USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘new year’s eve’
Earth cycle
Folk Beliefs
Foodways
Holidays
Magic
Material
Protection
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Peruvian New Years Tradition: 8 Grapes on Years

AS is a USC game design major who’s family hails from Peru, she enjoys spreadsheets, Dungeons and Dragons, and spreadsheets about Dungeons and Dragons.
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Interviewer(MW): So you mentioned earlier that in Peru some holidays are celebrated differently?
AS: okay so I guess I’ll start off with New Year’s so there’s like two weird holidays that occur on New Year’s for Peruvians for some reason

AS: We do the normal thing where it’s like you used to stand by you wait until you know the countdown starts and you drink the champagne you do all that jazz.

AS: But the things that you do is after you drink the champagne you down like 12 grapes in the champagne each one’s supposed to be a wish so down your champagne you eat individual grapes as quickly as possible

MW: I’ve spent New Years in Lima, I know they have some interesting New Years Practices, so are there things that do you have any particular set things that you associate with the grapes like there’s some things that you’re supposed to wish for?

AS: There isn’t anything you’re supposed to wish for I think, like generally it’s stigmatized in Latin Society for good health to be a thing or like wish your family good health like general well-being.

AS: I guess would be something that people would would generally stick towards at least want to do one or two wishes to be around there

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Analysis:
The use of champagne as a marker of the new year exists across culture but using fruit as a conduit for wishes ties the sweetness of the fruit to the hope for a sweet new year, this invokes a similar tradition to the Jewish Rosh Hashanah practice of dipping apples in honey for a happy new year. The wish too carries meaning, like a birthday the new year is full of promise and marks a transition and making a wish is a way to codify that promise in a fun and festive way. Likewise AS’s note that there’s a focus on well-being represent anxieties about that transition, the bitterness of the alcohol in the wine might invoke this anxiety, tinging the sweetness of the grapes with a fear of the unknown and the challenges that the new year will bring.

There are 12 wishes as well, this factors into the cyclical nature of the tradition as well as each grape likely represents a month of the year thus the wishes are meant to carry the participants through the entire year.

Folk Beliefs
Holidays
Homeopathic
Magic
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Venezuelan Suitcase Superstition on New Year’s Eve

Context: The informant, a 20-year-old college student who was born in Venezuela and raised in Boston, Massachusetts, described various rituals and superstitions that relate to both her passion for theatre and her Venezuelan nationality. The following is an excerpt from our conversation, in which the informant recalls a Venezuelan superstition that people take part in during New Year’s Eve celebrations.

Text:

Informant: In Venezuela, New Years is a huge holiday. It’s not as big as Christmas or Easter, but it’s still pretty big, and we have a few things that we do that are like really unique to Venezuela. So one thing we do is we grab a suitcase that represents good travels and we run around the block once. This is kind of supposed to represent running around the world and so it’s basically done so that you can travel in the new year. Basically, if you don’t do that, it means that you won’t travel to a different country or somewhere else that’s new. I’ve done it since I can remember, with my family friends. We didn’t have a block when we did it, so we would run up and down their huge driveway. But basically in Venezuela, when it wasn’t… you know… deadly and violent, we would go around the block. We always did it and I always thought that it would come true, and it usually did! I think a lot of people know of it… I don’t know if everyone does it. I definitely believe that there is some truth to it. Because, you know, if you do something then you’ll put it into action. You’ll be like, “Oh, I did that, so now I should probably travel.” But yeah, I think it was definitely a staple part of my New Year’s celebrations growing up.

Informant’s relationship to the item: The superstition is clearly significant to the informant because she started practicing it when she was a young girl growing up in Venezuela. Even after moving to Boston, she continues to practice the superstition at every New Year’s Eve celebration with family and friends. The informant also acknowledges that there is a psychological element to the superstition; she feels that because she practices the ritual, it plants the idea in her head that she should travel and that makes traveling one of her resolutions in the new year.

Interpretation: This Venezuelan New Year’s Eve superstition and ritual serves as a prime example of folklorist Jame George Frazer’s theory of sympathetic magic, particularly homeopathic magic. His theory describes the belief among folk groups that certain practices can be carried out on a smaller scale that then produce major effects on a larger scale, or “like produces like.” An example of a superstition that involves homeopathic magic is the belief that whistling on a fishing boat will encourage the wind to pick up and a storm to start. The act of running around one’s neighborhood with a suitcase in tow in order to have good travels in the new year is very similar. Whether or not the superstitions are valid is a subject of debate, and belief in the ritual’s magic will vary among communities, but there is likely some truth to the informant’s statement about the psychological impact of performing such a specific superstition. Additionally, the country’s current economic crisis has forced more than a tenth of Venezuela’s population to leave the nation in the past few years. Thus, the suitcase ritual now also serves as a reminder of this tragic exodus, demonstrating how the significance of rituals evolves over time.

Works Cited:

To read more about James George Frazer’s theory of Sympathetic Magic, refer to:

Dundes, Alan. “The Principles of Sympathetic Magic.” International Folkloristics, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 1999, pp. 109-118.

Contagious
Customs
Folk Beliefs
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Venezuelan Yellow Underwear Superstition on New Year’s Eve

Context: The informant, a 20-year-old college student who was born in Venezuela and raised in Boston, Massachusetts, described various rituals and superstitions that relate to both her passion for theatre and her Venezuelan nationality. The following is an excerpt from our conversation, in which the informant recalls a Venezuelan superstition that people take part in during New Year’s Eve celebrations.

Text:

Informant: On Venezuelan New Year’s, we have a tradition that… it’s kind of weird… we have a tradition that you’re supposed to wear yellow underwear on New Year’s Eve. It’s supposed to be good luck, but I don’t really know. My mom always told me it was thing, but she and my dad never did it. Then I was like, “Well, I want good luck!” So, I started doing it. Maybe it’s like yellow and like gold and gold having to do with riches or something… maybe it’s something like that. But we always would talk about it and do it. I purposefully bought a piece of underwear the other day, so that I know I would have it for this year, because my other pair is too old. So yeah, I definitely intentionally do it and it’s another integral part of my New Year’s Eve experience every year.

Informant’s relationship to the item: Though the informant’s parents do not take part in the New Year’s Eve tradition, the informant has taken it upon herself to buy multiple pairs of yellow underwear in order to take part in the Venezuelan tradition. This demonstrates her belief that the practice holds some form of validity, in spite of the fact that no one in her immediate family practices it. Additionally, she expressed some embarrassment while she was describing the superstition to me, due to the nature of the tradition. Yet, she still reaffirmed her belief in the folk ritual.

Interpretation: The Venezuelan New Year’s Eve tradition of wearing yellow underwear is a good example  of a superstition that involves a color that holds symbolic significance to a group of people. Throughout the world, colors are culturally-encoded; sometimes a color’s symbolic meaning is more universal and other times it varies throughout communities. In this case, the yellow underwear seems to represent good luck and good fortune because yellow and gold are often associated with money, wealth, and riches. In more recent years, which has seen Venezuela living through one of the worst economic collapses in the world right now, the New Year’s Eve superstition likely is even more significant to Venezuelans than before. The tradition could also serve as a very tragic reminder of current misfortunes.

Earth cycle
Kinesthetic
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Jumping on New Years for Height

Context/Background: The informant is Filipino-American and has many family traditions, especially around holidays. One, in particular, is the annual jumping that occurs on New Years Day. Essentially, starting at midnight of the new year in hopes of growing in height, they jump together for a minute straight.

Informant:

“My family’s tradition is jumping on New Years as the ball drops and to jump for the entirety of the first minute of the New Year and it’s just this belief that you’ll get taller if you jump.”

Introduction: The informant was introduced to this custom as a child growing up in a Filipino family that celebrated said tradition.

Analysis/Interpretation: I found it endearing that families such as this one will do this together every New Years. The informant has participated in this actively, and if they’re celebrating New Years elsewhere, they will have to leave and rejoin their family at home by midnight in order to engage in the ritual. What struck me was the specific desire to get taller. After further inquiry, I found out that the desire for height and jumping on New Years can be found across Filipino culture and is not exclusive to one family. What is called “Bisperas ng Bagong Taon,” or, “New Years Eve,” is a popular time to jump high. This makes me think of any traditions on New Years, specific to the U.S.; one being very centered around a particular city rather than focusing on a broader country at large. Because of the size of the U.S., I think it differs from other New Years Traditions globally I think there’s definitely different celebrations across the U.S. that’s placed much importance on, but there is a heavy emphasis on New York City’s ball drop. This program is played throughout the country, even when pre-recorded due to timezone differences.

 

Childhood
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

New Year’s Eve Tradition

 

Interviewer: What is being performed?

 

Informant: New Year’s Eve tradition by Alec Shale

Every year while waiting for the new year to begin, we would do a giant puzzle and try to finish it before midnight.

 

Interviewer: What is the background information about the performance? Why do you know or like this piece? Where or who did you learn it from?

 

Informant: Tradition created with my Dad for every New Year’s Eve when I was young. I like it because it reminds me of fun times with family.

 

Interviewer:  What country and what region of that country are you from?

 

Informant: United States, Arizona

 

Interviewer: Do you belong to a specific religious or social sub group that tells this story?

 

Informant: My Family

 

Interviewer: Where did you first hear the story?

 

Informant: When I was 4 or 5 years old.

 

Interviewer: What do you think the origins of this story might be?

 

Informant: On a New Year’s Day without much to do, we had a puzzle and decided to race to solve it.

 

Interviewer: What does it mean to you?

 

Informant: To me, this is a tradition that means time spent with family…. Doing an activity, but mostly just talking and enjoying each other’s company. I intend to continue this tradition with my kids.

 

Context of the performance- conversation with classmate

 

Thoughts about the piece- This informant believes his family tradition to be unique but I have also experienced a quiet NYE with my family. Our activity is preparing and consuming a gourmet dinner. In both cases, an introspective preparation precedes a momentous symbolic shift. Googling New Years Eve at home yields almost 19 million results, even a wiki-how; http://www.wikihow.com/Enjoy-New-Year%27s-Eve-at-Home-With-Your-Family

Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Eating 12 Grapes on New Year’s Eve

Interviewer: What is being performed? New Year’s Eve Tradition by Elisa Alfonso

 

Informant: Eating twelve grapes at midnight on New Year’s Eve

 

Interviewer: What is the background information about the performance? Why do you know or like this piece? Where or who did you learn it from?

 

Informant: It’s a Spanish tradition that is practiced in Cuba. I know about it because I do it with my      family every year and uh I learned it from my Cuban relatives, specifically my grandmother.

 

Interviewer: What country and what region of that country are you from?

 

Informant: Camaguey, Cuba

 

Interviewer: Do you belong to a specific religious or social sub group that tells this story?

 

Informant: I don’t belong to it but I believe it comes from Catholicism.

 

Interviewer: Where did you first hear the story?

 

Informant: From my grandmother

 

Interviewer: What do you think the origins of this story might be?

 

Informant: I know that it’s a superstition. And that each grape is supposed to represent a month of good luck in the New Year.

 

Interviewer: What does it mean to you?

 

Informant: I really like this tradition because it makes me feel more connected to my culture and my family and it’s a fun thing to do every year. I’ve no idea where this tradition comes from or how it started, but my family has been doing it my whole life. It’s just something fun to do together.

 

Context of the performance- conversation with a classmate

 

Thoughts about the piece- This reminds me of the marketing campaign by Nathan’s Famous to have a timed hot dog eating contest on July 4th and a little research shows that ‘las doce uvas de la suerte’ was also started by marketers- grape growers with a surplus crop. Eight million people watch a midnight broadcast from Puerta del Sol each year. The 12 grape rule can devolve into a competition because they should be swallowed before the clock stops striking. For some grape eating strategies check here: http://www.foodrepublic.com/2012/12/28/12-grapes-at-midnight-spains-great-new-years-eve-tradition-and-superstition/

 

Festival
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Pasadena New Year’s and New Year’s Eve

JH is a senior at an all-boys Catholic high school in La Canada Flintridge, CA. He lives with his parents in Pasadena, CA.

JH talked to me about some of the traditions and rituals that surround New Year’s and New Year’s Eve in his hometown:

“New Years is probably the biggest event in Pasadena…first of all there’s the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl game…for the Rose Parade you always know it’s coming because in like, late November they start putting up the grandstands down Orange Grove [a major boulevard], and I live right above the Rose Bowl so they start setting up for events around then too in the neighborhood. They put up these giant white tents down there where they start building some of the floats, and you can go down and help decorate them with flowers – I’ve never gone, but I know some people or their families go every year. The floats are really cool.

There’s also the Rose Court and they’re a big part of the Rose Parade. My sister tried out a few years ago. I think in like September, or really early in the school year, all the girls who are seniors can try out, and they go to this really big mansion called the Tournament House and have a bunch of rounds of interviews. Obviously like, not all the girls are really interested in being on the Court, but it’s just a tradition they all do together. Everyone who participates I know also gets two tickets to this ‘Royal Ball,’ which is basically just a huge dance they have. That’s why a lot of girls do it I guess, just to get the tickets. But I don’t know, maybe it’s also just fun for them to participate. And then they eventually pick like six or seven girls, and one of them is the Queen, and they spend the rest of the year doing charity work and being like, the representatives of Pasadena, and then on New Years they have their own float and they kind of “preside” over the Rose Bowl game later that day.

A lot of my friends don’t really go to the actual parade though…it’s the kind of thing you go to a few times when you’re little and your parents want to take you and it’s exciting – they have free donuts under the grandstands, and hot chocolate – but once you’re like, 10 everyone’s pretty over it. And then when you’re older, the best part about New Years is New Years Eve. The night before, everyone usually gets dressed up, not fancy or anything but girls wear dresses and heels sometimes, and even though it’s freezing outside, like less than 50 degrees at night, everyone goes to parties near the Parade Route. They bring some of the floats onto the street the night before and block it off to cars, to everyone’s just walking up and down Orange Grove looking at floats and hanging out with their friends, there’s some people camped out for the parade on the side, and kids are going back and forth between other people’s parties. It’s really funny because everyone is drinking too. Besides the kids, you see a lot of cops and a lot of people’s parents just really really drunk on the street, and everyone’s just having a good time…if you lived off of Orange Grove you would feel kind of obligated to have a party or open your house up. And then everyone would obviously like count down to midnight together and all that, and then you’d usually crash at someone’s house and wake up the next morning and watch the parade on TV, if you wanted to, or just walk up to the parade route and see it from there. But after awhile no one really got tickets to see the parade. But if you were really lucky, you got tickets to the Rose Bowl game, which was always a big deal. My friends and I really like football, and usually someone’s dad knows someone who can get us tickets, so we try to go whenever we can.”

I asked JH if he thought his experience with this festival was unique, as someone who lived in the community and had people coming from all over to vacation in his hometown:

“Yeah, it was definitely different. Growing up with this happening every year, a lot of it just got kind of annoying, especially living right next to the Rose Bowl and having streets blocked off and so much traffic that entire week before New Years. There’d be a lot of football fans from the Midwest of whatever Big-10 school that was playing, or Stanford people coming down from the Bay for the week, and there’d be just a bunch of people and a bunch of cars all over Pasadena during the end of winter break, a lot of people who didn’t know where they were going. I guess Pasadena isn’t usually a tourist destination until New Years, so it’s weird all of a sudden having a bunch of strangers in your hometown…like Pasadena isn’t small, it doesn’t feel like a small town where everyone knows each other, but you can clearly tell if someone is visiting or someone lives here. And yeah, the Rose Parade gets old after awhile, but I think everyone who lives here would still say it’s one of their favorite holidays.”

My analysis:

Its very different to visit a festival annually and to live in a community where an annual festival takes place – after awhile, the nostalgia and excitement is buffered by some of the logistical nightmares and fatigue that JH describes above. Pasadena New Year’s and New Year’s Eve definitely has similar traditions as other places, like counting down to midnight and getting together with friends and family. The Rose Parade also has elements of other festivals, like floats and a “court” of young women. JH gets to see community involvement a tourist doesn’t, like the selection of Rose Princesses or the decoration of floats that requires residents’ participation and support. This ritual is a great example of welcoming the new year by bringing a community together, while continuing customs that now have come to define Pasadena.

For more information about this festival, see:

“About the Rose Parade.” Tournament of Roses. Tournament of Roses, 18 Feb. 2016. Retrieved from https://www.tournamentofroses.com/rose-parade.
Customs
Folk Beliefs
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Japanese New Year’s Eve Traditions

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.

Game

New Year’s Eve 7-11-Doubles Game

When visiting my brother for New Year’s Eve while he was an undergrad at UCSB he showed me this drinking game. He explains the rules of the special New Year’s version:

“7-11-Doubles is played with a big chalice cup. For this one [New Year's] we used the Pimp Chalice but you can use measuring cups, big slurpee or anything that size.

You get a case of champagne or depending on the [number of] people a few.

You fill the cup with what you think someone can chug in like 10 seconds.

Everyone rolls the dice until someone rolls a 7, 11 or the same number on each die. Then the person who rolled picks someone to drink.
That person has to chug the entire thing before a 7,11 or double is rolled again by the same person.

The person rolling the dice can’t go until the person drinking touches the chalice. You can fuck around and touch it with your cup or make someone else touch it. But soon as it’s touched you chug & the other person rolls.

If you don’t finish drinking before a good roll, you gotta do it again until you beat the roll.”

The game is played gathered around the chalice in a haphazard circle. Everyone playing has another cup with beer or champagne which they drink from while they’re waiting for their turn – but you never know when you’ll be chosen to drink next. The person who is chosen to drink can be saved by anyone in the circle. The person saving the drinker (‘saver’) just has to snatch the chalice before the appointed drinker touches it and chug. If the ‘saver’ beats the roller they get the dice next. If they don’t they have to take on the chosen drinker’s responsibility until they manage to chug before a 7,11 or double is rolled.

The New Year’s version was characterized by a high enthusiasm for saving the appointed drinker, tricking the roller, and distracting whoever was rolling by forcibly kissing them.

The game was interrupted at midnight when the person who happened to be the roller had to pick someone to make out with for the duration of the roll. The person chosen to kiss had to continually pour champagne into the chalice while everyone else attempted to get a turn at chugging before an 11 or snake eyes were rolled.

Customs
Earth cycle
Festival
Holidays
Humor
Rituals, festivals, holidays

El Año Viejo (Ecuador)

In Ecuador, la fiesta de Año Viejo (literally, “the old year festival”) is a long-standing tradition that symbolically incinerates the regrets, failures and anger of the past year to usher in the resolutions, hopes and expectations for the new year.  On the 31st of December, men fill the streets dressed as women during the day, and at night, effigies are ritually burned to ashes.

When living in her hometown of Ibarra (50 miles outside Quito, the capital), my informant celebrated this tradition every year with her friends and family.  As she explains the tradition, she smiles and laughs, recalling the silliness of the festivities.  She recalls how young men, wearing women’s clothes and makeup, block the city streets and demand small payments of money from passersby.  Only then can you pass and go on your way.  She explains that the men collect money to pay for alcohol, “para emborrarcharse” (to get drunk) later that night.

However, about five days earlier, preparations for the celebration begin with crafting life-sized dolls, or los años viejos, made of clothes and paper.  The effigy might represent a disliked celebrity or political figure, or even a representation of past mistakes or unachieved goals.  Sometimes a handwritten note is attached to the doll that explains why it must be burned.  My informant says that effigies are still made of Abdalá “El Loco” Bucaram, a corrupt president who served during the 1990s and was later overthrown for stealing money.  Yet, she also explains that nowadays, the años viejos can take the form of popular culture figures like SpongeBob Squarepants or Marvel comic superheroes.

Again, she laughs as she recalls her uncle’s custom.  Every year, her uncle makes an año viejo of himself and attaches a note that sounds like a last will and testament.  Instead of a somber undertone, he leaves funny and sarcastic notes to his family members.  For example, one year he wrote….

As the clock nears midnight, people set fire to their años viejos outside their houses, in the streets or even on the beach.  To give it even more New Year’s flare, firecrackers are often thrown into the fire.  My informant says that this is one of her favorite holidays, but since she has moved to the U.S., the tradition of años viejos has slightly changed.  Instead of setting fire to the año viejo, she and her family ceremonially throw the effigy in the trash.

When analyzing the celebration of Año Viejo, the liminality of New Year’s Eve instigates a transformation of identities and superstition.  Because December 31st brings the past year to a close, but is not quite a new year, this liminal phase inverts social roles and men behave uncharacteristically by dressing up and acting like women.  Yet, the años viejos can be perceived as a form of superstition or imitative magic.  They symbolize past mistakes or the character of disliked public figures, and the ritual burning of the effigies signifies their eradication, to ensure they don’t return in the new year.  The tradition is also superstitious because it is an active performance that attempts to produce good luck and a “clean slate.”

The types of años viejos that are crafted today illustrate the history and evolution of the holiday.  The history of Años Viejo is unclear, but my informant says that it may have been started because of a yellow fever epidemic that affected the country years ago and many bodies were burned as a result.  Similar to how yellow fever was rid from the country through pyres, the años viejos represent misfortunes or undesired characteristics and are also erased in the flames of a fire.  The yellow fever influence may be the reason why many años viejos take the form of a human.   Furthermore, while años viejos of disliked politicians are still used, the introduction of creating popular culture characters may indicate a change in the political environment of Ecuador.  My informant told me that the president in office today is well liked and the Ecuadorian government is no longer corrupt.  Therefore, años viejos appear to adapt to contemporary issues, trends and most of all, humor.  “Ecuador is a very relaxed country” and locals appear to reflect the stress-free atmosphere through the use of humor in Año Viejo celebrations.

So let’s set the Año Viejo ablaze and welcome the new!

[geolocation]