Tag Archives: new years tradition

Nowruz Celebrations in Lebanon

RA: “Nowruz is the Iranian New Year, and it’s a different time every spring. I was young when we left Iran, so I don’t really remember celebrating Nowruz there. We also never went back there during the spring, so the timing never worked out after we moved. When we lived in the UK, we couldn’t really celebrate Nowruz there either because we were so separated from our extended family, and there weren’t many Iranians living in London at the time. Most of my memories of Nowruz come from Lebanon. There were a lot of Iranians living in Lebanon then, and there still are, so it was a big holiday that lots of people there celebrated, even people who weren’t Iranians. There were lots of Nowruz parties and celebrations in the parks so you would sometimes see bonfires and lots of music just while walking around. What made Lebanon interesting is that there were lots of Arabs who celebrated with us, in addition to a lot of British and American ex-pats who worked with my dad at the oil company. So our Nowruz celebrations always had lots of people who had no clue what was going on but who were having lots of fun. My favorite part of Nowruz—because there were, you know, lots of parts like in most Iranian holidays—Anyways, my favorite part was Chahar Shanbeh Soori, where you’re jump over fireworks or a bonfire. You make wishes for the new year, and you leave behind the bad things you don’t want to take into the new year. I think its celebrated it on the last Wednesday before the new year because shanbeh means first in Farsi, but it might be the first Wednesday of the new year, I don’t really remember. There’s lots of partying and food, because there always is at Iranian holidays, and afterward we would build bonfires to jump over. This feels super dangerous in hindsight… there were bonfires all over this park we went to, and there was also a big bonfire in the center of the park that we would all sing and dance around. My brothers and I would race each other and jump over as many bonfires in the park as we could…which I can’t believe they let us do, but I think parents just liked to let their kids loose then. I just remember it being really beautiful at night, because you could see bonfires glowing everywhere across the park, and also in people’s backyards and front yards—wherever you could build a bonfire. That must have been so dangerous, but I don’t remember anyone ever burning themselves, just having lots of fun.  “

Informant’s interpretation:

AB: “Why was this your favorite part of Nowruz? What did Chahar Shanbeh Soori (did I say that right?) mean to you?”

RA: “I only ever celebrated Nowruz when I was young, because I left Lebanon in Middle School, so I don’t remember much now. I just remember how beautiful the fires were and how much fun I had with my family running around the park. It’s a beautiful part of beginning the new year, and I think it really helps energize and excite you for the new year.”

Personal interpretation:

Fire is important in many Iranian practices due to its spiritual significance in Zoroastrianism. Fire is often associated with cleansing and with divinity, so the role of fire in Chahar Shanbeh Soori may be seen as a way of cleansing yourself of impurities before the year to come, as well as entreating the divine to bless the coming year.

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.