New Year’s Eve is the time we gather together, either with family and friends, or with the larger community around us, for the purpose of saying farewell [and sometimes also good riddance] to the year just ending, and to set the stage so that the coming new year will be a good one. Here are three ways to think about letting the old year out, and ushering the new one in:
First, let it go. Let it go! (c’mon, sing with us: Don’t hold it back anymore!) and say goodbye (or good riddance?) to the old year. How do you mark the end of the year?
Some cultures dictate that at midnight on New Year’s Eve, all the doors of a house must be flung open to let the old year escape, and let the new year in. The Dutch burn bonfires of Christmas trees on the street and launch fireworks to burn away the old; the Japanese give the house a thorough scrubbing and throw Bonenkai or “forget-the-year” parties.
Other traditions call for stocking your pantry cupboards and paying off outstanding bills, settling old accounts, and tying up any loose ends hanging out there so that you are ready for what the new year brings.
Parties for hosting; marshmallows for toasting. While you’re wrapping up the old year with cleaning and burning and paying and stocking up and whatnot, don’t forget the more festive tradition of having a party on the last night of the year.
Take a break from super-sweet cookies and candies, and serve your guests some finger foods that are savory, spicy, or salty. Here are five “fast and furious” tips for holiday party foods.
Be ready to ring out the old year, and round out a festive month, with some fancy holiday drinks. Here’s a look at some of our favorite winter beverages (including this crazy-good Cranberry Punch) for the celebratory season.
Second, start the new year on the right foot. First impressions count! Superstition says that what you do in the first moments and hours of the New Year will set the precedent for what happens throughout the rest of the coming year:
The Scottish also have a custom of “first-footing” to kick off the new year. (Get it? Kick off?) Shortly after midnight on New Year’s Eve, neighbors pay visits to each other and impart New Year’s wishes. Traditionally, “First Foots” would bring along a gift of coal for the fire, or, more practical in a modern home, some shortbread. It is considered especially lucky if a tall, dark, and handsome man is the first to enter your house after the new year is rung in. [To which, women everywhere say, “DUH.”]
What comes around goes around. Many cultures believe that any food shaped like a ring is good luck, because it symbolizes “coming full circle,” completing a year’s cycle. For that reason, the Dutch believe that eating donuts on New Year’s Day will bring good fortune. [Who are we to argue with this solid logic? Donuts are fantastic.They might as well be lucky, too.]
Round and round. Other “circular” foods, without holes, are believed to bring luck for the new year, too. Black Eyed Peas [the legume, not the band with annoyingly catchy songs] and rice make up Hoppin’ John, a New Year’s dish from the American south, thought to bring a prosperous year filled with luck.
Put your “money” (foods) where your mouth is. Round foods symbolize coins – which in turn symbolize good fortune. With your spherical black eyed peas, or lentils, or other round foods, many New Year’s celebrants serve up cooked greens like collard, mustard, or turnip greens. These foods are traditional accompaniments to beans and rice, and are also green – the color of money. A little cornbread on the side [it’s tasty *and* the color of gold!] rounds out the lucky menu on January 1.
We’ve got more suggestions in this blog post about what to eat for a happy new year.
Third, resolve for 2017 to bring on the new. Last but definitely not least, make a New Year’s resolution or two. But make it a promise to add something to your routine, a pledge to expand your horizons in the new year.
Resolutions that call for giving up favorite or habitual things are hard to keep (no sugar in my coffee! give up being a couch potato! quit smoking! lose the weight!). If you look at it from a “giving up” perspective, the resolution feels like you’re being deprived of something, and that makes it hard to start – and even harder to maintain.
On the other hand, resolving to do something new or adding a new twist to your existing regimen feels more like abundance, and may be easier to implement, a promise that’s easier to keep.
For instance, here’s one of our own resolutions for the new year: instead of saying “we’re not going our to eat as often in 2017” (which, frankly, seems like giving up a lot), we’re telling ourselves “in the new year, we’re going to try out at least one new dinner recipe every week.”
Next week, that will probably be some kind of new Indian curry we make with our new Keep Calm and Curry On box (pictured).
However you choose to achieve it (be more polite! get more sleep! travel the world!), have a happy new year. We wish you the very best for 2017.