Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Ushering in a New Year

Every year as I think ahead to what I do or do not want to accomplish in the year ahead, I think first of my word of the year, then I think of my primary goal for the year and then I think..well, what went right and what went 'wrong' last year.

If I can take a wrong and see it as a 'right' a way to transform the old ways into new and better ways of thinking and being, then maybe, just maybe I can change how I see and do things differently!

So, with that in mind, I look to not only my future, the future of my world, but to how others try to change their own futures... and their own worlds.

What do others see as ways to usher in the new and ensure a better year to come?
hmmmm...let's see, well...in

A common tradition is to run hard and fast around the house with a suitcase in hand to ensure a year of traveling.

(Good start! I do that every time I need to fly out of here...literally...in a hurry. I thought I was just forgetting what I needed to pack, as I ran around in circles but it turns out it was good luck! I sure hope there was a print out of an airplane flight booking and I remembered to telling a family member when I'd need a ride from the airport to whomever's house I was staying at!)

No, the Danes do not smash plates on each others' doors, despite the tall tales and rumors. They do, however, stand on chairs and jump off of them at the stroke of midnight. By taking your feet off the ground in the final moments of the year, it is said that you'll leave all the bad spirits behind as you "jump into" a fresh, new year.

(And here I thought people only did that when they saw a mouse! Now, we've had mice as pets. Along with rats, spiders, hermit crabs and iguanas, a mouse is nothing. Especially, when our  spider was a tarantula and his friend was a scorpion someone thought they 'had' to rescue. Seriously? And jump off chairs. I fall off of my mine, but that's just me, I laugh a lot and most of our chairs are really old.)

In Germany, many people rub chimney ashes on their foreheads for good fortune and health. Like many Nordic countries, they also indulge in a fortune telling ritual by pouring molten lead into cold water, and the shape of the cooled metal predicts your fortune. Shapes such as a heart or anchor will predict new love or hard times ahead.

(I rub chimney ashes on my forehead all the time. But it always involves trying to get a bird out of our wood stove that accidentally got through the screen on top of the chimney! Every try to catch a wild bird that's loose in our house? Where's my suitcase, I definitely run in circles during this event as well!)

In Greece, the pomegranate has held strong symbolic meaning since ancient times. A common tradition on New Year's Eve is to throw pomegranates on the ground, and break them apart. The more they burst, the more abundance your household will have.

(Pomegranates are too dear, every time I go to a market and see what just one costs, I head over to the grapes. Now, breaking those apart turns into wine, especially if I run circles over them while carrying a heavy suitcase, and with all of this running the suitcase is getting heavier and heavier. I'll have wine in no time!)

A very old custom, and still practiced by some today in Ireland, is for the unmarried women to place mistletoe leaves under their pillow. This is believed to bring good fortune, hoping to find love in the new year.

(And here in America we put groom's cake under our pillows, mistletoe over our heads and are always looking for love in all the wrong places. Well, no wonder! Between the running and circles and all that wine I've been drinking, I can't find anything, anywhere..especially my cell phone and the endless cups of coffee I keep brewing and leaving in room to room when I can't find the last cup!)

Mexicans celebrate by eating 12 grapes, one for each of the 12 clock chimes at midnight, making a wish with each one. The grapes also represent the 12 months of the new year, and each wish is to ensure a lucky month. However, a sour grape will represent a particularly unlucky month and a wish unfulfilled.

(That explains a lot. I've spent most of 2017 being full of sour grapes, making faces at all of the myriad of reasons, and feeling like the bell was tolling not chiming and the end was near. Time to count my blessings, eat my grapes and stop the endless stomping and circling, and all of that whine.)

New Year's Eve is a big deal in Russia, and is very similar to how we celebrate Christmas in the West. One wish-making custom on New Year's Eve is to write your wish on a piece of paper, burn it, and mix the ashes in your champagne glass before drinking it at the stroke of midnight.

(Oh man! Not those Russians again!!! I thought they drank vodka not wine and they weren't allowed to run in circles but march in straight lines. Time to burn a lot of newspapers with too many sour grape bad wishes from all the wrong directions and empty the fireplace ashes into my occasional glass of not quite hard cider for a hot toddy when I'm done with all that dancing under the full super sized moon! And since we get two full moons in January and one of them is blue, I just might get a few wishes fulfilled after all!)

In Scotland, they celebrate Hogmanay, and the most popular tradition is the "first-footing," which involves the first person to "cross the threshold" (enter the front door) of a friend's house that will determine that household's fortune of the new year. The first foot is expected to bring luck-bearing gifts of coal, salt, bread, whiskey and a coin, and enter saying "A happy New Year and good tidings to you and yours!"

(Now, I'm really in trouble. I thought that was Santa that did all of that. Too little too late for me. He came and went and while Christmas was a lot of fun, there was far too much running around and drinking on my part since 2018 has begun with such a long list as this one to follow. Now, I'm really mixed up! No wonder so many of us have bad luck or we'd have no luck at all! )

United States
Passed down from English and German folklore, Americans kissing their special someone at midnight has been a common tradition said to bring good fortune and erase bitter memories. Originally, it was believed that the first person you encountered at the start of the new year would determine whether you had good or bad luck in the new year, so you'd kiss them to seal the deal. Over time, the custom changed to selecting who you wanted your good fortune to be shared with.

(Moral of the story, don't run around, don't drink, and be careful who you kiss!)

Venezuelans wear bright yellow underwear for luck, and typically showcase it for the world to see. Whether that means wearing underwear on the outside or no pants at all, each are supposedly good luck. Other variations of the same ritual include wearing different colors for what you want to have in the new year: red for love, gold for wealth, and white for peace and a fresh start.

(Are you kidding me???After all that running around and all of that drinking, I'm supposed to still have on clean underwear? I'm not even drinking and driving for goodness sakes !)

I'm exhausted. No wonder people have hangovers the day after New Year's. Who knew welcoming in a new year could be so hard.

Happy New Year's Everyone! May your year end better than it started and may any challenges of this year's journey be part of the final even better path to a new destination!

Michele Bilyeu Creates With Heart and Hands as she shares her imaginative, magical, and healing journey from Alaska to Oregon. Creating, designing, sewing, quilting, and wildcrafting... from my heart and with my hands.


  1. Happy New Year Michelle! Hope it's a healthy & happy one.

    Here in the North of England we First Foot like the Scots. Traditionally it's a dark male. I remember my Dad going out the back door with a lump of coal just before midnight, easy for us he was a miner! He came in the front door after midnight where he was greeted with a kiss & a drink & we all toasted the New Year.& his toast was alway " I wish you all you would wish yourself".
    We still carry on the tradition but the lump of coal from my mother in law given after we married is very precious & has gradually shrunk over the years and can't easily be replaced as we live in a smokeless zone & have gas central heating!
    All we want is heath & happiness.

  2. When my sister and I were little, we lived in Hawaii and we used to go out and bang on pots and pans for the New Year. Why? I have no idea. :-) However you mark it, I wish you a great New Year Michelle.

  3. Wishing you a wonderful 2018 Michele! Loved hearing from you! My hope for the new year for me, is to get my body into better shape and feeling better with what I eat and more exercise and stretching. I've usually never made new year's resolutions, but I DO want 2018 to be a "feel better" year for me! Thank you for all the information on other traditions! Marilyn

  4. I'm late in reading this, but I did enjoy learning about all these traditions and the humorous way you explained them. I hope you have a very Happy New Year, no matter which or how many of the traditions you followed.


Michele Bilyeu blogs "With Heart and Hands" as she journeys between Douglas, Alaska and Salem, Oregon.

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