• Institute for a Greater Europe

The Institute Presents: Traditions of New Years 2020-21

And there we have it, closing the end of what can only be called a tumultous year. At this point we want to give thanks to all of those people who have helped us through this year! It's been a busy one for us all at the Institute, as we've taken such steps as moving concretely to Brussels, becoming a registered NGO, and publishing the second volume of our journal. To all those who have read, written, or supported us in any way, thank you! May 2021 be as good as 2020 was bad, and brinh much happiness to you and your family.


From Philippe

Contents

Thanks to all those who have contributed to this series for the past few years, we've added a few more this year for you to look at!


Armenia - Noemi Akopian

Azerbaijan - Ceyhun Əliyev

Belarus – German Carboni

Belgium - Valentin Luntumbue

Bulgaria - Ana Popova

Denmark – Kian Vandsted

France - Michael Li

Germany - Lucia Nafziger

Greece - Hashem Khalidi

India - Abhivardhan

Italy - Maria Ludovica Pizzuti

Ireland - Stefanie Fox

Peru - Diego Sánchez

Romania- Elena Ruxandra Seniuc

Ukraine - Anna Korienieva

United Kingdom - Philippe Lefevre


Armenia - Noemi Akopian

In Armenia, the holiday season begins on New Year's Eve. On December 31, families and friends sit down for big holiday feast and exchange gifts at the stroke of midnight.


Since most people live in apartment buildings, Santa Claus cannot climb down the chimney to deliver presents to the children. So, he either leaves them on the doorstep, rings the bell and disappears or places them under the Christmas Tree at night, after everyone has gone to sleep.


On the following days, friends and relatives visit each other and celebrate with traditional Armenian and Eastern European dishes.Tables are set with roast pork, dolma.(stuffed grape leaves), blinchiks (crepes with ground beef), salads, cheeses and cold cuts, fruits and mixed nuts, and various sweets and pastries. In the weeks leading up to the New Year, cities are bustling with people doing their holiday shopping, admiring the lights and decorations and sampling the treats at the Christmas Market. It is a lively time of year, and it is all about love, celebration, abundance and reconnection. We wrap up the holiday season on January 14, which is known as the Old New Year.


Azerbaijan - Ceyhun Əliyev

Azerbaijan gradually started celebrating New Year next year after the Bolsheviks seized power in April 1920. Before that, “Nowruz Holiday” was primarily considered as the new year of the country (which is celebrated as an awakening of the land during some days of spring months, mainly in March). Interestingly, following this Azerbaijanis have attributed almost the same importance to both of the holidays.


A typical Azerbaijani family would celebrate a new year with a table full of diverse meals: a capital salad, plov (rice) dishes, Caucasian kebab and many more... However, Azerbaijanis do not get upset when they “overeat” on the New Year eve and possibly get health problems the next day.


Surprising visits by friends and acquaintances are the fun and welcomed part of hospitable national tradition. Inherited from the Soviets also, though most Azerbaijanis are formally Muslims, they drink on the important days as in New Year and justify: “it is okay to drink once a year”.

One can hear the sound of fireworks occasionally, around 10 days before the December 31, a major firework day. Some of fireworks are irritatingly as small as a toe and can not be seen thus be ready to be scared by the noise if one booms around you. Environmentally speaking, in the recent past the winter has passed by almost with no snow on the ground. This is annoying for me especially, since I used to see in my childhood high snow height during the New Year eve at least!


Belarus – German Carboni

In Belarus, New Year is the main celebration of the winter season. This is in stark contrast with neighbouring countries and regions like Lithuania, Poland or Western Ukraine.


Despite the religious awakening that followed the collapse of the USSR, the country holds dear its Soviet traditions. Belarus does not have a Christmas tree, but a New Year one. It can be found in Belarusian public squares and households. Belarusian children wait for the New Year to find gifts beneath it.


These gifts are brought by “Grandfather Frost” (Дед Мороз), accompanied by his granddaughter Snegurochka (translated as the Snow Maiden). In the day leading to New Year, it is common for Belarusian children to go to parties and where they can meet and dance with actors impersonating the two magical figures.


In general, people meet with their families and loved ones for the New Year’s Eve. Huge dinners are organised and people drink together until, right before midnight, they watch the Presidential televised speech. It finishes right before midnight, when after the countdown, they set off fireworks, exchange gifts and drink (even more). Concerts are usually organized by the public authorities in the main cities and many go to meet the New Year with other compatriots.


Yet how differently this year celebrations are going to unfold it is yet to be seen.


Belgium - Valentin Luntumbue

Like with many other things, it is difficult to clearly pinpoint what part of Belgium's christmas traditions are distinctly Belgian. Westernmost edge of the Germanic world pressing upon romance France, all the while facing the English Channel, Belgium's winter celebrations are somewhat syncretic. Thus, lucky Belgian children receive presents both from Sinterklaas and Santa Claus. A rather postmodern experience.


Holiday season spans from Saint-Nicholas day on the 6th of December to the Epiphany a month later, or all the way to the Chandeleur on the 2nd of February. The catalogue and nature of celebrations vary from region to region. In quite the same way there are many ways to be Walloon, Flemish or Bruxellois, there a nebula of ways to celebrate the holidays.


Amongst the fractal identities of Belgium, there is however a constant I can identify: though Belgian society is deeply patriarchal, the family unit is often dominated by matriarchs around which the family congregates during the holidays. In my family, our matriarch was my great-grandmother, who hailed from a little Flemish town close to Leuven, a place of pilgrimage where the Virgin Mary performed miracles in the late Middle-Ages. Although noone in the family was ever religious (or Christian for that matter), we'd all gather around our matriarch around Christmas.


After living through two World Wars, my great-grandmother died aged 96 in suburban Brussels. With its matriarch gone, my family, never really observant, slowly ceased to care for the holidays. They don't gather together anymore. As for many Belgians’, she was our family's keystone.


Bulgaria - Ana Popova

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 A Horo in Brussels, by Daznaempoveche CC BY-SA 3.0

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 Survachka. 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.


Denmark – Kian Vandsted

Like many other places in the world, New Year’s Eve is a big celebration in Denmark. For many Danes, it all starts by watching the Queen’s speech at 6 pm. It is a longstanding tradition that the monarch gives a speech and the Queen normally takes this opportunity to summarise the main events of the year. In more recent times, it has become rather popular to bet on what words she will include in her speech. Words such as “pandemic,” “ovid-19,” and “distance,” are not surprisingly some of the favourites for this year’s speech. As a way to balance the high-calorie Christmas food, the traditional New Year’s Eve dinner consists of boiled cod fish with mustard sauce. However, you can enjoy some “kransekage” (Danish marzipan wreath cake) for dessert. Already after the dinner, you will hear that Danes are starting to light up their fireworks, which will intensify as the clock approaches midnight. Exactly twenty minutes before midnight, many Danes watch the old skit, “Dinner For One” (also known as “The 90th Birthday”), which is broadcasted by the Danish national broadcaster, “DR”, who attempted to change this tradition in

1985 by not showing the skit, but they immediately went back to “the same procedure every year” after they received a record-number of complaints. Just before midnight, Danes are standing on their chairs or on the couch as it is a tradition that we jump into the new year when the clock strikes 12 to avoid bad luck. Then the new year has arrived and it gets celebrated with more kransekage and champagne (or other kinds of sparkling wine).


The Queen's Margrethe II of Denmark Speech


France - Michael Li

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.


Germany - Lucia Nafziger

“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 photo by Micha L. Rieser


Greece - Hashem Khalidi

In Greece, families and friends gather before midnight celebrate this beautiful event. During that time, the vasilopita is served. The vasilopita is a cake with a hidden coin that is indicates good luck and fortune for the upcoming year to whoever finds the coin.

Then usually the youth would go out to celebrate the beginning of the year with their friends and loved ones. Some other traditions include the Kalanda, meaning Carols in Greek, where children gather from the morning to sing and wish their neighbours a good year ahead.


India - Abhivardhan

Although the world celebrates the New Year on the basis of the Gregorian calendar, India uses a lot of different calendars, to mention Saka (according to the Indian Government), Vikram Samvat (for Hindus), Hijri (for Muslims) and so on. I use both the Gregorian and Hindu calendars, so I celebrate 2 New Years with my family. Now, every January 1, we celebrate the New Year with a mix of cultural activities, which is sort of Indo-Anglo cuisine-making, prayers and special activities.


The Hindu New Year is generally celebrated in either in the two ways across India - i.e., via Deepawali in October or November every year (the festival of lights and crackers) or Holi (the festival of colours and joy) in March or April every year. While Deepawali is celebrated during the evening via celebrating the crackers and worshipping the Lord Ganesha, Lord Rama & the holy Ramacharitmanas, we enjoy Holi through an evening pyre we hold every night before the day of Holi, where we burn an idol of Holika, a demoness as a part of mythological folklore. In India anyways, it is quite fun and we mix up different cultures at times.


Italy - Maria Ludovica Pizzuti

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.


Ireland - Stefanie Fox

On New Year’s Eve in Ireland, many people go to dinners or parties in private homes, pubs or hotels. In recent years, a magnificent New Year’s Festival has been held in the capital city Dublin. This festival includes the magical Liffey Lights Midnight Moment, a spectacle of light and music taking place across the city, and a countdown concert with performances by top Irish stars, like Walking on Cars, Kodaline and Dermot Kennedy. A firework display at the stroke of midnight is of course also on the books.


This year’s New Year’s Festival has not surprisingly been cancelled due to rising Covid-19 infections and Irish people have been asked to ring in 2021 from the safety of their homes. Irish National Broadcaster RTE hopes to compensate somewhat with a special family fun programme, which will feature a mix of pre-recorded and live content, including performances by Irish musicians, poetry readings and comedy sketches.


In addition to the night-time celebrations, the New Year in Ireland is associated with a number of old traditions, such as cleaning of homes, laying of fresh sheets on the beds and stocking up on food and other household supplies in the last days of December to ensure a fresh and prosperous start to the New Year. And of course, for those who are very brave, a swim in the Irish sea on New Year’s Day to wash away the troubles of the previous year (and to cure any hangover from the previous night’s celebrations😉).


Peru - Diego Sánchez

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.


Romania - Elena Ruxandra Seniuc

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.



Romanian bear dance © Alex Dima


Ukraine - Anna Korienieva

New Year’s celebrations in Ukraine are similar to what many people in most countries do for Christmas – decorating a tree, dinners and exchanging presents. The day of the 31st December is all about cooking and setting everything ready, in short, holiday hustle and bustle. The dinner starts late, at about 9 or 10 o’clock, and some might take a short nap before it.


On the table you can find different set of dishes varying from family to family, however essential though is a potato salad called “olivje“. In the background the TV is playing numerous entertainment shows and classics from Soviet-era movies. The culmination is yet to come – everyone is looking forward to raise their glass when the bells start to chime.


After the clock strikes 12 the festive atmosphere is projected in as a volley of fireworks, which makes everyone come outside int


United Kingdom - Philippe Lefevre

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.


Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Archive
Search By Tags
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square

Institute for a Greater Europe 

Contact Us © All Rights Reserved

Privacy Policy

Youth Association for a Greater Europe  © All Rights Reserved