Fun Abroad: Of Burning Dolls and a Mouthful of Grapes

by Miss Footloose

On New Year’s Eve, spectatcular public fireworks are set off in many countries to celebrate the New Year, but there are many other fun customs and traditions to be found around the world.

In many wine producing countries such as Spain, Portugal, Argentina and others, twelve grapes are eaten, one for each of the last 12 seconds of the year.

This apparently is not easy to do, so you start the year with a mouthful of grapes and you’d better not laugh and choke on them. If you somehow manage to chow down all twelve you’ll have twelve months of good luck in the New Year. The grapes are aptly called las uvas de la suerte (the grapes of good luck). You can buy them already peeled for your eating convenience.

Beach parties are de rigueur in the southern hemisphere in countries like Brazil and Australia. Australia is also famous for the stunning fireworks in Sydney harbor.

In Rio de Janeiro, along with the carnival-rivaling beach parties, there’s also the Festa de Iemanjà. Offerings of flowers, perfume, rice, and so on are made to Iemanjà, the Goddess of Water. They’re either tossed into the waves or put into small boats and set adrift.

Brazil: Offerings to Iemanja, Goddess of Water

In the USA, like everywhere else, people go partying. A major tradition is the dropping of the New Year’s Eve Ball on Times Square in New York. This event is attended by many thousands of bunddled-up nutcases freezing in the arctic cold (usually), and millions of saner types who stay warm in homes or clubs and watch it on TV. At the stroke of midnight everyone kisses his or her significant other to the tunes of Auld Lang Syne.

Denmark has an old tradition, so I hear, which involves saving up all your broken glass and dishes over the year and then throwing them at your friends’ doors. The more broken dishes you find outside your own door, the more friends you have. At midnight partiers climb on top of their chairs and then jump off to symbolize jumping into the New Year. Well, that’s what I read. Cyberspace is mysteriously devoid of photos to prove it.

In Ecuador, effigies are burned at midnight on New Year’s Eve.

Photo by Bill Herndon | CC-BY-NC-ND

These dolls are made of old clothes stuffed with newspaper and have a mask for a face. If you have worries, disappointments, regrets or problems you’d like to leave behind, you can write them down on paper and stuff them inside. Handwritten notes are also pinned on the outside of the dummy stating what improvements are wished for in the new year. At midnight the effigies are burned and people dance in the street, as you can see in the photo below.

I rather like this ritual. Very symbolic. I spent a few weeks in Ecuador in September and really enjoyed the people and the country.

In my native Holland we have parties at home or in pubs and everyone has his own bunch of fireworks to set off in the street at midnight. This after we’ve carb-loaded with yummie greasy, sugary oliebollen.

Wherever you are, HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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What are your New Year’s Eve traditions? Anything fun or exotic? Which foreign ones have you enjoyed in your travels?

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Thank you for this trip around the world! Happy New Year to you.

Happy New Year! We just celebrated our first NYE in Warsaw, and I have to say, it seems like the Poles celebrate like most of the US does. Lots of fireworks, good food and parties. You are supposed to bring in the new year with poppyseed dishes such as noodles and pastries to bring good luck for the next year. We did not, but hopefully 2014 still will be a great year! 🙂

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