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New Year Traditions Around the World
Source: My UM
In China, New Year is a holiday many people, especially young children, look forward to, because it is a time when they can put on new clothes and spend some quality time with relatives and friends they haven’t seen for a long time. But in today’s fast-paced world, has New Year celebration lost its meaning and become just another yawn-inspiring cookie-cutter practice everywhere? Or do people in different countries celebrate the holiday differently? To find out, we interviewed several UM students about the interesting New Year traditions in their home countries. Check it out!
Enjoy New Year Dinner with Friends
Evelin Rizzo, an exchange student of the Faculty of Social Sciences, is from Andrano, a small friendly town in southeast Italy with a population of less than 5,000. In Italy, the New Year Eve is called ‘La festa di San Silvestro’, which means ‘The Feast of San Silvestro’, while the New Year’s Day is called ‘Capodanno’. As with many other holidays in Italy, food is an important part of the New Year celebration.
On the New Year Eve, Rizzo would usually prepare an elaborate dinner with several good friends. Lentils, which are considered to bring good luck in the coming year, and sausages, believed to be a harbinger of prosperity, are a staple of the New Year Eve dinner. After dinner, they would go out to watch the spectacular Fireworks Dance and musical performances on the street. When the countdown starts, people open champagnes to drink with their friends. On Capodanno, Rizzo would share another lavish lunch with new friends. What about her family? ‘We already celebrated it on Christmas,’ she says.
Jump High for Growth, Eat Noodles for Long Life
Lisandra Bautista from the Department of Government and Public Administration was born in Macao, but she always observes the New Year traditions of her home country—the Philippines. Before studying at UM, Bautista lived in the city of Naga. There are many interesting New Year customs in the Philippines. For example, when the clock strikes midnight, children will jump as high as they can because they believe this will make them grow taller.
Although the Philippines is a predominantly Christian country, many families celebrate the Lunar New Year like Chinese people. For example, people keep all the doors, windows, drawers, and cupboards open when the clock strikes midnight, because doing so is considered to bring good luck in the coming year. Another interesting New Year custom followed in the Philippines is wearing polka-dots dress as round shapes signify prosperity.
Traditional New Year dishes in the Philippines include pancit bihon and pancit canton, two favorite noodle dishes served for long life, as well as the sticky rice, which symbolises the stickiness, or unity, of the family. Bautista normally celebrates the New Year at home, because there is a mouthwatering tradition in her family that has nothing to do with food. ‘My mom would throw money around the house and let me and my younger sister pick up the money,’ she says. ‘We would race to see who could pick up more money. And the money would become our lai see. This tradition has become a form of entertainment in my family.’
New Year Eve’s Bell-Ringing and Osechi-ryori
Kento Nakashige, an exchange student from the Faculty of Business Administration, is from Osaka, Japan. On the New Year Eve, Nakashige would have the reunion dinner with his family and watch the Red and White Song Contest. When it approaches midnight, Japanese people, especially the elder generation, usually visit the nearest temples or shrines, which organise different kinds of activities. The whole Osaka turns into a sleepless city. The temples and shrines are swarming with people trying to obtain O-mikuji, a fortune-telling paper strip.
At midnight, Buddhist temples all over Japan will ring their bells a total of 108 times, which symbolise the 108 earthly desires that bring humans much suffering. Ringing the bells 108 times at the end of a year symoblises the embrace of a new year. This is also one of the most important New Year traditions in Japan.
On the New Year’s Day, Kento would visit his grandparents and relatives with his parents. Together they would enjoy a holiday feast, which would usually include sukiyaki, rice cakes, hot pot, and Osechi-ryori. Osechi-ryori is a set of small, traditional dishes served in beautiful four (symbolic of the four seasons) or five-layered lacquer bento boxes called ‘jubako’. Each layer has a different meaning. The dishes in the boxes must be finished, as leaving any food unfinished or throwing it away is considered to throw away good fortune.
Japanese people have the custom of sending New Year’s Day postcards to their friends and relatives. The postcards usually feature one of the 12 animal signs in the Chinese zodiac system. But it is a taboo to send New Year’s Day postcards to people in mourning.
Morna, Cape Verde’s National Music
Rodrigo Costa of the Faculty of Science and Technology is from Cape Verde, a Portuguese-speaking country off the west coast of Africa. According to Costa, both Christmas and New Year are major holidays in Cape Verde, during which time people go to the church to attend masses. Young people usually attend big music parties with their friends where they listen to morna, the national music of Cape Verde. At the New Year’s Eve party, people form into circles with those around them, regardless of whether they know each other or not. And together, they dance to the beat of the music, smiling and laughing as they welcome the advent of a new year.
Dumplings, New Year’s Gala, and Snow Play
Yang Yulin of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering is from Liaoning province in northeast China. He says people from his hometown are not particularly keen on holidays, with the only exception of the Chinese New Year. On the eve of the Chinese New Year, his family and all the relatives would visit his grandmother’s house where they would make dumplings, have dinner, play poker, and watch the New Year’s Gala on CCTV. When adults were preparing the dinner, children would go out to play with snow. The next day, everyone in the family would get up bright and early to pay New Year’s visits to his grandmother and the other relatives, which is an important New Year tradition in China. Another important tradition is saying auspicious phrases whenever you meet someone during the holiday.