for instance, foretold of a marriage in the coming year, while a thimble doomed the finder to spinsterhood.

I chose this picture because I liked it.

3) In the Philippines, it’s traditional to wear fabric with circular prints, like polka dots, to attract good luck and wealth in the New Year. Revelers may also throw coins into the air at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve to ensure prosperity in the year to come, and eat round or circular fruits on New Year’s Day. People who are, presumably, too short may ensure vertical growth by jumping high into the air on the stroke of midnight.

Now that's just silly. ~ Marco Gomes

4) People in countries all over the world, including Spain, Italy, China and Venezuela, traditionally wear red underwear on New Year’s Day. In Spain, Italy and China, wearing red underwear on New Year’s Day brings good luck and wealth. In China, you’re advised to wear red underwear daily for best results. In Venezuela, wearing red underwear on New Year’s Day will bring you true love, while wearing yellow underwear will bring you wealth. So, if you’re a gold digger, I guess you’d wear orange.

It looks better on the model.

5) In Japan, people prepare for the coming year by cleaning the house thoroughly, paying all of their debts, and resolving all of their arguments. This is, incidentally, the most sensible tradition I’ve heard of yet.

On 1 January, people observe hatsuhinode, or the “firsts” of the year. They begin by watching the year’s first sunrise and perhaps going to a shrine or temple, if they’re so inclined. They also lend special significance to other firsts of the new year, such as the first laugh or smile, the first letter, the first dream, the first work, the first tea ceremony and the first shopping trip.

I like to spend New Year's Day nursing my first hangover.