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New Year's rituals


     Midnight approaches

“Out with the old and in with the new” is the cornerstone theme for New Year’s Eve. So isn’t it appropriate to include the practice of opening the back door to escort the old man out and opening the front door to greet the nubile infant, the New Year. Such rituals are born of custom, tradition and good luck superstition, but from whence do they come?

Watching the ball drop in Times Square is a time honored tradition for many celebrating in front of the home fire. This tradition began long before television made its debut. “It was in 1907 that the New Year's Eve Ball made its maiden descent from the flagpole atop One Times Square.”

“The first New Year's Eve Ball, made of iron and wood and adorned with one hundred 25-watt light bulbs, was 5 feet in diameter and weighed 700 pounds. It was built by a young immigrant metalworker named Jacob Starr, and for most of the twentieth century the company he founded, sign maker Artkraft Strauss, was responsible for lowering the ball.”

Party goers shake rattles, blow horns and other noise makers to usher in the New Year. The banging of pots and pans outside open doors at midnight is the poor man’s substitute. Use anything to make a great noise, because a huge commotion keeps evil away from your doorstep.

And make sure to “pop” the champagne cork because the sound is the heralding of something that is beginning, like a gun shot to start a race.

I’m adding a nod to my Portuguese heritage this year by eating 12 grapes at midnight, one for good luck for each month of the New Year. Seemingly a unique find until I tripped over a reference to an article by Martha Stewart which said to string them on a skewer and place them in your champagne glass like a stirrer.

Singing “Auld Lang Syne” is the natural accompaniment to toasting in the New Year. “Auld Lang Syne” is an old Scottish song that was first published by the poet Robert Burns in the 1796 edition of the book, Scots Musical Museum. Burns transcribed it (and made some refinements to the lyrics) after he heard it sung by an old man from the Ayrshire area of Scotland, Burn’s homeland. …….”Auld Lang Syne” literally translates as “old long since” and means “times gone by”. The song asks whether old friends and times will be forgotten and promises to remember people of the past with fondness.”

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup of kindness yet,
For auld lang syne!

Don’t forget to kiss someone special at the stroke of midnight in order to ensure affection in the coming year. Everyone female gets to be Cinderella at the stroke of midnight. Follow up that kiss with washing your money, the more the better, to ensure prosperity and wealth for the next 365 days. And for good luck the Poles and German’s like to pop a cracker or two topped with herring.

Many Poles also incorporate a carry over from Christmas Eve by breaking “Oplatek” with each other, a communion like wafer, with wishes for health, wealth and happiness in the year to come.

It’s always worthwhile to wake up in time to watch the Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena on New Year’s Day. TV is a weak second cousin to the actual event as it is breathtakingly gorgeous live.

“The first Tournament of Roses was staged in 1890 by members of Pasadena's Valley Hunt Club, former residents of the East and Midwest eager to showcase their new home's mild winter weather. During the next few years, the festival expanded to include marching bands and motorized floats. The games on the town lot (which was re-named Tournament Park in 1900) included ostrich races, bronco busting demonstrations and a race between a camel and an elephant (the elephant won).”

And while you are watching the parade and sipping Bloody Mary’s you can be crafting your New Year’s resolutions. So what if none of them survive beyond January. It’s tradition.