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New Year’s good luck found in food and strange traditions

By Sharon Cox, For The Sun

New Year celebrations around the world share a common theme of good luck, prosperity and good health.

Every country and culture has its New Year’s Eve traditional activities and foods as well as the actual day’s foods and practices of foretelling the future.

We in the United States share a televised version of the countdown to midnight as New York’s Times Square is lit up and the multi-faceted crystal ball drops, everyone cheers, we sing “Auld-Lang-Syne,” toast the new year, kiss the person next to us and then slowly make our way back to sanity and sleep off the old year.

Then, on the first day of the year, depending on our heritage and location, we share age-old activities, said to guarantee a healthy, wealthy and lucky year ahead. Symbols of the new year for the U.S. include firecrackers, bubbly-booze, caviar and canapés, pointed (dunce) hats and noise makers.

When 2014 enters on Wednesday, there will be an assortment of strange practices taking place around the globe. Some will start on Tuesday evening and continue through the night and next day. Customs vary from country to country, but most have the same theme of wealth, happiness, love and good fortune.

In the Philippines, people wear polka dots and eat round fruits and foods. It is an invitation to the gods to give them wealth and good fortune in the new year. In Germany and Australia, there’s a strange fortune-telling exercise that uses molten lead (the metal) poured into water. As the lead hardens in the water, it creates artistic shapes. Like Chinese tea leaves are read in a cup to determine the future, the metal forms are read to determine the future as well.

There are some funny practices that focus on underwear. In Mexico bright-colored underwear is worn to bring about a specific fortune. Red undies indicate the desire for love and yellow means good luck. Bolivians believe that changing their underwear at midnight to yellow undies will bring about a favorable change in fortunes.

Burning of pictures (photos or drawings, paintings or rough sketches), whether of people or events, will end the problems that event or person caused the previous year. It is said the new year will bring about a smoother life of good luck.

Then there’s Denmark. Somehow they came up with a tradition of throwing old and used dishes at the doors of friends and neighbors on New Year’s Eve as a way of showing their integrity and loyalty toward dear ones. The residents of Norway seem to take a gentler approach of drinking wine outside as they watch the aurora borealis color the sky as the clock strikes midnight, and then celebrating with more wine and a meal that ends with the search for a lucky almond hidden in rice pudding.

In China, they shoot off firecrackers and eat rice filled with red fruits for happiness and wealth. In Japan, it is noodles for wealth and for the Pennsylvania Dutch and Germans, it’s pork and sauerkraut for good luck and fortune.

And for anyone who makes it to New Orleans for the New Year’s celebration, it will likely be raw oysters followed by cornbread, collard greens and black-eyed peas that increase good luck, wealth and love for 2014.

Regardless of customs and age-old traditions, it’s important to enjoy the transition of time. Where 2013 may have been a bummer, 2014 may be a boomer year. We can pick out traditions to follow.

The vision however, of a group of celebrants bringing in the new year at one of the city’s pubs, wearing polka dots and changing to yellow underwear while breaking dishes on doors, just might be a little too much fun and games for our snowy section of the country. But what a fun subject for a painting.

If anyone has an item for this column, please send to Sharon Cox, PO Box 1559, Jamestown, ND 58402-1559.