Tag Archives: new years tradition

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).

12 Grapes at Midnight on New Year’s Eve

Text: Every New Year’s Eve, the informant’s family eats 12 grapes within the minute-or-so leading up to midnight. Each grape represents one of the 12 months, and as they eat each grape they make a wish for that month. It is a way for them to bring consistent good luck into the new year.

Context: The informant has participated in this tradition every year as far back as they can remember, and their family is who taught it to them originally. The informant and their family are Argentinian and have always lived in Los Angeles. The informant said that this is their favorite New Year’s tradition because it becomes a fun competition between her and her siblings (as to who can finish the grapes the fastest) and looks forward to it every year.

Analysis: This is far from the first time I’ve heard of this New Year’s tradition, as it seems that many Spanish-speaking cultures partake in similar traditions. Potentially, I could see this tradition as an expression of optimism for the incoming year. I could also see this tradition as a way of trying to attract what you want into the new year, as in class we talked about how many New Years traditions revolve around manifestations during the liminal time that is the transition from year to year. In this case, the grapes might symbolize wealth or luxury.

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.

New Years Traditions

Informant Info:

  • Nationality: Mexican 
  • Residence: Los Angeles 
  • Primary language: English and Spanish 


E.S recalls living in a Mexican household, specifically every year when New Years came around. She says, “We have these certain rituals or traditions to ensure that we have a fresh start and a clean slate for the new year.” Some of these traditions include:

  • We wear red underwear to symbolize good luck 
  • We eat 12 grapes each for every month of the year, with every grape that we eat we make a wish or another word to describe it would be a resolution and this happens as fast as you can once the clock strikes 12
  • We also do a deep clean of the entire house either the day of or the day after New Years, we take out old clothes, rearrange furniture, put new curtains, regular cleaning 
  • E.S told me that these traditions are upheld to obtain the most luck possible to have a great year. 


The New Year is a significant time for everyone, regardless of where you are in the world. Every region celebrates New Years in their own way when the clock hits twelve. I also have grown up in a Mexican household, and there was lots of resemblance between the traditions of E.S’s family and mine. For example, my family also eats the 12 grapes, and each one has its own wish or resolution for the upcoming year. We wait till it’s New Years to eat them and make our wishes. Another tradition my family has is that we like to wish each other a Happy New Year and we embrace each other with hugs and kisses. I believe that we all hold and cherish our New Year’s traditions because we all hope for a better year. New Years can also be considered an opportunity for change in our lives and aspirations.

New years luck

“Korea is pretty strict about how you treat your elders. One example I remember is on new years, lunar not Jan 1st, you’re supposed to bow down and say 새해 복 많이 받으세요 (saehae bok mani badeuseyo) which roughly translates to, I wish you receive lots of good luck. Its a full bow, you get on your knees, and there’s a specific hand you put on top of the other depending on your gender. If you do this, you get money in return, so there’s no reason not to. It basically allows the elders to pay for good luck and respect, and the kids get money”

My informant and I have participated in this act. We both do it every year, even if we have to facetime our grandparents. The saying can also be sort of like a ‘happy new year’ in that you can say it to your taxi driver without the whole bow. It became a tradition since it solidifies the hierarchy in the family.

This ritual often takes less than 10 minutes. In the past, my sister, dad, and I would do it during dinner, since with the time shift, it would be our grandparents breakfast. Like other rituals, its designed to control some part of the elder’s life, in this case their luck. There is a lot controlled during the ceremony also, such as how you bow and what your hands should be doing.