Tag Archives: new year’s eve

Russian Tradition: New Year’s Eve Cinema


Informant M is a 21 year old Cinema and Media Studies major from Upstate New York and Florida. He minors in Russian Language and Culture and is passionate about Soviet Cinema. He is a junior at USC and has been living in the area for 3 years.


“In, I think 1972… in the 1970s, a movie was released in two parts in Russia called The Irony of Fate or Enjoy Your Bath. And it was a TV movie, so it was broadcast in sections, but it’s basically about this guy, Evgeny, which is like the Russian version of being named John. Who basically gets super pissed with his buds on New Year’s Eve and ends up… his friends end up pranking him and putting him on a plane, blackout drunk, in the place of one of their other friends. And he flies from Moscow to… I think it’s St. Petersburg. And because – and it’s like a joke about the setup of Soviet cities – his address goes to an identical building with an identical lock and so he gets to what he thinks is his house. And it’s not his house, it’s a woman named Nadia’s house. And the movie is just like, the two of them – she’s got a fiance – just the two of them like gradually falling in love. But the first half of the movie is before New Year’s Eve and the second half of the movie is after New Year’s Eve, after they’ve had their moment and they’ve kissed and it’s beautiful and then there’s other problems but that’s like the middle of the movie. And so every year, on Russian state TV and also Russians will watch it on their own, they will broadcast the first half of Irony of Fate on New Year’s Eve and the second half immediately after midnight and people will watch it and it’s just a tradition because the two halves of the movie are also split by New Year’s Eve.”


Upon first glance, the tradition M described seems lighthearted, perhaps lacking in depth. The concept of watching a film that takes place over New Years on New Year’s Eve and into the new year is fun and simple. It’s easily classified as a tradition. It’s something observable and in which outsiders can participate. In fact, the informant and I attempted to watch The Irony of Fate on New Year’s 2023, but fell asleep before it ended. Furthermore, I believe there to be much more cultural commentary involved in this tradition. For one thing, it’s part of a greater national identity. It’s broadcasted on public television networks and accessible to Russian people. The film includes jokes and bits that are recognizably Russian – something which helps certify identity time and again. What’s more, the film is a rom-com, perhaps the most popular genre and one which can unite viewers. Plus, there seems to be a focus on domestic values of love and friendship, something significant and worth holding onto in periods of change during life (such as New Year’s Eve).

New Year’s Eve Tradition

Nationality: American
Primary language: English
Age: 49
Occupation: Stay-at-home mom
Residence: Mercer Island, WA


Each year on New Year’s Eve, one minute before midnight, SD and her family would all grab wooden spoons and pots and pans. They would go outside on their deck and, at midnight, began to bang the spoons on the pots and pans loudly. As they did this, they shouted “HAPPY NEW YEAR!” very loudly. They did this for around one minute before going inside.


SD first remembers participating in this tradition with her father, mother, and siblings when she was about 7. Her father taught this to her and she believes it’s something he learned from his mother or grandmother. SD has perpetuated this tradition and now does it each year with her husband and son. She’s not sure what this tradition means. She finds it really funny and it brings her joy because it’s super obnoxious to neighbors, but you kind of have to laugh.


This family tradition literally rings in the New Year. I think that this tradition serves as a way to celebrate the beginning of the new year with energy and joy, perhaps something which the participants wish to bring with them into the next year. This tradition feels as if it belongs in the “play space” spoken about in Chapter 5 of Oring’s Folk Groups and Folklore Genres: An Introduction. The author of this chapter, Jay Mechling, notes that the play space allows people to do and say things they wouldn’t normally be able to in everyday society (98). I would argue that the minutes between the old year and the new year are very much a “liminal space,” one in which tons of different folk groups are participating in different traditions. The laws of reality/society sometimes don’t feel as if they apply in liminal spaces, giving them special qualities. While loud screaming and banging pots and pans would normally be grounds for a noise complaint, it isn’t in the liminal space of New Year’s Eve. This family tradition flaunts this, playing with social boundaries in a new way. Additionally, since it is so loud, it invites others to join in the celebration. While other family traditions can be very private and personal, SD’s is loud and in-your-face. I believe this may be a way of extending the joy and silliness of the tradition to others, inviting neighbors and everyone who can hear to have some of the good energy the tradition sends out. This belief is further reinforced by the cry, “HAPPY NEW YEAR!”, which is directed at those all around.

Spanish New Year Tradition: Eating 12 Grapes

The informant is a 20-year-old guy living in California. His mother’s side of the family is Spanish and his family still practice some Spanish traditions in their American household.

Informant: Basically, at midnight on New Year’s Eve, when the clock strikes twelve, we will eat 12 grapes. Each of them symbolizes a month in the upcoming year, so it’s important that you eat all 12 of them. It gives you good luck.
Collector: Does it matter whether they are green grapes or purple ones?
Informant: I don’t think so. Although I heard my mom say that you should eat the grapes along with the bell trikes. Well, we don’t get that here in California, so we kind of just eat them one by one.

In Spain, there are a great variety of grapes and grapes are important to their agriculture and wineries. Grapes are most likely a symbol of prosperity. According to the article in Atlas Obscura, the tradition might come from a clever farmer’s marketing strategy to digest a surplus harvest, or from an imitation of French customs acted by the bourgeoisie in Spain. Regardless of the origin, Spanish people see this tradition as a way to avoid bad luck and bring good luck for the upcoming year. This idea of 12 grapes symbolizing 12 months can be seen as homeopathic magic, meaning that the people would have grapes, or other crops, to harvest every month in the upcoming year. Some parts of this tradition are lost in the informant’s family since they emigrated from Spain to the United States; however, they still continue to perform this tradition each year to remember their cultural roots and cultural identity.

New Years Grapes: Folk Belief/Ritual During a Holiday


Me: “Hi AA do you have any rituals, practices, or festivals in mind?”

AA: “um, I have this unique ritual or I guess you can call it a folk belief, it actually takes place during New Years Eve.”

Me: “Does it have to do with your culture?”

AA: “Yes, so on New Year’s Eve my Dominican family and I often gather around as we wait for the countdown to midnight. As we wait, my grandma passes out 12 green grapes and a glass of champagne to everyone. In theory, once the clock strikes 12, we are supposed to eat the 12 grapes while making 12 wishes or aspirations for the 12 months of the new year ahead. If you take too long or If you don’t eat the grapes by the time the firecrackers, the cheers, and the celebrations stop, you will have bad luck in the upcoming year; that is why people usually eat their grapes first and then wash it down with champagne before hugging people and celebrating the New Year.”

Context (informant’s relationship to the piece, where they heard it, how they interpret it):

-AA’s relationship to this folk belief/ritual stems from her Dominican culture, family, and household considering this practice and belief system is seen in many parts of Latin America. AA would hear about this ritual/belief all her life given that she has always been exposed to it; she would either host New Years Eve at her home or be invited to other households where the ritual/belief will take place. AA interprets this ritual/belief as a fun, creative, and silly way to pass the time during such a transitional period during the end of the year. AA has noticed that the older people in her family tend to take this belief/ritual more seriously as they often sit alone and think very diligently about each wish. AA believes this has to do with the fact that older generations seem to be more adamant about their religion and faith. In contrast, AA often interprets this practice as a silly entertaining act that shouldn’t be classified as a serious matter.

Analysis(what kind of personal, cultural, or historical values might be expressed) YOUR interpretation:

-The overall cultural value within this New Year’s folk belief/ritual stems from Hispanic culture given that it is typically correlated with Latin American communities and households. Many assume that this ritual/belief is practiced by Hispanic cultures because it involves a profound way of believing which can be found within religious Catholic practices of Hispanic communities. The personal values that can be seen within this belief/ritual is that it allows an individual to embrace their spirituality in a way to remain hopeful for the next year. The factors of religion, beliefs, faith, and optimism are all key factors that one needs to find within themselves personally, in order to truly believe that their 12 wishes will come true; this idea exemplifies one’s conscious beliefs considering the goal is to not receive bad luck. I interpret this ritual/belief as a wholesome manifestation practice. Considering that I have participated in this ritual/belief process during New Year’s Eve as well, I am able to see this process as a familial activity that can bring on hope, optimism, determination, and faith for the upcoming year. I believe this is stemmed from one’s spiritual beliefs, considering if you truly believe in your wish, you will do everything in your power to make it come true. This ritual/belief can be seen as an overall superstition given the fact that the idea of one’s wishes coming true is a striking concept that an individual can choose to believe in. Not to mention, this New Years belief/ritual is a subjective ideology that can be determined by one’s overall level of value and meaning that they place upon it; this can be seen within older generations as their religious and spiritual beliefs allows them to be more invested in their wishes, as depicted by AA’s family. A similar ritual/belief that involves the same notions of wishes and manifestations is the practice of walking outside with a suitcase as the clock strikes midnight during New Years as well; this is done to signify luck for travel in the upcoming year.

Ritual: New Year’s Eve Jump


Interspersed within their explanation of the ritual are frequent giggles as the informant looked back on performing this ritual.

“Something that happens on the night of New Year’s Eve– I guess it happens right at countdown. My family does this for years. My mom still does this. Right when it strikes midnight, we jump as high as we can several times until the first minute is done, so you can get taller in the New Year.”


“This is just really funny because my mom is 4’9″. I grew up doing it. I don’t know if it’s just a Filipino tradition… but it’s something that my family has been doing. I think it was something more prominent as I became a teenager because my mom is all about the holidays, so she says ‘Ah, just keep jumping! Show your excitement! Ah, the New Year!’ Of course, I don’t believe in it because I’ve been 5’1″ for several years.”

“My mom. I don’t remember the first time it happened. I think it was when I was really young, like when I was in Kindergarten. It was around when I was finally old enough to stay awake around midnight. I knew it was really early on in my elementary school years. I would jump, but my eye level wouldn’t go up that high.”

“It’s just a silly little thing to do with your family to get enjoyment out of the celebration. It’s one of those traditions my mom does just to like, bring the family together. She grew up with nine other siblings so I’m sure a lot of family traditions happened a lot in her childhood, and she kind of wanted to transfer that to us– to her kids.”


This jumping ritual seems to stem off the belief that, with the New Year, comes hope for change. Tall height is seen as an attractive trait to have in many places, and it may be something that people wish for themselves to happen in the future. Especially in the case of younger children when it’s uncertain what height they’ll grow into yet, it feels like a number that’s malleable and subject to change, so it’s natural that people try to take matters into their own hands in an attempt to reach the height that they wish for themselves in the future. Eventually, the belief in it dies down as the participants grow older, but at that point it’s just a fun activity to do with the family and people around you on New Year’s Eve.