Tag Archives: new years tradition

Pomegranate for New Years

Main Piece:

Informant: We crack a pomegranate on New Year’s Eve, or like as soon as it like midnight again, I don’t know why, like if I asked my mom she’d be like like this just something we have to do. I’m like, okay, cool. Yeah, like I’d guess pomegranates are a symbol of life and like a new beginning kind of which is why you crack it like, you know, at midnight for the new year. But no, she takes it very seriously too. So like, for example, this past New-New Years. It was just me my mom, my sister. My dad was at work and yeah, so we watched the ball drop in Times Square. And then my mom had a pomegranate ready, like a full one, like you don’t touch it at all. And what you do is you go to your front porch or like the entrance to your house or like, wherever you want something that’s like, again, like an entry. I feel like in Turkey that that’s a lot of important like entrances of like, you know, you start something new, so you want to do it at an entrance of your life or something like symbolizes, you know, like when you walk into your home, it’s not something new. It’s a new year. So anyways, we go to our front porch and you’ve just like hold the, the pomegranate the full thing in your hand and you just drop it and you have to have a crack if it doesn’t crack, you know, you just keep going. And then and then it’s like okay, yay. Like now the new year has officially begun. So for her it didn’t it doesn’t start till then and then you you know, clean up the shells. And as many of the seeds that didn’t touch that like the seeds that are still in the pomegranate. Obviously, you throw the ones that touch the ground out and then you eat the seeds.

Relationship to the piece:

“If we don’t do it, then it doesn’t feel like the start of a new year. It doesn’t feel like the past is behind us. Like something it just kind of like commemorates a new beginning and if we don’t do it, it’s like we’re still in the old year. Kind of thing.”

Context: 

The informant is one of my friends, a 20 year old Turkish American theatre major at the University of Southern California. I was told this as we were hanging out in her room after I asked her about some of the traditions she grew up with. 

Analysis:

I’d never heard of this tradition, but I feel like a lot of traditions surrounding the new year have to do with inviting in what you want for the New Year, but for my informant, this tradition is about welcoming in the New Year. Breaking the pomegranate is like breaking open the new year and then you have to ingest what’s been broken, you’re literally taking in the New Year. I also think it’s interesting how, for many children of immigrants we follow traditions because our parents tell us to, rather than doing it because we know exactly what it means. We just know that certain holidays don’t feel right if we don’t follow these traditions. 

Black American Food Tradition: Eating Black Eyed Peas on New Year’s

Text:

KJ: “So, basically, on New Year’s Eve every year, my mom does it in my house, but it’s a very common Black tradition, you make black eyed peas. It’s food, so you can put whatever you want in it, but the traditional thing is to put a ham hock in it, which is classic, Black food for holidays in general. At least my mom starts making them either the day before New Year’s Eve, or on New Year’s Eve, so it can marinate all day. You eat them on New Year’s Day, and it’s supposed to be good luck.”

Context:

The informant is a 19-year-old Black American college student from Montclair, New Jersey. She said that this tradition is common among Black Americans. KJ said that this food holds cultural significance not only because it’s traditional, but also because enslaved Black people ate it. Since black eyed peas and ham hocks were seen as undesirable foods, enslaved people were able to cook with and build a food culture around them. She said that Black people now consider these eating this dish good luck because it nourished enslaved people enduring oppression and violence.

Analysis:

 In his essay about the globalization of and continued imperialist legacy within Indian cookbooks, Arjun Appadurai wrote that “Eating together, whether as a family, a caste, or a village, is a carefully conducted exercise in the reproduction of intimacy… Feasting is the great mark of social solidarity,” (Appadurai 10-11). As is the case for many ethnic and folk groups, food can be an important means by which Black people connect to each other and to their histories. Familiarity with certain foods or food traditions like eating black eyed peas on New Year’s Day can spark recognition and community between individuals of similar backgrounds. Moreover, the food acts as a kind of tangible link to this group’s heritage.

Black American food traditions are specifically important because they symbolize the ethnic group’s history both of brutalization and of resilience. Enslaved people’s ability to transform the most undervalued ingredients, like ham hocks, into delicious food and common culture, which enslavers sought to strip Black people of, is a source of pride and an emblem of ancestral strength for Black people today. Many groups partake in good luck rituals on New Year’s Day. I think that this food is considered good luck because it nourished enslaved people through the horrors of oppression, so people hope it can sustain them through any hardships of the upcoming year.

Appadurai, Arjun. “How to Make a National Cuisine: Cookbooks in Contemporary India.” Comparative Studies in Society and History, vol. 30, no. 1, 1988, pp. 3–24., https://doi.org/10.1017/s0010417500015024. 

New Year’s Eve Tradition: Run Outside

Informant: My informant is a current sophomore at the University of Southern California. Her parents are from Jalisco, Mexico. However, she grew up in Denver, Colorado. 

Context: The following is an excerpt of the informant and their description of their New Year’s Eve traditions. These customs are performed only during New Year’s Eve. 

Main Piece/Text: My family and I are very superstitious people. In fact, we are so superstitious that when it comes to New Year’s Eve, we do all kinds of funny and strange practices. For example, my sister loves traveling, and she always wants to travel more. Therefore, in hope for this wish to come true what she does every single year is that she runs outside with her suitcase, in hopes of the new year bringing her travel. And then I’ve also seen it with people who want to have kids who like are hoping to get pregnant. They’ll walk out with a baby stroller or like a diaper bag, something that symbolizes. what they want in upcoming New Years. 

Analysis: I think these rituals are interesting. I myself have heard from all of them in TV. In fact, they have all been encouraged be performed on TV! These performances demonstrate/express excitement for the year to come. In addition, it also reflects a future oriented perspective and a strong determination. There are these ideas of faith vs. hope. How much can one control their destiny? The fact that the family runs while doing these performances demonstrates everyone desire to move forward.

Twelve Grapes

The informant recounts a Peruvian good luck tradition preformed on New Years Day.

A: I just googled twelve grapes, and it is a thing. Apparently it’s Spanish. So that’s fun. 

L: Tell me about twelve grapes. 

A: You eat twelve grapes, for good luck. One for every month of the year. 

L: When do you do it? 

A: When the clock strikes to the next year, so like–
L: Oh, so it’s a New Years tradition?

A: Mm-hmm. Eat grapes. And like that, but in a cup *Shows me a picture of twelve grapes in a sparkling wine glass*

Thoughts:

As I’ve collected folklore about New Years traditions, there are a lot of traditions that are centered around food. There is another folklore I collected from the Southern states of America that also revolves around food and prosperity.

The informant had looked up the origins out of this tradition out of curiosity and discovered that the apparent origin is from Spain. However, the informant grew up in a Peruvian household. It’s interesting to see how this tradition has most likely spread through Spain’s colonization of South America, and has been passed down from generation to generation over the centuries.

Iranian New Year Tradition (Haft-sin)

Name: Haft-sin (هفت‌سین)

Main Piece

Me: So, I know people in Iran celebrate their New Year next month.

Informant: Yeah, Nowruz. It’s in March, but I’m not sure what day it’s on because it’s always different I think.

Me: Is there anything you guys do on that day? Or any particular dish that is traditional for New Years?

Informant: Well, yeah there are foods that are usually on the table but that’s not… I guess it’s not as important as Haft-sin (written: هفت‌سین). I don’t… have you heard of that?

Me: No, never.

Informant: Ok ok. So, there’s a small table, maybe off to the corner, and we put seven foods that start with the letter “s” on it. It doesn’t need to be cooked food or prepared in anyway because we don’t have to eat it. This is supposed to keep evil spirits away and bring good luck for the rest of the year.

Me: Oh, so you don’t have to eat these things, you just have to have them there.

Informant: Yeah, yeah. It’s stuff like vinegar and spices that you can’t really just eat like that, so…

Me: Can you tell me what your family puts on the table?

Informant: Yeah, we put garlic (سیر –  pronounced “seer”). We put sabzeh (سبزی), which is some type of green herb. I’m not sure how you say it in English, sorry!

Me: Oh that’s ok!

Informant: Yeah, then we put vinegar, like I said. It’s called serkeh (سرکه). We also put this pudding called samanu (سمنو). I can’t translate that either, and I’m not even sure what went in it, but it was kind of sweet. And then my mom sprinkled sumac on the table, too. You know sumac.

Me: Yeah.

Informant: Yeah, we pronounce it somakh (سماق). And then we put apples, which is seeb (سیب). And olives, which is senjed (سنجد). And then… that’s it I think. And my mom liked to decorate the table with flowers and candles. 

Me: That’s interesting. So, was this the standard? You had to have all seven of these things on that table and decorate it with flowers to have good luck?

Informant: Well, my mom always did it this way because she… she said it was the right way to do it. But pretty much, everyone just decorated it how they wanted to. I don’t think flowers were the standard.

Me: So you just put these on a table in the corner and it brings good luck?

Informant: Yeah, that was the point. I mean, it doesn’t have to be in a corner, I was just saying that. But yeah, it was supposed to keep evil spirits and evil people out of your house that year. I don’t know if it ever worked, but we always did it anyways, so…

Me: Did you personally like this tradition? Do you feel like you would do it in the future if it were left up to you?

Informant: Yeah. Yeah I think I would. Mainly because I want my kids to know the tradition. But I wouldn’t expect it to actually work. I would do it, but not to keep the evil spirits away.

Me: Right, right. So just to keep the tradition alive.

Informant: Mhmm.

Background

My informant was born and raised in Iran, and she remembers this tradition being performed every year. She explains that her mother is the one that kept the tradition alive in the household.

Context

Haft-sin is performed every Iranian New Year on March 22. According to my informant, this tradition is more widely performed in Iran than it is in the United States, where my informant currently resides.

My Thoughts 

I had never heard of this before. We don’t have anything like this in my culture, and I have never been exposed to this in America. This is an interesting tradition, and I wondered what the significance was of putting each of these foods on the table. For more information on this, visit the first citation at the bottom of the page. In summation of the information on the website, “Sabzeh is a symbol of rebirth and renewal of nature. Samanu represents fertility and the sweetness of life. Senjed is for love and affection. Serkeh… symbolizes patience and age. Seeb…is a symbol of health and beauty. Seer…is for good health and Somaq…symbolizes the sunrise and the spice of life.”

I found it interesting that seven is the lucky number in Iran, much like it is here in America. Upon further research, I found that the number seven held enormous significance in Iranian culture. For more information on the lucky number seven, visit the second citation at the bottom of the page, which is an article from the Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies.

Sources:

Bakhtiari, Parisa. “All About Haft-Sin: The 7 ‘S’ of Iranian New Year.” SURFIRAN, 28 Mar. 2021, surfiran.com/all-about-haft-sin-the-7-s-of-iranian-new-year/. Accessed 18 Feb. 2021.

Shahbazi, A. Shapur. “HAFT (seven), the “heptad” & Its Cultural Significance in Iranian History – (The Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies – CAIS)©.” The of the Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies (CAIS)©, www.cais-soas.com/CAIS/Culture/haft.htm. Accessed 18 Feb. 2021.