By Alexandra Paucescu
Every New Year comes with high hopes for the better, with promises that things will maybe improve and with solemn resolutions to be fulfilled.
To me, new year’s eve was always a time of reflection, a time when I tried to remember all the important things that happened in the year I was about to leave behind and with plans and hopes for the new one to begin.
Depending on where we were posted at a time, my family and I kept our New Year traditions from back home but also embraced some of the local ones, which we partly took with us home and kept, as a reminder of our time spent there.
If you go across Europe, you will find old customs and funny traditions, things that people do on New Year’s Eve and make them feel special.
Although in many countries this day is not as important as Christmas, you will still find traditions long grounded and resumed, with religiosity, each year.
In many countries, the fireworks will catch your eye. The Dutch absolutely love them and every house has them at midnight. Then there are the traditional Oliebollen, delicious donuts, eaten in each house for good luck. I also remember that I witnessed once the New Year’s dive (‘Nieuwjaarsduik’), when, no matter how cold it is, lots of enthusiastic people plunge into the freezing waters of the Nordic Sea, on January 1st.
Germans wear lucky-charms like little pigs, mushrooms or clovers or buy edible ones made out of marzipan, for good luck. They love fireworks too and will watch ‘Dinner for one’ in the evening (Silvester). The British short movie, made in the 1920s, is now officially the most repeated TV Show of all times, being registered in the Guinness Book of Records.
In Austria, everybody will listen to the Pummerin bell, broadcasted on national television. This bell from the Stephansdom cathedral is the largest bell in Austria and the third largest swinging bell in Europe. The sound of the bell is then followed by the Blue Danube Waltz. Austrians also melt small pieces of lead (Bleigießen) or, more recently, wax because it is less dangerous, in which they try to guess their future. We also did that each year while we were posted in Vienna, and our children had such fun with it!
French people are more romantic and make sure to have a great home cooked meal with good champagne and a kiss under the mistletoe in the night between the years.
The Swiss eat Fondue Chinoise, raw meat and blanched vegetables, cooked in simmering broth and dipped into a variety of sauces afterwards.
In Romania, people like to party hard on New Year’s Eve. Big gatherings with friends, big open-air concerts and fireworks are normality. People buy lottery tickets and think that their luck will be predicted for the New Year ahead. You also have to have money in your pockets for prosperity and to wear red underwear for good luck at midnight.
In Moldova they will throw wheat for good luck, and in the countryside people dress up in traditional clothes and organize shows in the middle of their village, wearing masks on their faces.
In Poland people go kulig (sleigh rides), Hungarians traditionally celebrate with virsli (Viennese sausages) and lentil soup or korhelyleves, a meaty sauerkraut soup, said to cure hangovers.
Greeks cut a cake after midnight, specially cooked with a coin inside. Whoever gets the coin, will be lucky in the New Year.
In Turkey, New Year’s Eve is a big celebration. As they don’t celebrate Christmas, they decorate the New Year’s tree, the children receive gifts and they eat many delicious traditional foods.
Italians celebrate with lentils, for good luck. They throw away old things from the house and believe that the first person you see after midnight will determine the good luck for the New Year.
In Denmark people break plates on the doorsteps of their friends and family. The more shards you will have in front of your house the next morning, the luckier you will be. Danes also stand on a chair at midnight, to ‘leap into the new year’.
British traditionally watch the Queen’s New Year speech and ask a dark haired man to come through the front door, carrying salt (for money), bread (for enough food) and coal (for a warm year). In Wales people try to pay off all their debts before the old year ends.
Spain has many New Year’s Eve traditions, from wearing yellow underwear for good luck, placing a gold coin into the champagne glass at midnight or eating twelve grapes, one for each month of the year, with every new clock ring at midnight.
No matter what you do and where you will celebrate the coming of 2022, be optimistic, confident and open to new adventures and possibilities.
Let the NEW YEAR come!
About the author:
She speaks Romanian, English, French, German and Italian, gives lectures on intercultural communication and is an active NGO volunteer.