The first day of the year according to the Gregorian calendar is celebrated with lavish celebrations all over the globe, which is more or less the same everywhere. However, many countries have their own New Year’s Eve traditions and so have Bengalis.
In the majority of the places, New Year’s Eve is marked by specific traditions, such as the lighting of fireworks and spending time with family and friends. However, many parts of the world celebrate the New Year in ways that may be unfamiliar to the majority of people. There are individuals in countries such as Japan, Columbia, Scotland, Denmark, Brazil etc. who perform particular rituals, typically at the stroke of midnight, to ensure good fortune. It is believed that wearing symbolic colors or hanging onions at doorstep will promote good fortune, prosperity, and financial success in the coming year.
We celebrate The Bengali New Year, is celebrated on April 14 or on the first day of the Bengali calendar. This Bengali holiday is also known as Pohela Boishakh and is commemorated with great fervor and enthusiasm. The festivities include the traditional Mongol Shobhajatra (procession), culinary festivals, and fairs, among other things. Pohela Boishakh is one of the most colorful festivals through which Bengalis say goodbye to the previous year and greet the New Year.
Pohela Boishakh is all about colors, festivity and positivity! It is a significant Bengali festival because it represents the beginning of a new fiscal year and a Bengali holiday. On this day, people typically dress in traditional clothing (saree, panjabi, kurta), eat “Panta-Illish” and visit their friends and family, wishing them “Shubho Noboborsho.”
Just like Bengalis, there are other cultures around the world who celebrate their new years in a different manner. Let’s see how other cultures celebrate their new year’s:
Spain: Eating 12 grapes
The Spanish begin the new year by eating 12 grapes, which represent each tick of the timepiece. The tradition of “las doce uvas de la suerte” or grape eating began in the late nineteenth century and is believed to ward off evil and increase the likelihood of a prosperous and fortunate new year.
However, this is only believed to work if the grapes are eaten in a matter of seconds, as they must be completely consumed before the clock strikes midnight.
Denmark: Smashing Plates and Jumping off Chairs
Residents of Denmark traditionally celebrate New Year’s Eve by throwing old plates and glasses against the doors of their families to ward off evil spirits. People are thought to be more well-liked and popular if their homes have more shattered dinnerware in the front yard.
This custom is viewed as a means to bid farewell to the previous year and welcome the new one. It is also considered a symbol of good fortune and prosperity, as it is believed that the sound of shattering plates will bring prosperity in the new year.
Additionally, they collectively stand on chairs and spring off of them at midnight to ‘leap’ into January in the hopes of good fortune.
Greece: Hanging Onions
For New Year’s in Greece, it is customary to hang chains of onions. The Greeks believe that onions signify rebirth, so they hang them on their doors in hopes of a prosperous new year.
This practice is known as “podariko” or “smudging with an onion” and it is believed to bring good fortune and ward off evil entities.
Typically, the onion is wrapped in ribbon or cloth and hung on the door handle or above the doorway. It is left there until it is completely dry, which can take weeks. It is believed that as the onion dries, it absorbs negative energy and protects the house from harm.
Russia: Making Wishes in a Drink
New Year’s Eve beverages are a requirement in many places, but in Russia they serve a very different purpose. Russians will write their New Year’s wishes on scraps of paper, light them on fire at the stroke of midnight, and then put the ashes into a drink.
For the desires to come true, one needs to finish the drink…and swallow the ashes along with it in the first minute of the new year, as the ritual states.
Ecuador: Burning of scarecrows
Despite being a necessity for many farmers, scarecrows are frequently portrayed as frightening and malevolent in a great deal of horror literature and popular media.
However, Ecuadorians have an entirely distinct New Year’s Eve tradition involving scarecrows. It is customary in Ecuador to celebrate the New Year by burning effigies or scarecrows, which are referred to as “aos viejos” or “old years” in Spanish. Typically, these sculptures are constructed from discarded clothing, newspapers, and other materials, and are stuffed with sand or other combustible materials.
On New Year’s Eve, they set fire to scarecrows, often accompanied by items that represent the negative events of the previous year.
Columbia: Three Potatoes
Columbians lay one peeled, one unpeeled, and one partially peeled potato under their beds on New Year’s Eve. This practice is referred to as “las tres papas” or “the three potatoes.” When the clock chimes midnight, they pull out the first potato their hand touches. Each potato represents a different outcome; for example, a peeled potato signifies financial ruin. Unpeeled potatoes portend a prosperous year for all. And a half-peeled potato represents the year’s mixed fortunes.
It is believed that the potatoes absorb the intentions made during the night and then help make them come true in the new year. After retrieving the three potatoes from beneath the bed, they are typically sliced and consumed as part of a celebratory New Year’s meal.
Japan: The tradition of 108 rings
Japan, a country entrenched in ancient traditions, has maintained a few New Year’s traditions. According to Buddhist tradition, bells are rung 108 times on the eve of New Year’s Eve to purge sins and help start the new year with a clear slate. The tradition is also referenced frequently in Japanese popular culture. This custom is called “Joya no Kane” or “The Bell of Joya.”
In many Buddhist traditions, 108 is considered a sacred number and is said to signify the number of earthly desires humans must overcome in order to attain enlightenment.
Brazil: Tossing White Flowers in the Ocean
A romantic New Year’s tradition, the practice of throwing white flowers into the ocean is common in Brazil. Residents will toss white flowers and candles into the Atlantic Ocean as offerings to Yemoja, a water-based deity who is believed to bring good fortune in the future year.
The traditional color of Yemanjá is white, and the flowers are selected for their purity and attractiveness. Daisies, roses, and lilies are the most commonly used flowers, and they are frequently tied together with ribbons or set in small boats before being cast into the ocean.
In Brazil, especially in the cities of Salvador and Rio de Janeiro, thousands of people assemble on the beaches to participate in the ritual.