And climb the stairs to the beach...

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Red Underpants and Grapes, or How Will YOU Spend New Year's Eve?

It's almost New Year's Eve and four other couples and Ed and I plan to go to the fireworks on the beach at 7:30 followed by dinner at a nice restaurant at 9:00, then back to the house for dessert at our house and a Yankee Swap, something to keep us up until the champagne toast at midnight. On any given night here in Naples, we usually have seen a movie, had cocktails at happy hour and dinner at a restaurant, and still gotten home in time for Jeopardy. So, it will be a long night for us, but I am confident if I have a nap, I can stay up to welcome in the New Year.

As an adult, it hasn't ever been a big deal, celebrating New Year's.  Once in a while I'd go to a party, but more often than not, I haven't wanted to be out on the roads that particular night. It was more fun as a kid when my parents hosted the party. They could be very entertaining with their hats and horns and kissing everyone. Everyone was always so "happy"!

New Year's Eve always seemed to mean a lot to my parents. Besides the parties, my mother would talk about how it was important that peas be eaten on New Year's for good luck. Yet I don't remember her actually serving peas on that day in particular. In fact, usually we had left overs or Dad would get pizza, since that day was pretty low key after the previous night's revelry. I didn't like peas, still don't.

I did a little research and it seems 'round' foods from peas to pomegranates are preferred at New Year's Eve celebrations worldwide.

The first time I remember hearing anything about New Year's celebrations anywhere besides home was in my Freshman Spanish class when we learned that many Spanish speaking countries, including Spain and Mexico, have the tradition of eating a grape with every chime of the clock at midnight. Everyone must look like chipmunks by the time the twelfth grape is stuffed in their mouths. I guess kissing at midnight isn't part of their tradition. But round food is.

Kissing at midnight is a widely practiced tradition all over the world on New Year's Eve. In some countries whoever you kiss at midnight is the one you'll spend the following year with. I remember at 19 going to a party and kissing a boy named Pike Bartlett. We were old friends from church and had known each other forever. He was on crutches and I don't know why I remember that. But we were in Sue MacKinnon's family room and when midnight came, everybody around us was making out, and he and I had nothing else to do. I don't think we ever  dated before or after. I guess 'that's what friends are for'. ♫ ♬ ♪ ♩ ♪. I just threw that in because I don't remember ever kissing anyone else on New Year's Eve to whom I was not married or related. 

In South American countries, if you wear yellow underpants on New Year's eve, money will come your way. If you wear red underpants, you will attract love. I guess that New Year's Eve when I kissed Pike I must not have been wearing red ones. In the Philippines it is good luck to wear polka-dots on New Years Eve while eating their round fruits. I don't think the polka-dots have to be on your underpants, however.

The clinking of glasses after a toast actually originated back when people were paranoid about being poisoned. Pouring a little of your drink into mine, and viceversa, to prove that your drink was safe was replaced with the symbolic clink. 

Almost everywhere noise is made at midnight to scare away bad luck from invading the New Year.  Fireworks, noisemakers and banging on pots are popular ways to do this. In fact, in Italy, they throw old pots and pans out the windows. So be careful if you are in Rome on New Year's Eve.

Auld Lang Syne is a Scottish air we adopted here in the states when Canadian Guy Lombardo and his band played it each year. Believe it or not, it's only been a tradition here since 1929. The song was written 225 years ago in Scotland. When the Scots sing it, they form a circle and everybody crosses their arms and holds the hands of the people next to them. At the end of the song,  everyone rushes into the center while still holding hands, then, they all back up again and everyone turns under the arms to end up facing outwards with hands still joined.

I haven't had anything to drink and I can't figure out how that works. Just imagine a bunch of celebrating Scotsmen/Scotswomen trying to do that.

Then on New Year's Day the Scottish tradition says that the first visitor to enter the home after midnight will determine how your new year will go. If it is a young, dark haired man with gifts, who first steps into your home, he brings good luck. If it is a woman, it is bad luck. Hmmm...It's called "First-Footing" or Hogmany to a Scotsman. Just a wee li'l bit o' Scottish trivia fer ye.

In Wales, at the first stroke of midnight, they rush to the back door and open it, then close it again, letting all the old year's "bad stuff" leave. Then at the last stroke of the clock, they rush up and open the front door, welcoming in the New Year and all it's good luck. 

In Denmark, everyone stands up on a chair just before midnight with a drink in one hand and a piece of cake and a coin in the other. Those items assure that they will have drink, food and money in the new year. They jump off the chairs at midnight. I am glad I won't have people standing on my furniture.  I don't think I'd like that at all.

I like the way the Japanese celebrate their New Year's. They clean their houses to clean out the old and welcome the new. They end grudges and forgive misunderstandings. At Buddhist temples they strike the gong 108 times to get rid of the 108 types of human weaknesses. Only 108? Whaaat?

In China, they apply a fresh coat of red paint to their front doors and put all their knives away for 24 hours lest anyone cuts themselves, thus cutting the family's good luck for the New Year.

New Year's resolutions were started by the Babylonians. Farmers would start their lives over each year by returning borrowed tools and paying their debts. I don't think they ever vowed to lose weight, in ancient Babylon, though. 

But one of the most touching New Year's Eve traditions I know of was something my Dad used to do. Every year, after kissing his wife and twirling the noisemakers, he'd stop everything for a minute to call his mother. If the party wasn't at our house, we would be staying over night at Gram's. Sometimes I'd hear the conversation from his side, and sometimes from hers. I don't know if the tradition began after my grandfather died or if it was something from his childhood. I must remember to ask him.

Gram and Dad hamming it up in the 30s.
It was just a moment on the phone, saying nothing more than "Happy New Year!" between mother and son. She expected the call and usually headed to the phone as soon as she had seen the ball drop on TV. A Manhattan girl, she wouldn't miss that Time Square scene for anything and Dad knew she'd be awake.

I can still picture her in her long silk robe, tied at the waist, house slippers scuffing over the linoleum floor to the phone that hung on the kitchen wall. She'd pick it up on the first ring, her hands shaking as they always did no matter what, and instead of hello, "Happy New Year, Dear!" she'd say, smiling.  A pause while she listened and then a simple "You, too. Goodnight, Dear." I can hear her voice like it was just yesterday. Not much else was said. She'd hang up the phone and say to us, "Everyone off to bed now." And up we'd all go.

I wonder if my sons will be reading this blog? 

Have a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year, everyone!


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