Around the World on New Year’s Eve

USA Today Bestseller!

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

Happy New Year!

On this, the last day of 2013, I would like to take a moment to wish all of you a very happy and healthy 2014!

Since I copped out on writing a real blog post last week, I thought I’d give you all a thrill today by sharing some of my New Year’s resolutions with everyone.  My immediate family is sick of hearing about them, so I’m inflicting them on a whole different group of people.

First, I want to improve my writing.  It is said that practice makes perfect, but is there such a thing as perfect writing?  I don’t believe there is.  I believe that practice makes better, so I’m going to get more practice.  My second novel is due to the publisher on June 1st, so I know I’ll be writing and revising until then.  I have some ideas rattling around in my head for my third novel, so I’m hoping to start it right after the manuscript gets sent off to my editor on June 1st.  And after that?  Who knows?  Maybe I’ll even try my hand at NaNoWriMo in November.  The important thing for me is to keep writing and keep improving.

Second, I want to get better at using social media.  I want to Tweet more often.  And I want to update my Facebook status more often.

Third, I want to take more pictures.  Pictures of people, of things, of places.  Posed pictures and candid pictures.  And I want to print them out and put them in albums that my kids can hold in their hands and peruse.  We took so many pictures when the kids were small, but we’ve slacked off as they’ve gotten older.  And those we have taken remain on camera cards or phones or the computer.  We love to look through the old albums, and I’d love to have more of those.

Fourth, I’m going to replace the closet doors in each of my children’s rooms.  They’ve been off their hinges for two years now, and that’s just embarrassing.

Fifth, I want to clean out the attic and the garage.  If you haven’t seen my attic or my garage, consider yourself lucky.  I could work on nothing but those two spaces all year and probably not finish them, so I’ll be happy if I just make some visible headway.

Finally, I want to run a 5K.  I am not a runner, but I’d like to give it a try.  I have one in mind, and if I actually sign up I’ll let you know how it goes.

Next year at this time, I’ll let you know how I did with my resolutions.  While I hope to accomplish everything on my list and many more things I didn’t mention here, I guess my main objective is to, at the very least, make some progress toward each of my goals.  And if I think of a new resolution before the end of 2014 (I can guarantee I will), I’ll try to implement it right away and not wait until a new year begins to make changes.  Do you have any resolutions for 2014?  Care to share them?

Until next week,

Amy