Tag Archives: new years

Jumping on New Year’s

This is something I told my three children growing up — if they jumped as high as they could once the clock struck midnight, the tallest height they reached would be how tall they will grow up to be.

Background: The informant is a 60 year-old Filipina immigrant to the United States.  She told me that her mother told her and her own siblings the same tradition growing up. While she does not exactly believe in its practical use, it was a harmless and fun way of ringing in the coming growth in the new year.

Context: This belief was told to me during a weekly luncheon that always follows our Sunday church services.

Probably my favorite pieces in this collection are the rituals whose origins can’t really be traced, so it’s unclear how or why they came to be.  But used now, they are just a cemented given in family situations as part of their experience of the culture.  It’s unlikely that there is any real basis in the idea of freezing heights in time beyond the general folk belief, but most people nowadays just do them for the sake of novelty.

Doce Uvas

Context: Subject is from New York City. 


“With my family, we have doce uvas, or twelve grapes, which is a tradition in Latin American households. So basically, households will set up a cup of twelve grapes for each member of the household, and once it’s officially New Years we celebrate and eat 12 grapes. Each grape represents a wish for next year, so it’s sort of like a good luck thing. But also, the reason it’s twelve grapes, is because you know twelve months in the year, which is important to keep in mind with this tradition”. 


This piece of folklore points out a commonality amongst many rituals, specifically them taking place at these liminal spaces in time. In this case, the grapes are eaten right in between one year and another, a perfect opportunity to get in touch with the supernatural in a sense. New Years in general is a ripe time for ritual and folkloric activities, with a new year representing endless amounts of opportunity and excitement, that obviously everything would be done to ensure it goes well. 

12 Round Fruits on New Year’s Eve

Background information: My dad is My mom is a second-generation Filipino-American, meaning he was born here in the US. His parents immigrated from the Philippines when they were both relatively young, and he grew spending a good amount of time with his family and distant relatives.

Dad: Yeah, every year, before New Year’s Eve, we buy twelve round fruits and make them the center piece at the table at the start of the new year.

Me: Why do we do this? Where did you learn this from?

Dad: Growing up we did this, I think. The fruits represent abundance and help us make sure that the coming year will be hearty and happy for everyone in the household. You have to have a fruit for each month, and they all have to be round.

Me: Why should the fruits all be round?

Dad: Uh…I don’t know, probably to represent the cycle of a full year? It’s hard to find 12 round ones because that’s more than they usually have at one grocery store. We always go to the asian market to get a good variety of fruits. So we end up with ones you wouldn’t eat any other time of the year, and the table looks really nice with all the fruits there.

I remember this tradition really well, as my dad has always been adamant about making sure we start the New Year with 12 round fruits on our table. I have many memories of us going to multiple markets to find fruits that were round enough, and all different enough. I myself am not sure how much my dad believes in this tradition, or if he just feels so strongly about it because it has always been a practice for him and his family, but either way, it has made me feel strongly about it too. I think this is a good example of showing how folklore can endure many generations, because even though it is not a very popular or well-known practice, I want to keep doing it for all the years to come, and I’m sure my dad does, too.

New Years in Brazil

Informant Information 
Nationality: Brazilian American 
Occupation: Student 
Residence: California
Date of Performance/Collection: Apr 27, 2022
Primary Language: English 
Other Language(s): Portuguese

My informant is a good friend of mine and we started talking about her Brazillian culture in McDonald’s after our bible study.

S- So for New Year’s, everyone wears white to symbolize new beginnings. So everyone has on a white outfit and then you basically party all night, watch the fireworks that’s all normal. Everyone makes wishes and dreams but it’s mostly wearing white and a night full of dancing and celebration and stuff but when we say a night full of dancing, it really is like It’s not fake like America like we danced for an hour and then we call it a night, like we are dancing, we’re celebrating we’re feasting and dishes of fish and so usually on more celebratory days fish is the option because steak is a common thing and there’s a famous meal called bacalhau, which is I forget what type of fish it is in English but it’s a fish dish with potatoes and vegetables and it’s so bomb and it’s the steakhouse the rest of the time, we’re all carnivores.  

This is the first time I’ve heard of wearing all white as a New Year’s. If carnival is any indication of how long and hard Brazilians can party, I believe that New Year’s would be no different.

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.