I wouldn't classify what we do to celebrate New Year’s as tradition. We just go out and celebrate with friends and family. We make noise, drink too much (maybe), eat too much (for sure) and some of us spend a lot of money to go to a fancy club or hotel for a party of virtual strangers.
We do have the tradition of making resolutions which is a good idea, except for the downer after your first screw up. And we weren't even the first to do that: "the most popular resolution of early Babylonians was to return borrowed farm equipment."
Here are some real traditions that make us look pretty simple:
- Muslims celebrate the New Year by wearing new clothes.
- In England, on the stroke of midnight, people open the back door to symbolize "letting the old year out". It is also traditional to ask the first dark haired man you see to come through the front door carrying salt, coal and bread. This symbolizes that this year everyone will have enough money (salt), food (bread), and warmth (coal).
- Southeast Asians release birds and turtles to assure themselves good luck in the twelve months ahead.
- Hindus leave shrines next to their bed so they can see beautiful objects at the start of the New Year.
- In Wales it is believed that you should pay off all debts before the New Year begins, since ending a year in debt means a whole new year of debt.
- The Scots celebrate Hogmanay. The word comes from the name of an oat cake that was traditionally given out to children on New Year's Eve. At midnight the "first footing" takes place; first person to set foot in a home at the New Year is believed to affect the fortunes of all who live there. Strangers are especially thought to bring good luck.
- Japanese prepare rice cakes at a social event the week before the New Year and on New Year’s they give out colorful little envelopes with money in them, called otoshidama, to children.
Okay. I say let's move to Japan! Have a Happy New year, however you celebrate it!