Tag Archives: new years

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

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

Performance
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.  

Thoughts
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.

Yusheng

Description: It is the tossing of fish salad done during the New Years. People would circle around with chopsticks in hand. Then they would throw the salad as high as they are able, the higher meaning better fortune for the next year and having your wishes come true. The fish is the most important part due to the pun of the Chinese word for fish sounding like the word for abundance.

Background: It is something commonly done within her household. I was able to observe this ritual when we did it with a group of friends.

Procedure:

The salad is prepared with sauces, assorted vegetables and most importantly fish. The dish will then be presented on a table where people would gather. Each participant will be equipped with a pair of chopsticks. When the ritual begins, each participant will toss the contents as high as they can while saying their wishes. The duration of the ritual varies. At the end, the salad is consumed like a normal meal.

My thoughts:

In terms of cuisine, the salad is delicious. While the tossing does tend to make a mess, the sense of community and energy it brings is well worth it. There are many elements of this tradition that I believe are very neat. One thing is the origin of the tradition. It is mainly practiced by people who are ethnically Chinese living in Singapore or Malaysian. Most of the wordplay originated from the Chinese language, the fish signifying abundance is well known to any one who is Chinese. This tradition creates a branching and unique identity that separates itself from the traditions of the mainland and Taiwan. Food is commonly seen as something that brings people together; sharing food is often a bonding experience especially with home made cuisine. The community aspect is especially true for those in Malaysia, where ethnically Chinese people are part of the minority.

Black Eyed Peas and Collard Greens on New Years

The informant is from South Carolina and recounts a New Years tradition from the region.

T: On New Year’s Day, in the South, everybody cooks black eyed peas and collard greens. The back eyed peas are good for money. The black eyed peas represent the change and the collard greens is the cash. And that’s how much money, and it signifies that you’re going to get money all year long. So everybody cooks that on New Years. That’s just a staple. You go to someone’s house on New Year’s Day? That’s going to be cooking in the pot. Mama would cook that every New Years, no matter what.

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 Peru that revolves around food and prosperity.

It’s interesting that even though black eyed peas and collard greens are given a special status on New Years, they are a very common food in the everyday diet of people from the Southern United States. It’s just for this one day they are considered special representations of wealth.

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.