Tradition: For New Year’s Eve in Ecuador, people celebrate Ane Viejo by crafting life size dolls of people with straw. They fill the people with fireworks and light them on New Year’s Eve in remembrance of the old year.
The informant is a 39 year old male from Ecuador.
Informant: There’s this tradition that we do in Ecuador, and it’s called Ane Viejo. And it’s usually done during the New Year. You know how everyone has this thing where everyone toasts to the New Year? But in Ecuador we do this toast to the old year. And you can choose any person that you want, and you make the person out of clothes, and straw, and stuff–so you make a straw person. It could be of anyone that you want, and it usually has some significance to something that’s in the past–whether it’s something bad or something good–it doesn’t really matter. They call it your Ane Viejo, like “your last year.” Once you make this straw person, they put fireworks inside of them. And they light it on fire on New Years’ Eve.
Collector: How big is this person?
Informant: Like normal size, like a real person! They put like clothes and jeans on them. Most people don’t burn the clothes, but they’ll leave them out for a week before New Year. So if you walk around town, you’ll see them on people’s front porches, they’ll be sitting down.
Collector: Who makes these dolls?
Informant: The whole town makes them. They’re usually people made–like your family makes them. What makes them even cooler is that there’s a competition, like who can make the coolest one. They’ll put like sunglasses and a hat on them.
Collector: Why do you think people keep performing this tradition?
Informant: I think they do this as something fun at the end of the year as a end of the year remembrance of your past. It’s like a whole ceremony prior to lighting your fireworks. I don’t know where it started, but I just know that that’s what they do.
Collector: Where did you learn it from?
Informant: When I was a kid, I just saw it on the streets.
Collector: What does it mean to you when you see it?
Informant: For me, when I see it, it reminds me of my childhood, my family, because that’s how I learned it and how I was introduced to it. Because I left my country, and the first time I came back I was like 8, 10 years old, and I experienced it. But everyone lived with it. So when I see it, it reminds me of that time.
I think that cultures such as the United States celebrates the New Year by making toasts to the New Year because we are a future oriented culture. We focus more on welcoming the new opportunities in the coming future. From this tradition, it seems that the culture of Ecuador also reflects on the past in addition to the welcoming the New Year.
“On New Year’s Eve, you’re supposed to mop your house. Then, once you’re done, you take the dirty water in the mop bucket and you throw the water out your front door. It gets rid of the bad luck so that you can start fresh in the new year.”
This Cuban New Year’s tradition has a superstitious element to it much like their beliefs of the evil eye. For Cubans, it seems bad luck can actually be a physical thing that you can acquire and then get rid of. The source said her mother used to do this jokingly. They didn’t actually believe in it, but every New Year’s Eve, they’d participate in the tradition if only for laughs and to actually get the house clean.
I asked the source where she thought this tradition started, and she said it sounded “like something santeros would do.” Santeros are what Cubans call people who practice Santeria, a Latin American religion that involves witchcraft. Much like Wiccans, santeros cast spells in order to protect their families, ward off bad luck, attract romantic partners, etc. However, what I also find to be great (and comical) about this tradition is that involves one of the ultimate Cuban pasttimes: cleaning.
Sure, the metaphorical idea of cleaning your house to wash away the bad luck sounds pretty legitimate, but to me, I see this tradition as being a way for Cuban parents to get their kids to help them clean the house. Cubans are VERY clean people. Just about every Cuban family I know employs a cleaning lady on a weekly or monthly basis. At the end of the year, though, those cleaning ladies are hard to come by. Many take two weeks or so off to be with their family during Christmas/New Year’s/winter break. After Christmas, whoever hosted the celebration is going to have a fun time cleaning up after everyone. And if they’re supposed to have their house ready for a New Year’s celebration, too? Forget it. Time to bring out the Cuban New Year’s tradition and get everyone in on it because mama can’t be the only one with bad luck in the house.
كل عام و انتم بخير
Phonetic: Kull A’am wa inty/inta bekhair.
Transliteration: Kull A’am wa Inty/inta bekhair. (inty=you female, inta=you male)
Full Translation: May you be blessed every year.
Background Information about the Piece by the informant: “Usually said to by one person to another during birthdays, Holidays (especially Eid of Ramadan) or any occasion that marks the passing of a year.
Every Arab speaking person knows this saying. It’s a system of greetings and responses that are seemingly endless in the Arabic language. For instance if some says ‘Kull A’am Wa Inty Bekhair’, you MUST respond ‘Wa inty bekhair’, meaning ‘and you as well’.
The Arabic language is really big on greetings and goodbyes, you could have a full 20-minute conversation just saying goodbye to someone.”
Context of the Performance: Greeting someone in Arabic Society
Thoughts about the piece: This Arabic saying that Reem had presented to me was very interesting, because of how it contradicted with the English language. Firstly, I compared this saying to the traditionally said, “Happy New Year,” when, of course, the New Year comes around. However, in the Arabic language, the literal translation meaning: “may you be blessed every year,” is a huge difference from the English language. To start, the English saying is singular, meaning just this new year is wished well, while the Arabic one is plural, may you be blessed for the years to come. Furthermore, the term “Happy New Year” correlates to the other English term “Happy Holidays” it is a general saying that applies to all cultures, religions and/ or belief system. While, the Arabic saying “may you be blessed every year,” the word “blessed” has specific religious undertones in it. It is also interesting that the Arabic language is big on saying goodbye to someone, while in the United States, it is usually just, “bye” or “have a good day.”
However, I did find a particular similarity, which was that both the greetings are future orientation. While I have heard of some cultures saying, “I hope you had a good past year” (of course, not in English), it is interesting that both the Arabic society and the American one have a future orientated greeting, even though the American one supposedly is only good until the next new year comes around, while the Arabic one transcends to many years to come.
Okay, so Persian New Year, it lasts seven days…So, basically the Tuesday before or during, everyone goes to a special place or they do it at each other’s houses and they make fires, like small fire pits.
Inside or outside?
Outside, it’s always outdoors. Like in an alleyway, or if you have a big backyard, or they do it at the beach. And then people jump over it and they say a saying that’s kind of like, I don’t know how it’s translated but it symbolizes throwing your bad energy or anything bad from the past year into the fire, or like from other people, into the fire. That’s basically it.
Do you know the phrase in Farsi?
Yeah, but you’re not gonna get it. It’s like, “sorheitaz…?” I don’t even know how to say it, you’re kind of just saying whatever is bad is going into the fire. And you kind of say it with a friend, like whatever’s bad from each other, your relationship goes in too.
When is Persian New Year?
Our calendar is different, the Persian calendar is a little different. It’s first day of Spring, so it starts on March 21st, and then it lasts seven days. And we always set a table, it’s called the Hafseen, and Haf means seven, so like everything starts with an “S” you can look this up, I don’t know what each thing symbolizes.
So there’s a lot of symbolism involved?
Yeah, there’s seven things, there’s like a fish, and then there’s a specific thing you grow, it’s like a grass, and then there’s flowers… It’s really specific but it’s all with Spring and has to do with new beginnings and stuff like that. So it lasts a week, and then after that you get rid of the table and everything, and they throw out the grass thing, they’ll go to the river and get rid of it, there’s like special ways. And they celebrate after too.
The informant is clearly engaged in her family’s and culture’s traditions and customs surrounding New Year, although it is clear there is a generational gap – she speaks Farsi, but doesn’t know exactly what she’s saying or what it means when they jump over the fire. She also participates in the traditions and knows the general gist of how things are set up, but doesn’t know specifics about the symbolic elements of the festival. However, she is aware of how the ritual is done, participates in it, and has a general idea of why these things are done and what they mean. The new year festival is about being away with or burning away all the old, stale, bad things from the past year, and bringing in the new year. There are very specific things that must be present and actions that must be done to ensure good luck, success, happiness, good relationships, etc. in the new year. This also corresponds with the earth cycle, and not with the biblical calendar.
In China, there is a superstition where you cannot start a [Chinese] new year without new clothes and a clean house. Whatever you do on the first day of the year will be an indication of how your fortunes would be for the rest of the year. So people would try to look their best on the first day. They would make sure they get haircuts before the year ends because they don’t want to cut anything at the start of the year.
The practices the informant mentioned are traditional customs that are practiced every year during the Chinese New Year festival (which some may argue is a misnomer, because several places celebrate the same holiday). Having grown up in China, the informant practices this every year.
Informant Bio: Informant is my father. He was born in Mumbai, India and moved to the U.S . when he was 22. He still remembers many of the poems and songs from his childhood. He is fluent in over five languages and provides the original folklore and translations below.
Context: I was interviewing the informant about childhood traditions, rituals, songs sung and tales performed.
Item: “As a kid growing up one of my favorite, perhaps my most favorite holiday was Diwali, or Devali. We waited for that holiday for months, and, uh, preparations were all around us, you know, my mother used to be busy for months making sweets and goodies that could be shared with family and friends during the holidays. It actually was a great time of the year weather-wise; we had our half-yearly exams in the schools just before the Diwali vacation so we were more relaxed for the three-four week holiday across schools and colleges across the country. No matter where you went people would be preparing or anticipating Diwali.
One of the things I enjoyed most as a kid was going to different sweet and gift shops with my dad. You’d be buying custom packages of sweets and you could pick and choose what you wanted in the box. One of the things I enjoyed the most was that you were allowed to taste everything in the shop. I really enjoyed this process especially since we would never normally buy these kinds of things. I’d give my suggestion to my dad and he would listen and agree – this was my bonding time with my dad. These boxes were decorated extensively and wrapped, and we would then go to different peoples homes where he would give them the gifts with me by his side. I would shake hands with the people and greet them, wish them ‘Happy Diwali’, and in general have a very pleasant experience and be able to meet different people and see new places. Most of these people were my father’s business associates or people who’d done him favors throughout the year. He remembered most of the people who he felt he owed something. The gifts were a way to give back and everyone accepted gifts at this time.
Diwali is, uh, in some sense a religious holiday depending on the religion that you follow. India has a lot of religions and lots of uh, variety of people with backgrounds, ethnicity and culture, but somehow all people celebrated this particular holiday. Rich and poor, Hindu and not Hindu, children and adults all participated. It’s like Christmas in the U.S. in that you cannot move around without being touched by the holiday. Growing up, Diwali was not commercialized like Christmas is in the U.S. however. Diwali is when businessmen closed their fiscal year and represents the start of the new year based on the Lunar calendar. There is no consensus on the exact calendar so Diwali is celebrated at different times throughout the country (sometimes a day or two ahead or behind other places). It falls on the last month of the year (in the no moon phase of the lunar calendar).
The festival itself is five to six days long, and in some parts of the country it stretches to fifteen days. It usually falls somewhere in October or November. Uh, mainly most of the people celebrate five days. The first day is called ‘Dhanteres’ meaning the thirteenth day of the lunar calendar on the no moon side. Dhan means ‘wealth’ and, that’s the day that businessmen especially would worship their books, and sort-of be thankful for the good year that they’ve had, and, uh that’s a big celebration and right after that there are some sweets and other things that are distributed. Bonuses are given out to employees and it is a very happy day for most people. They worship the books and wealth because in Indian culture wealth is not taboo; the pursuit of wealth is considered part of every person’s endeavor. It is believed that if you are wealthy or if the goddess of wealth has bestowed her blessings on you, it just means you are being rewarded for your good deeds in the past life. If you continue doing good deeds, you will be rewarded in the future life if stuff isn’t working out right now.
The following day is called “Kali Chaudus”, with Kali meaning evil, occurring on the fourteenth day of the lunar cycle in which the evil is won over by goodness. It is a celebration of the triumph of good over evil.
Then comes the Diwali, which is, uh, on the day of the New Moon. The way the festivities work is that all throughout these holidays people wear nice clothes with the women dressing up. On that particular day of Diwali there are feasts all over the place. This is the thing that people really look forward to. How do people spend months preparing for this? Girls and older women especially would adorn the entrances to their homes with what is called ‘rangoli’ right outside the door on the side. They would make dry paints on the floor itself and go in different designs with some of them getting really elaborate, making different shapes. Basically this is all to welcome visitors that they would be expecting in the holidays. It reaches a point where regionally people may have competitions among the amateur artists in which the best rangoli is chosen. The other thing that children were involved with, and this probably didn’t happen throughout the country but did in the area I grew up, was the people in the neighborhood would get together and setup in one of the building compounds that is fenced off. It would be a 20 feet by 20 feet area in which they’d make different sculptures, statues, a water dam, or maybe scientific experiments. This would be strung together in an elaborate showing and people would come visit and provide feedback, criticize or admire the work that was done. You always wanted to put on the best show, it was kind of like show and tell in that you wanted to show the best stuff possible. There would be more regional competitions which sort of brought out the competitive spirits and different kind of activity that you don’t get involved with during the year or normal school days. I, as a kid, spent a lot of time trying to come up with ideas and putting these things together.
One of the big things during this time is firecrackers. There were no restrictions about lighting them up. They were freely available in stores, in fact this was a boom time for all the small shops that carried them. Surprisingly, there were very few accidents where people got hurt. I lit up a ton of firecrackers (and everyone else did too). Every morning, starting around 4/5AM until 8/9AM you’d hear firecrackers and then again at night from 7PM to midnight. This went on in every street in every corner of the city. Yes it was noisy, but this was Diwali so people were celebrating so people would expect it and get used to it.
The other thing that would happen was just before Diwali people would decorate their homes with different lights, after all this is the festival of lights. So, they would have electric bulbs sort of strung together in different patterns, decorative lights, and also some, uh, lanterns that are hand-made and oil burning flame. These lanterns would be all over the place and people would make very elaborate shapes and be artistic with the light. It looked beautiful; wherever you turned, you saw lights and the celebration, and that was Diwali.
This went on and on. The day after Diwali, businessmen would worship the goddess of wealth and start their books for the new year. There was no money exchanged but orders would be placed so it was sort of a big start for the new year. People would be very joyous and contracts would be exchanged.
The next day is considered New Year’s Day according to the Hindu calendar. That morning, people would get up early both children and adults. They would wear their best clothes that they saved/planned to wear. People would go out to friends and relatives’ houses, teachers, doctors and dentists houses and would knock on their doors and wish them happy new year. They would be invited in and would take a little bit of snacks and sweets and went from home to home and place to place. This would go on for almost a whole day.
The following day, the second day of the year, is called “Bhaibeej” or brother’s day. Sisters would invite their brothers and their family to come to their home for dinner, and, uh the brother would bring some special gift for the sister and sort of vow to protect her that no harm would come to her that year. That basically would end the Diwali. Some parts of the country would have extra days of a Mini Diwali celebration with the same festivities on a smaller scale continue.
Analysis: Diwali represents the triumph of brightness over darkness and good over evil. The festival legend surrounds the return of Lord Rama from a fourteen year exile. He was fighting the demon king Ravana and succeeded. People lit a path of oil lamps for Lord Rama and his family to follow back to their palace. This would be an extraordinarily happy time that calls for celebration, as Diwali does.
Highly illuminated homes signify a connection to the skies and heavens; people are trying to show respect while also garnering a connection with the heavens for the attainment of wealth, happiness and prosperity (all associated with light). The use of firecrackers helps call attention to the heavens of humans and their happy expressions. The significance of light could also be investigated on an internal level. We want avoid being consumed by darkness, but instead exude the light so that we can make the world around us a better place, achieve illumination of the soul and be closer to the heavens.
Interviewer Note: I included some pictures of the rangoli and Diwali celebrations in the attachment labeled ‘Diwali Pictures.docx”.
Informant Background: This individual was born and grew up in Hawaii. His family is of Japanese and Chinese descent. He speaks Japanese and English. His family still practice many Japanese traditions, also many Chinese traditions. They celebrate some of the Japanese holidays. Many of the folk-beliefs and superstitious are still practiced. His relatives who are Japanese lives in Hawaii as well. He currently lives in Los Angeles to attend college.
At New Year’s Eve, it is a Japanese tradition that you eat long strand of noodles which signifies a long and healthy life. Next, you have to eat the sticky rice, mochi, which represent how your family will stick together. Then, you go to the temple where you can make a wish and pick up different kinds of blessed paper which represents different things in your life such as: safe travel, good study, etc. You do these things with your family, relative, and close friends.
Though the informant’s family migrated to Hawaii two generations ago they still practice Japanese rituals and traditions during important holidays. It is not only important that these rituals have to be performed, but also importance that they are performed correctly to bring the individual a good coming next year.
I believe that almost everybody have some kind of New Year’s Even traditions depending on the culture. New Year’s Eve is also one of the main periods of liminality since it is the transition period of one of the longest life cycle measurement. The New Year also signifies the end of something as well as the beginning. This tradition shows how food and everyday activity is made special during the liminal period as a way to create foreshadow of events or even a positive self-fulfillment prophecy(making a wish at midnight, drinking champagne, etc).
According to the informant the food consumed during this time of year is made slightly different but from the same ingredients as the food eaten every day. The form of the food becomes metaphor to many valued aspect in that culture: long life and family ties. Similar to other culture holiday traditions, certain foods are exclusive to those events and those events only.
The blessed paper is to foresee and start the New Year with good luck and goals for the coming year. I’ve observed on my trip to Japan once that there are many type of these paper that one can purchased: good luck, good grades, good relationship, pass an exam, get into university, etc. This reflects the idea of a “life fulfillment prophecy” where the beliefs that you will get good luck can help bring you good luck.
In this Japanese tradition to do all the traditions is not only to foreshadow a good year but also foreshadow a good year with your family. The idea that these rituals are done with people close to you shows how the transition period is not only important to the individual, but the collective as well.
The performance of these traditions also shows how some individual is reinforcing his cultural identity from his geographical origin without being there.
“During the Chinese New Year, I’m no sure about elsewhere in Asia, but in Singapore, the Red Packets are given from married people to single people. Red Packets are envelopes filled with money. Single in this case usually means younger folk. So the tradition is that the younger folk have to kneel in front of the older, married people, and say, “gong xi fa cai,” which is basically a congratulations. As they do this, they’re supposed to hand two oranges in outstretched palms facing upwards. You have to hand the orange to the elder respectfully. Then the elder will take the oranges and give you the Red Packed filled with money. It’s basically a favorite time of the year for all kids. You pretty much go family or house hopping during the two days we celebrate the Chinese New Years. Two days for us, and Hong Kong has like two weeks or something. And you collect money.”
My informant recollected this tradition with a lot of laughs and good memories. She remembers it as a time when she felt rich as a child with all the envelopes she received from her elders. Now it has a different meaning for her, since it is suppose to be a time for well wishes and respect. I understand this, as I grew up with a similar tradition. I also bowed to my elders and received money. When I was a child, I would be excited to receive the money and spend it on various things. Now, it is different in that I am more hesitant to take the money since I know the hard work that is required o earn the money. Instead, I look forward more to the advice they give. As they hand me envelopes, they usually also give me advice for the new upcoming year, as well as expectations. It is funny to compare what the elders said to me as a child and what they said to me now. Before they would tell me to behave and obey my parents. Now they speak about future spouses and jobs. I’m not sure where the tradition of receiving money for new years came about, but it is a time to show respect to elders through the bowing. You can see the joy on the faces of the elders as they watch their children and grandchildren bow to them, and how they happily give away the packets of money.
The informant is a student at the University of Southern California. She says that she has always performed this piece of folklore ever since she could remember, as her family is Chinese and they participate in the tradition. This belief causes the Chinese to wear red and decorate everything in red. They also set off firecrackers based off of this superstition. She says that this tradition is based off of a Chinese myth where a monster came to attack the villagers a long time ago. To appease the monster, the villagers would offer up food in front of their houses to the monster every year. One year though, they noticed that the monster was scared off by a person wearing red, so the villagers started wearing red and covering the village in red so that the monster would never come back. It is believed that because every year on New Year’s, everybody in the community wears red, the monster doesn’t come back anymore.This folk belief also related to magic superstition, where by participating in the ritual of scaring off the monster by wearing red, one will not have bad luck for the rest of the year. When everybody participates in the ritual, it causes a sense of community as well, strengthening the relationship of the common group that participates in the piece of folklore amongst themselves.
In order to usher in the New Year the subjects family eats a meal comprised of sauerkraut, sausage, black-eyed peas at midnight on New Years Eve. The meal is supposed to bring good luck throughout the year. The subject identified the traditional meal as uniquely German and that the tradition has been kept up through many generations.
For the subject the meal has become less and less important to her and more of something she feels she has to do in order to not upset her grandmother. However she enjoys the fact that the meal symbolically brings her family together like other occasions (i.e. Christmas, Easter, etc). When asked if she would continue this tradition with her own family she said that it would first be up to her husband and secondly it the continuation of the traditional meal would hinge on if she ever learned how to properly prepare the sauerkraut that is required for the meal.
Black-eyed peas as part of a traditional/ritual meal can also be seen in the Italian culture. The appearance of sauerkraut in the meal, however, makes the meal uniquely German.