Project Van and I have teamed up to bring you two great blogs about the respective cultural traditions of the USA and Japan when it comes to the New Year’s Celebration. So here we go!
AUTHOR’S NOTE: Apparently, Project Van didn’t get the New Year’s blog done in time. So maybe there won’t be a super double blog. But we’ll see if she posts it anyway.
First, in the USA, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day have their own respective customs. In Japan, New Year’s Day is a celebration that goes on for the first three days of the year and is deemed the biggest holiday of the year. In the USA, without a doubt, Christmas is our biggest holiday, followed closely by Thanksgiving.
From here on out, I’ll allow Van Tilden from Project Van to inform everyone on the Japanese customs, which will be posted in her blog with the link here. I’ll go on with the American customs.
New Year’s Eve is probably the largest drinking holiday that we have. People drink immense amounts of alcohol at parties and bars. Many people also shoot fireworks.
A lot of places have public fireworks displays where you can go and see professional shows done. When I was a kid, we shot fireworks at our own house.
Many people watch the huge ball drop in New York’s City’s Times Square, along with the huge countdown.
Typically at midnight, everyone yells “Happy New Year!” and the music for the song Auld Lang Syne begins playing. By this time, people are likely to be singing in a slurred voice because they’re drunk
New Year’s Day is a little more interesting because there are more distinctive elements to it, especially in the South.
Universally, New Year’s Day in the USA is a time for sales, sales, SALES. All kinds of great deals start at many different places, so people are out shopping the whole day.
A huge part of New Year’s Day, especially for me and many people, is the making of New Year’s Resolutions. You resolve to do something new, and it turns out that the most popular resolution is to lose weight. My resolutions almost always include “become fluent in Japanese,” at which I fail and have failed continuously, haha.
Also, many people end up breaking their resolutions fairly quickly.
The lore and legends of New Year’s Day are pretty interesting.
First, it’s said that whatever you do on New Year’s Day, you’ll do frequently throughout the rest of the year.
Second, it’s said that you should never clean or wash on New Year’s Day. If you sweep your house, you sweep all your luck away. If you wash clothes, you wash all your luck away. This same idea became a bastardized superstition, and my father swears that if you wash clothing on New Year’s Day, it will kill family members.
Third, in the South at least, it’s considered traditional and lucky to eat black eyed peas, collard greens, and crackling bread. Crackling bread is basically baked cornbread with pieces of pork crackling in it. I can’t describe to you what exactly pork crackling is other than to say it’s an almost inedible piece of pork. Black eyed peas are eaten for luck, greens are eaten for wealth.
I despise the black eyed peas/collard greens dynamic more than anything, especially when these are the only things cooked for New Year’s. Anything that ends in “greens” without fail tastes disgusting and has the consistency of slime. I’ve read elsewhere that some people also eat cabbage on New Year’s Day instead of greens.
Fourth, at the stroke of midnight, you should open the doors to the house to let out the Old Year. Also, you should make as much noise as possible to scare away evil spirits.
Traditionally in some places, people eat things that look like money- anything that is round, like a coin. Apparently donuts are a popular item in some places.
A baby is often used to symbolize the New Year, with an old man symbolizing the Old Year. This tradition apparently goes way into the past.
A few years ago, I tried to start setting my own traditions for New Year’s. This began with Hot Pockets, which I can no longer eat because of the meat content. Incidentally, Hot Pockets which contain only cheese and sauce exist, but I’ve only found them once or twice. The rest are stuffed with meat.
The Hot Pockets idea was great and was specifically designed so that I wouldn’t have to eat the nasty New Year’s foods.
Last year, I think I went with pizza rolls and donuts. There was also the idea to read Tarot cards (the fortunes for the New Year!), but that didn’t work out so well as that required effort and I had little energy to do it. I think I eventually did Tarot readings, I just can’t remember when.
Maybe I’ll just start making my own Hot Pockets or something.
If I’ve left anything out of the blog, I do apologize. I can’t recall anything else at the moment of what we do for New Year’s.