Tag Archives: wishing

New Years Rituals

“On New Year’s Eve as it gets closer to midnight we prepare our bodies by eating 12 green grapes, one for each month, eating spinach for good health and money, and eating lentils as well. We also tie a red string and yellow string around our wrists or ankles to symbolize love, protection, and health. We never take it off, we just wait for it to naturally break sometime over that year. We also peel cuties and save the skin to symbolize our first fruit of the year. Lastly, we walk around our neighborhood with empty suitcases to symbolize keeping us safe on our travels that we take throughout the year.”

The informant does this tradition on New Year’s eve/day once it hits midnight. Usually at her grandma’s house. In the tradition, everyone plays the same role and it includes “my mom, sister, grandma and I.” It’s a tradition that has been kept in the family that has been passed down for them to take part in. 

These rituals are homeopathic magic rituals, meaning when performed they bring magic to the people performing it. Eating spinach as a ritual brings magically good health and money. It is a symbolic magic, meaning that the performance mimics the desired result. Spinach is green and leafy, like money, and it is good for health. The first fruit of the year may be important for two reasons. One, that fruit symbolizes the ability to eat well. Secondly, fruit is often used as a term of success financially, for example “fruitful returns” on an investment. Both eating well and the word parallels symbolize financial stability and wealth. It is clear that this culture values wealth and food through these rituals, which primarily focus on money. The suitcase may also be related to money, as it could symbolize wealth enough to travel, in addition to the safety component. This is all done on New Years Eve because as the clock strikes midnight, there is a liminal “between” time in which magic is possible. It is important for many cultures to perform rituals during this liminal time to ensure magic for what they desire in the new year is spread into the universe. Liminal times are often seen as magical times, so it is an ideal time to wish or spread magic.

Wish Upon A Star

Context :

W is my 17 year-old brother. He was born and raised in Utah, like me. He wishes on shooting stars because they are so rare. By wishing on such a rare thing, your wish will come true. But you can’t simply make a wish, you must also recite a specific phrase. W believes he first heard the phrase from his mother, who got it from her mother. The phrase has been passed down through generations as a positive superstition for getting wishes granted.

Text :

“Star light, star bright,
First star I see tonight;
I wish I may, I wish I might
Have the wish I wish tonight.”

Analysis :

There are many different ways to make wishes, like blowing out birthday candles or loose eyelashes. Wishing upon a star has been around for centuries, and like the other wishing ways, originated because of the rarity of the event. Everyone has wishes, but wishes rarely come true. By wishing your wish on something as equally rare, there is supposedly a higher chance of the wish coming true. The saying itself seems to speak to a higher existence, unlike other wishing spells, which are just spoken internally. Because of that, wishers are not just saying their wish to anyone, but to what they think will grant the wish.

Wishing on 11:11

Main Piece:

What is this ritual?

“When it’s the minute [11:11], I close my eyes and make a wish. I try and repeat is as many times as I can until the minutes is over. It usually involves crossing my fingers because I’ve been told that it makes it better.” 

When and how did you learn this?

“I’m sure in elementary school, it was one of the few luck superstitions I was taught. I heard in passing, like no one teaches you ‘sit down and do this.’” 

Background/Context:

My informant is my roommate. She went to public elementary school in Los Angeles. I noticed her pointing out the time 11:11 am, so I asked her to explain it to me. We were standing in our kitchen looking at the digital clock on our oven. 

Thoughts:

Wish-making rituals are very common (wishing on a star, making a wish on an eyelash, etc.) but what’s so interesting about this ritual is that it’s origin can be dated, and a terminus post quem can be established. The time 11:11 only looks special on digital clocks because it’s four 1s in a row. It doesn’t look or feel special on an analog clock. Therefore, this ritual must have been established after the invention and popularization of digital clocks. 

“When you toss a penny into a fountain you can make a wish.”

I first heard this belief from my father, who would always take me to the Placentia Library on Sundays to read books together, when I was in second grade, about seven years old.  Outside, there was a large fountain that was beautiful and I loved to play around it.  One day my father handed me a penny and told me to toss it into the fountain. When I asked him why, he told me that whenever I toss a penny into a fountain of water I can make a wish and it’ll come true.  At the time I believed him, although I soon realized that this wish was much like the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus, and making wishes after blowing away the seeds of a dandelion.  However, making a wish in a way lets me let go of something that I really want.  Now whenever I make a wish it is to release something I’m holding inside, and it feels like I’m lifting a burden off my chest.

This wishmaking is reflective of an optimistic, yet creative society where one can dream whatever one wishes.  It also goes along with the United States’ futuristic worldview, where one can do whatever he or she wants as long as he or she tries hard enough.  Dreaming and wishing is only the first step to achieving those goals.  I believe that this wishmaking is a very useful tool for helping people find out what their true inner desires are.  You know that what you want most is what you wish for, so all you have to do is wish, then work to make that wish come true.  I think this is also why it is appealing to many people as well, because the idea of wishing anything they want and having it granted without the work that goes along with it is a nice feeling, but it also help them figure out what they really do want in life at that moment.  I also think that the idea of wishing with water came from the idea of the wishing well where one could make wishes into a well but it somehow evolved into a fountain.

“Blow out the candles and make a wish.”

This phrase was said to the informant on her birthday in January every year since she could remember speaking.  It is tradition for the family and/or friends to sing “Happy Birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear [informant’s name], happy birthday to you.”  Following the Happy Birthday song, the family members and friends are supposed to remind the birthday person to make a silent wish and blow out all of the candles in one blow so that the wish will come true.  For her family especially, they like to blow out the candles, make a wish, and then keep the wish a secret or else it will not come true.  The informant feels that this is not especially symbolic of anything, except that as the birthday girl, she should have something special that sets her apart from the others whose birthday it is not, so she gets a wish.  In turn, she likes to give the same opportunity to everyone else she celebrates birthdays with and the secret wish is always made.

This tradition is a tradition found commonly everywhere around the United States, especially because the Happy Birthday song is in English.  However, there are variations in other languages such as Spanish.  In both cultures, it is traditions to have the same number of candles on the birthday cake as the number of years the birthday girl or boy has lived.  Sometimes this tradition lasts until old age.  As a young person blows out the candles, she is blowing them all in one blow in hopes that her wish may come true.  She usually also blows out the candles herself, without any help, showing the strength and independence of the younger generation.  As the birthday person grows older and is blowing out seventy or eighty candles, blowing out the candles is a symbol of health and strength.  Often if the person is old she will also be helped by the younger generation, often little children younger than five years old, which I believe is symbolic of the young helping out the old.  However, though the people blowing out the candles may change, one thing always remains the same.  The birthday child, teen, parent, or grandparent will always receive one silent wish after the candles have all been blown out.