Around the World on New Year’s Eve

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With thanks to Silver Threading and her Christmas Trees Around the World blog event, I have decided to do something a bit similar and devote my blog post this week to New Year’s Eve customs and traditions around the world.

First, my own plans: we’re staying in this New Year’s Eve, as we normally do. We got some fun games for Christmas, so we might break those out. I usually make a few dips and snacks and we’ll graze on them throughout the evening. At midnight we’ll watch the ball drop on Times Square, and that’s about it. We like a pretty low-key New Year’s Eve at our house.

Now for the things you came here to read…and in the interest of keeping things brief, I’ve chosen just a few places to highlight. Coincidentally, most are places I’d like to visit.

Scotland: I chose Scotland because it’s the setting of my next three books and I love it there. I’ve only visited once, but it made a wonderful and lasting impression. In Scotland, the last day of the year and all the celebrations that go with it are referred to as “Hogmanay.” It’s an event which has its roots in ancient customs surrounding the winter solstice, so many Hogmanay celebrations include torchlight or bonfires. “The Bells” is the midnight hour when the old year turns to the new. And in Scotland a popular custom is called “first footing” and it refers to the first person to set foot in a house after the New Year begins. Traditionally, the first foot should belong to a dark-haired male in order to bring good luck to the home. And the first-footer should always bear a gift, such as coal, shortbread, or whiskey, for the host.

Bonus Scotland tidbit: The popular New Year’s Eve song “Auld Lang Syne” was written by a Scot, Robert Burns, in 1788.

Denmark: There are two main events that take place on New Year’s Eve in Denmark. The first is the monarch’s televised speech at 6 p.m. and the second is the tolling of the Town Hall Clock in Copenhagen. Often Danes will enjoy a marzipan ring cake at midnight, and in some parts of the country the traditional New Year’s Eve menu consists of boiled cod, stewed kale, and/or cured saddle of pork. Most of the foods are lower in calories than the rich Christmas meals.

Spain: in Spain revelers (often wearing red underwear under their clothes) eat one grape for each toll of the bell at midnight on New Year’s Eve. This is supposed to bring good luck in the new year. And before (and after) the grapes, they enjoy a glass of champagne with something gold in the bottom of the flute.

Greece: The Greek tradition is to serve vasilopita (New Year’s Bread) at midnight. This almond bread is baked with a coin or a small charm inside. The head of the household cuts the bread at midnight and the person who gets the piece with the trinket inside will have good luck in the coming year.

France: New Year’s Eve in France is celebrated with a feast called le Reveillon de la Saint-Sylvestre, which often includes oysters, foie gras, and champagne. New Year’s celebrations in France last for six days, until Epiphany.

Japan: Here’s one I love. In Japan people clean their homes to usher out the old year and welcome the new. I’m wondering…if we move to Japan, will the kids clean the house? I’m guessing not. And Buddhist temples in Japan ring their bells 108 times, representing the necessity of avoiding unwholesome actions.

Whatever your plans for New Year’s Eve, I wish you and yours a happy and healthy 2016.

Until next week,

Amy

My Bucket List

One of my daughters is a consummate list-maker.  She has lists for everything you can imagine, from her favorite foods to her favorite Disney movies to places she wants to visit.  I’m taking my cue from her today and making a list.  My bucket list.  I’m going to stop myself at ten items because that’s a nice round number and because I don’t want to bore you to death.

When I thought about writing this post, I realized I don’t really have a bucket list.  But when I actually tried to decide what might be on it, I had a hard time narrowing it down to ten.  I imagine most people have that same problem.  

Here goes.

First, I’d like to travel to Greece.  I want to see the postcard places with the white buildings and cerulean ocean in the background.  I want to taste real Greek cuisine.  I want to see all the places I’ve only read about in history books.

Second, I want to take a class at the Culinary Institute of America.  It doesn’t have to be any particular kind of class, though I’m partial to desserts.  

Third, I would love to learn French.  I took French in high school, but I remember almost nothing and if I had to have a conversation, I would be limited to “please” and “thank you” and “shut your mouth” and “I love cheese.”

Fourth and Fifth, I’d like to take two kinds of vacations:  an eco-vacation and a volunteer vacation.  The eco-vacation doesn’t have to be anywhere specific, but it would be nice if it were in a warm place.  And I’d like to take a volunteer vacation in South America. 

Sixth, I want to see a performance at Carnegie Hall.  In all the years I lived in and near Manhattan, I never visited Carnegie Hall and it’s one of the few things I regret about that time. 

Seventh, I want to go to Scotland.  I want to see the mountains and the plaids and the lochs.

Eighth, I want to go to Ireland.  I want to taste honest-to-goodness Irish pub food and see lots of green and lots of sheep.   

Ninth, I’d love to go whitewater rafting on the Colorado River.  I don’t even know why.  It just looks so cool in pictures.

And last, but not least, I’d like to see the Northern Lights.  Preferably from Norway.  

So that’s my bucket list.  I hope it inspires you to come up with your own if you haven’t yet, and I hope it inspires you to let me know what’s on yours. 

Until next week,

Amy