Tag Archives: new years tradition

Jumping off the Couch into the New Year

Main Piece:

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the informant and the interviewer.

Interviewer: So do you have any New Year’s traditions that you take part in?

Informant:Yes I do! Every year at midnight, everyone has to get up on the couch and jump of right as the clock hits midnight so that we’re jumping into the new year. My mom used to do it in Denmark and I always loved doing it so I saw no reason to stop.

Interviewer: and no one else you know does that?

Informant: Not that I know of…. Some of my American friends like to take a shot at midnight haha but i feel like our way is a little more sentimental. 

Background:

My informant is a woman in her 50’s, originally growing up in Denmark and moving to the United states in her early 20’s. She has exceedingly liberal views, and has been a mother for a majority of her life. 

Context:

I talked to my informant over the phone during the 2020 Coronavirus Epidemic. 

Thoughts:

I love the idea of “Jumping into the New Year” as a sentimental way of not just finishing off a year, but having a good start to a new one. The differences between Danish culture and American culture are also highlighted here, since most special occasions are celebrated with drinking in America, while family, friends, and good virtue take precedent in most European culture. This definitely doesn’t mean that Danish people don’t like to drink, however, because they definitely like to party

12 Grapes at New Years

Main Piece:

Informant: My family does a lot of weird stuff for New Years. We’re a lot of Hispanics from Latin America and there are a bunch of different things. 

One pretty common thing to do is we eat twelve grapes at midnight on New Years’ Eve. And we do it for 12 sweet months, or twelve good months. I guess that’s what it signifies.

Interviewer: So everyone has their own grapes and they just pop them rapid fire, at around midnight? Like this has to be exactly at midnight?

Informant: Yeah, yeah it does. And the twelve grapes is pretty standard across Latinos. Like I have Cuban and Colombian and Venezuelan friends and they all do this. I usually don’t spend New Years at home, I spend it with friends or at a party or whatever. But no matter what I always bring with me a bag of 12 grapes to eat.

Interviewer: Do you know why grapes specifically? Cause I always thought grapes were known for being sour more than for their sweetness.

Informant: I actually am not sure why, to be honest. And it’s interesting cause where we’re from, Nicaragua, it’s very difficult to get grapes and apples and some other things. You either had to be somewhat wealthy or know someone who could get you grapes. They weren’t illegal or anything, they were just hard to come by. 

But we knew some people in the military. And the military had its own market at around Christmastime and that’s when and where we’d get our grapes. So we’d always have them, but only around Christmas time

Background:

My informant is a friend and a fellow student at USC. She was born and raised in Florida but her father comes from Nicaragua and her mother comes from the Appalachian region. This tradition is something she got from her father and is something her entire family does regularly. She got the story of the Christmastime market from her father as well. 

Context:

I had set up a Zoom call with my friend because she said she had some examples of folklore that she could share with me. This sample was shared during that call

Analysis:

It’s very interesting to me that grapes are used when they are so hard to come by. From what my informant is saying this seems to be a widespread custom in Latin America. Or at least, all the countries they mentioned, Nicaragua, Colombia, Cuba, have trouble growing  grapes. So maybe the sweetness of the grape comes from its rarity, like it is something to truly treasure and that’s why it is chosen over other fruits.

Some quick research corroborates this tradition and some sources say that in Cuba, after eating the grapes, the person drinks sidra which is a Spanish cider. Additionally this all must be done within the minute or the person will face bad luck for the rest of the year. I guess you could call that “sour grapes.”

New Years Tradition: Empty Suitcase

Main Piece:

Informant: One other thing that we do on New Years is we get up on top of furniture, like chairs or tables with empty suitcases or carry-on bags. Think luggage for planes. And this has to be at exactly midnight on New Years’ Eve.

Interviewer: Why, why do you guys do this?

Informant: Well, apparently this is supposed to signify or help whoever does this travel more in the coming year.

Interviewer: So if you do this, it is more likely that you will travel in the new year?

Informant: Yes.

Background:

My informant is a friend and a fellow student at USC. She was born and raised in Florida but her father comes from Nicaragua and her mother comes from the Appalachian region. This tradition is something she got from her father and is something her entire family does regularly. She is under the impression that this is a common tradition that many families from Latin American countries participate in but she is unsure as to which countries specifically do or don’t participate in it. She thinks of it as another fun, special New Years’ tradition.

Context:

I had set up a Zoom call with my friend because she said she had some examples of folklore that she could share with me. This sample was shared during that call

Analysis:

This seems like a fairly straightforward tradition to me. Some researching online shows that it is a tradition in Colombia specifically to do what is essentially the same thing, but walking around the neighborhood instead of standing up on a table. Walking around a neighborhood makes sense because it is like you are imitating on a micro-scale, the travel you will be doing in the future. You’re walking instead of on a plane, you’re holding an empty bag instead of some stuffed luggage. So thinking about why standing on top of furniture would be a part of it, I think it makes sense that by standing on top of furniture a person gets higher up in the air and would, in this way, be simulating the flight that is usually associated with travel.

New Years Tradition: Throwing out the Water

Main Body: 

Informant: I don’t think my family did this all that much. Maybe they did, I’m not sure. But I know for sure other families did this where … sometimes they would open the door and throw a big bucket of water out.

Interviewer: Just throw a bucket of water out? Did have to be hot or cold or anything like that?

Informant: No, I – the temperature didn’t really matter.

Interviewer: Oh, so why do that?

Informant: I think it’s supposed to be getting rid of any bad luck for the next year. Like the water symbolizes all the old, bad luck and you’re just getting rid of it and getting a fresh start.

Background:

My informant is a friend and a fellow student at USC. She was born and raised in Florida but her father comes from Nicaragua and her mother comes from the Appalachian region. This tradition is something she got from her father and is something her entire family does regularly. She is under the impression that this is a common tradition that many families from Latin American countries participate in but she is unsure as to which countries specifically do or don’t participate in it. She thinks of it as another fun, special New Years’ tradition.

Context:

I had set up a Zoom call with my friend because she said she had some examples of folklore that she could share with me. This sample was shared during that call

Analysis:

This seems like a fairly straightforward tradition to me. Water usually doesn’t symbolize negative things, but I imagine there would be substantially more clean up involved with anything else. Additionally you could say there is significance in throwing the water out directly from one’s doorstep. The door is a threshold, it represents the line between what is in your home and what is not. By taking the water from inside your home, cross the threshold, to outside you are effectively making clear that the water (or bad luck) is no longer welcome in your home, in your life. There could be aspects of this that are tied to Latin American culture, or Nicaraguan culture specifically, but I’m not well versed enough to comment on them.

New Years Tradition: Run Around the Block

Main Body: 

Informant: My family doesn’t do this and I don’t think it’s a Nicaraguan thing to do. But some people, what they do is – is they put money in their shirt and they run around their block and the – like, their heartbeat, how many times your heart beats – that’s supposed to multiply the money. So you’re supposed to – you want to get your heart rate really high while you run around.

Interviewer: So then the amount of money in your shirt multiplied by the number of heartbeats you have while going around the block, that’s the amount of money you’re getting in the new year or in the first month of the new year or something?

Informant: No not exactly, I don’t think the exact math matters. And it doesn’t really matter how much money you have in your shirt. It’s more about the heartbeats, the more of those you have while you run around the block, the more money you’ll get in general in the new year.

Interviewer: So if you have a longer block where you live,  you can get more money.

Informant: *Laughs*  Yeah I guess so.

Interviewer: But, so you don’t do this.

Informant: No, I don’t – my family doesn’t do this but I’ve heard of other families doing this

Background:

My informant is a friend and a fellow student at USC. She was born and raised in Florida but her father comes from Nicaragua and her mother comes from the Appalachian region. This tradition is a New Years’ tradition that her family doesn’t participate in, but it’s one that she’s heard of that other friends of hers do participate in. I didn’t ask specifically which friends and where they’re from, but the implication was that they were also Latin American if not Nicaraguan. 

Context:

I had set up a Zoom call with my friend because she said she had some examples of folklore that she could share with me. This sample was shared during that call

Analysis:

Some quick research online yielded no results when trying to look up this tradition/superstition. I really like this one, I think it’s really interesting. I think you can think of putting the money inside the shirt on your chest as literally keeping money close to your heart, emphasizing its importance. Additionally I think the idea that the more your heartbeats the more money you get, is speaking to the ideal of hard work. The harder you run, the more your heart beats, the more money you get. Similarly, generally in life, a good lesson to impart is that the harder you work at something, the more you will be rewarded for it.

Collard Greens and Black Eyed Peas – New Year Tradition

Piece:

“For New years my family eats collard green and black eyed peas. The black eyed peas symbolize good luck and fortune, the collard greens represent money and wealth. So that’s like a story for new years.”

Background information: The informant is a USC student, she is from the Bay area but has family scattered all over the south.

Context: This is a New Year’s Tradition that never changes. The informant began doing it ever since she was a little kid. She still partakes in the tradition to this day.

Personal Analysis: Different families have different customs and traditions for New Year’s. My family does a similar thing. Instead of collard greens and black eyed peas, my family celebrates with grapes and champagne. Each person eats 12 grapes, each grape symbolize 1 month out of the year. Everyone has a glass of champagne that they use to give cheers to everyone else in the room. You have to go around and “clink” (touch glasses) with everyone before you can drink it.