Many traditions, without historical context or cultural familiarity, just seem nonsensical and weird. For example, why do millions of people in the United States like to watch a ball drop down a pole at the end of every year? Doesn’t this activity strike outsiders as strange?
Obviously, the power of rituals and traditions affects us. The middle of winter can be pretty dark and gloomy, so rituals of light and renewal may bring us hope that the world will bloom again and we will see another summer. Even if certain holiday practices can seem silly at times, they still resonate with us on a deeper level, unite us, and give us a reason to come together with good cheer. It’s the same the world over.
What unites others through their traditions? There are countries and cities that have their own unusual New Year’s traditions.
Scots refer to New Years’ Eve as “Hogmanay,” which roughly means “great love day.” They start off the festivities by toasting and singing an old Scottish song called “For Auld Lang Syne.” Bonfires are set up, and locals march about town carrying poles lit with fireballs. The fire is meant to symbolize the purification of the upcoming year. Another Scottish tradition has it that if your first visitor in the New Year happens to be tall, dark, and carrying salt, bread, coal, black bun, and whisky, then you’re going to have a lucky year!
On New Years, Danes take all of their unwanted dishes and toss them at the doorsteps of family friends. These actions are far from malicious; in fact, the bigger the pile on your doorstep, the more loved you are. Who knew that the destruction of glass kitchenware would ever represent love and affection?
Johannesburg, South Africa
People living in Hillbrow, a downtown neighborhood, collect old appliances as New Year’s Eve approaches, and then … they throw them off the roof. These appliances include refrigerators, televisions, microwaves, and even couches, all pretty heavy stuff. Also, considering the fact that Hillbrow consists mainly of high rises, you can get a pretty good idea of just how cathartic and chaotic this tradition is. Needless to say, walking around Hillbrow on New Year’s Eve is ill-advised.
Teller Law wishes everyone a joyous occasion, whatever it is they decide to do this New Year’s Eve.