It might surprise you that as a child I never loved Christmas more than I loved New Year’s. Though the feeling of waking up to presents (magically left in the house by a comical man in a red suit) was always thrilling, the adrenaline rush did not last more than a day (or even a morning). To me, nothing ever lived up to the magic of New Year’s Eve.
Growing up in Caracas, Venezuela in the 1990’s, New Year’s was the biggest party to be celebrated. Something about elegantly welcoming a new year in our lives was sensational in my young mind. I am a big goal-setter, which means that as time went by, I only took my resolutions more and more to heart. But what really took this holiday to the next level, and kept it a personal favorite through the decades, was the 5 quirky rituals my family performed at midnight.
1. Eating grapes at midnight.
This may not be as shocking for countries with some Spanish culture in them. Eating 12 grapes at midnight for good luck is a typical Spanish tradition still carried by many (if not most) latin countries colonized by Spain. Some people may make this an elaborate ritual where you make a wish for every grape, and you have to eat 1 grape per minute or you will have bad luck the whole year. While making wishes is always fun, my family had too much to do at midnight, and the drill was to put the grapes in the champagne and eat them as quickly as possible while shooting down your drink.
2. Eating lentils.
I remember my mom cooking lentils on New Year’s. The smell of lentils tends to send me back to memories of my mom’s perfume, my fancy dress, fireworks, and champagne glasses. While you do not have to eat an entire bowl, 2 or 3 tablespoons were enough to ensure prosperity for the coming year. Lentils are also eaten after midnight in Italy as a way to welcome the New Year with good luck and prosperity. Lentils have a coin-like shape, hence the association.
3. Rubbing a big bill all over your body.
I am not kidding. This part was always hilarious. If you missed out on lentils, a quick rubbing of a bill on your arms, stomach, and legs will guarantee you get more prosperity in the coming year. In my grandmother’s home, we generally stood around the dinner table as we passed the bill around while eating those grapes and lentils as fast as we could. So many rituals, so little time. The time pressure made it fun, and the family clown would always take too long rubbing that bill.
4. Sweep the house.
I never participated in this less popular ritual. But there was always an older member of the family willing to sweep in order to get rid of negative energy, and welcome positive energy into the house for the New Year!
5. Walking outside with your suitcase.
At last, my most beloved tradition. The only time I have not done this has been while actually traveling. Growing up, I remember going down to what was then a lively and very cosmopolitan Caracas. Rolling your empty suitcase down the street while people asked each other, “Where are you going?!” and various countries were yelled out. It brings me nostalgia and satisfaction to think how deeply my younger self believed the trips would come true. Now that I am a full-time traveler, I never hesitate to keep this ritual alive on New Year’s. This year, I will be wishing for a luxurious 30th birthday trip with my best friend to Mexico’s most beautiful coastal areas, which I have not been able to visit while living in Mexico City.
Whether you are a firm believer in rituals as an effective way to creating your own luck in life, or you totally dismiss the possibility of magic in the world, there is no denying the fun in celebrating New Year’s Eve with laughter. If nothing else, performing these quirky rituals with friends and family will create beloved New Year’s memories that will have you looking forward to this holiday like never before. While these traditions seem to focus on Positivity, Wealth, and Travel, I wonder what happened to Love and Health! Guess all you need in life is a happy attitude, and more money to travel the world! Let love and health follow you wherever you may go.
Happy New Year!
Photo: Timo Stern on Unsplash; Covi, Erwan Hesry