Dorothy Rosby
Contributing columnist
My year is off to a good start, and I hope the same for you. My New Year’s tradition is to bid the old year a gentle goodnight around ten o’clock, then wake up before my family does on New Year’s Day and sit alone with my cat, my caffeine and my journal. Honestly, if I see the New Year in at all, it’s because I got up around midnight to use the bathroom.
A new year is definitely worth celebrating though. So is the fact that we won’t have to hear “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” again for another whole year. But I’m a morning person. That means New Year’s Day is more meaningful to me than New Year’s Eve, if only because I’m awake for it. If I sleep past 6:30 on New Year’s Day, I feel like the year is off to a bad start.
I suspect I’m in the minority though. A quick internet search reveals hundreds of New Year’s Eve traditions here and around the globe. Those who celebrated many of them may still be recovering. There are some common ingredients: alcohol, food, fireworks, alcohol, kissing, bells and alcohol. As the designated driver at every party I go to, I can only guess that the alcohol allows the revelers to forget the worst of the past year and start the new one off just as badly.
Other traditions are tamer. One Latin American tradition is to make a list of all the unhappy events of the past year and throw it into the fire before midnight. I love that idea. I have a less dramatic tradition for saying goodbye to the old year. For many years, I’ve written a column in January that rehashes all the painful life lessons I learned during the past year. Unfortunately, I didn’t learn enough in 2018 to fill a column.
When it comes to starting a new year, I know many people whose tradition is to make then break resolutions. I make the same one every year: To get the Christmas decorations put away by Valentine’s Day.
My family doesn’t have any particular New Year’s food traditions, though we do always eat. But food traditions around the world run the gamut from seafood to sauerkraut. In some countries, they hide a coin or other object in the food, and it’s said that the person who finds one will have good luck in the year ahead—unless they choke or break a tooth, which is probably a bad omen.
One of the most prominent celebrations in our country is the ball drop held in New York City’s Times Square. I’ve dropped the ball many times, but I’ve never considered it anything to celebrate.
In parts of South Africa they don’t drop the ball, they throw the furniture. Throwing old furniture out the window symbolizes casting out the old and starting fresh. They don’t do this as much as they once did though, maybe because it wasn’t the best way to start a new year if you were walking in the street below.
In some parts of the world, the Balkans, the Middle East, parts of Afghanistan and elsewhere, that ring in a new year with celebratory gunfire. I read it on the internet, so it must be true. One hopes those shooting haven’t had too much champagne.
There are many other unusual traditions around the world—wearing yellow underwear in Venezuela, breaking plates in Denmark, and walking around with an empty suitcase in Ecuador. In the Philippines, children jump at midnight in the hopes of increasing their height. I doubt it works, but before you judge anyone else’s New Year’s traditions, consider the American tradition of starting the New Year with a hangover.
(Dorothy Rosby is the author of several humor books, including I Used to Think I Was Not That Bad and Then I Got to Know Me Better. Contact [email protected])