• Ana Popova, Michael Li, Lucia Nafziger

The Institute Presents: Traditions of New Year's

With the New Year now ushered in, and many bellies full of food we at the Institute want to present to you some of the traditions our members followed for New Years. A moment to reflect on the past and look forward to the future, the festivities are never-ending in Greater Europe. With this in mind, we hope you all had a wonderful time with friends and family and that your 2019 is full of fun and fulfillment!

Dressing up as Bears in Romania!

Source: CultureTrip © Alex Dima

Ana Popova – Ruse, Bulgaria

On the last day of the year, Bulgarians prepare an amount of food, sufficient to feed a small village...for each table. We drink and eat with friends and family whilst waiting for the new begin to come. After the countdown is over, there is one melody playing all around Bulgaria – the Dunavsko Horo (Danube Dance). Everyone – young and old, performs the traditional folklore dance. We hold each other by the hand and connect in a circle. Bulgarians uphold this fun tradition on the main square in every town and village and is a particularly amusing view if the dancers come from different parts of Bulgaria. Southerners have their own way of dancing the Horo, which is different than the one we dance is Northern Bulgaria (on the Danube River).

As soon as no one can walk anymore after two to three hours of different Horo dances, everybody gathers back around the table. Each child has prepared a cornus stick called Survankitsa. Children decorate them with objects symbolising fertility and wealth – popcorn, different dried fruit and coins – and tap people on the back. During this ritual, children recite poems wishing health and happiness for the upcoming year.

A Survankitsa, Source: Radio Bulgaria
Michael Li - Paris, France

As in many other places, the New Year’s celebrations in France start on December 31st. On New Year’s Eve, French people usually organize dinners or take part in all-night-long parties with their relatives. It echoes the so-called “Réveillon de Noël”, a family gathering that takes place the night before Christmas, revolving around food excesses of all sorts. The key moment of the night is the transition between the year that ends and its successor when the room resonates loudly with wishes of happiness and success for the year that begins at midnight sharp. Another strong moment is the presidential allocution on national TV that always takes place at 8pm on the 31st. Since the use of fireworks is quite strictly regulated, they are relatively rare in France, and are often organized by local authorities rather than by private citizens, unlike in Germany. Firecrackers however will rather frequently break the silence of that winter night, reminiscing of the ancient habit of casting away spirits that would avail this moment of temporal transition to sneak into the world of the living and haunt them.

A specificity of the New Year in France lies in the so-called “étrennes”. This term refers to the small amount of money that kids coming back into their family in Savoy would be offered in order to express the family’s joy to be coming together again. Nowadays it refers to an amount of money that may be given by employers to their employees so as to celebrate the year of cooperation that has passed and that to come.

Lucia Nafziger - Cologne, Germany

“The same procedure as last Year, Miss Sofie?" "The same procedure as every year, James!” When celebrating New Years in Germany, these lines are just as much part of the night as sparkling wine and fireworks! New Year’s would not be the same without the British black-and-white comedy sketch “Dinner for One”, also known as “The 90th Birthday”. Watching the butler James walk around the table (or rather stagger as the dinner progresses) and toast for each of Sophie’s guests, whom she has outlived due to her considerable age, is both heart-warming and screamingly funny. In contrast to Sophie’s four-course meal, the most common dinner on New Year’s is raclette, where cheese is melted on a table-top grill together with vegetables and meats. It is fun to prepare and you can eat it for hours and hours! After the dinner don’t be alarmed if you get showered with sweets like pigs and ladybugs, made out of chocolate or marzipan, as they are to bring good luck for the new year! Shortly after midnight we try to look into the future with “Bleigießen” (lead pouring). You heat up a piece of metal (usually tin after heading lead was banned in 2018) and quickly throw it into cold water. The shape it takes on is supposed to tell you what the year ahead is going to bring. This is my all-time favourite fortune-telling technique as the often very peculiar shape of the tin is definitely open to interpretation, so you can lay it out however you want to!

Bleigießen Kit, Source: Wikimedia
Philippe Lefevre - London, United Kingdom

In the UK New Years is all about indulgence and ushering in the New Year with a bang. Like many other nations, we use fireworks to their logical extreme, lighting up the sky with more explosives than the Trident Nuclear Missile system. Our main tradition comes in the form of Auld Lang Syne, a wistful melody about old friends and remembering where we come from. The poem itself is an old tune, with Robert Burns himself stating that it was not he who created it, but merely wrote it down. A Scottish song, it also mixes well with the revelry that the Scottish tradition of Hogmanay brings.

Hogmanay is a broad-church term for many different customs across the British Isles, but generally involves gift giving and alcohol, as any good celebration must have. A particularly modern tradition involves watching Jools Holland, a musician, and his end of year bonanza of Music and fun as they help usher in the New Year with the countdown. To this end, I wish everyone a Happy new Year and may you never forget auld acquaintances.

Elena Ruxandra Seniuc - Suceava, Romania

Why Romanians dance the bear (and sometimes the goat)

“Dance, dance, bear/ Cause blackberries will ripen/And you’ll get even fatter/And dance in people’s homes Jump, jump, higher and higher/Like the year that’s departing!/And bow down well/To greet your host gracefully!” - Lyrics found here

The Dance of the Bear is a traditional custom performed in Romania’s eastern region of Moldova. Staged between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, it symbolizes the death and rebirth of time, announcing that a new year is yet to come. Traditionally, the dance includes men and women of all ages dressed in real bear skins that dance to the rhythm of drums and flutes. One costume can weight up to 50 kilograms and most of them are inherited in the family. They are decorated with two huge red tassels attached to each shoulder and sometimes iron bells to create a more powerful atmosphere. During the ceremony, the bear looks up, standing up straight; during the dance, the bear leans forward, shaking its skin alternatively to the left and to the right, swinging from one side to the other, while enthusiastic civilians acclaim them. The masters of ceremony are usually men dressed in red military clothes and they submerge the bears into a long-taming process, whereas the musicians are dressed in traditional folk attire. Similarly, the goat dance can be found in other regions of Romania.

(AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

Maria Ludovica Pizzuti- Rome, Italy

In Italy New Years is a day to celebrate with good food and your family and friends. We use fireworks at midnight, and drinking prosecco too. It is very common to go to restaurants if you are waiting for the New Year with your family. On the other hand, with friends we are used to have a house party until midnight, with a huge dinner that we call “cenone” (“big dinner”). Lately, traditionally Italians goes to the main squares of the big cities and there are lots of concerts and DJ sets in every corner. Other typical traditions include playing cards and playing tombola, a kind of Italian board game. The first day of January, we hold a huge lunch with family, similarly to Christmas day. Having said that, I hope you all a Happy New Year and may you all have fun.

Diego Sánchez - Lima, Peru

Definitely, New Year’s Eve is a celebration the “City of the Kings” (“la Ciudad de los Reyes”) and its inhabitants never miss whatsoever. In the recent years, some families, rather than passing the Eve in the city, prefer to travel to the beaches’ nearby Lima to spend this holiday (in either the south or the north of the city) profiting from the summer. However, regardless of this location choice, the twelve grapes and the traditional dinner cannot be missed in any circumstance. Usually, the twelve grapes that represent each month of the year are placed inside a glass in which you later serve champagne. This tradition aims to make a wish per grape you eat before drinking, and toast to everyone you celebrate with the New Year. Nowadays, this tradition continues despite many youngsters opting to celebrate it with their friends rather at the beach, a club, a disco, or in the countryside! The only missing ingredient needed to make this end of the year and beginning of the new one an unforgettable experience, is the colour yellow! The entire city turns yellow from Dec 31st to Jan 1st, in a fashion believed to spread good luck and success with regard to the New Year.

Lima on New Year's Eve Source: NewYearsEveBlog

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