What does New Year’s Day mean to you? Many in America watch the ball drop in Times Square and ring in the new year with their friends and family. Most of you will probably make a New Years resolution or two to make a positive change in your life for 2023. Some may even have special food to eat on New Year’s Day to ensure good luck throughout the year! All over the world, people have developed special ways of celebrating the New Year. Here are some of our favorite traditions!
Japan: The First Shrine Visit of the Year
In the lead-up to New Year’s Eve, the Japanese typically have parties with their friends and coworkers – the Japanese word for this kind of a party, a bounenkai, literally means “forget the year party”. The celebrations can get a little raucous compared to the staid image we may have of a typical Japanese salaryman. But New Year’s Day is a very special occasion. Japanese people will spend New Year’s with their families. Together, they make a trip to a Shinto shrine to pray– the first visit of a New Year is considered the most important for that year. Big shrines, such as Meiji Jingu in central Tokyo, are packed, as it is believed that the kami are more likely to hear your prayers at these “power spots”. Before going home, many will stop and pick up some lucky amulets, or omamori, to protect them or give them good luck for the coming year.
Greece: Pomegranate Smashing
The Greeks use pomegranates in their New Year’s celebrations in very unique ways. Before the holiday, families will hang up the fruits from their door. The pomegranate, in Greek culture, symbolizes luck, prosperity, and fertility. Before midnight on New Year’s Eve, the lights in a home are shut off and everyone leaves the house. Then, the family sends one member in to re-enter the home with their right foot first. If done correctly, it is believed that everyone in the home will have good luck for the year. Then, a second person takes the pomegranate fruit from the door with their right hand and smashes it against the door – this is supposed to tell you how much good luck you are getting. The more seeds that spill out, the more luck you’ll receive!
In Scotland, if you are visiting someone on New Year’s day, make sure you bring a gift for your host. It is believed that if the first person who crosses into a home on New Year’s brings a gift for the homeowner, that person will have good luck. Scottish Hogmanay celebrations also feature bonfires, and people even swing around fireballs on poles, which symbolizes the sun and is supposed to purify the upcoming year. And in Edinburgh, the first day of the new year concludes with a chilly dip in the Firth of Forth estuary for good luck!
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