It is 2014 now! In Korea, there are a variety of cultural conventions that people do for the New Year. People eat Tteokguk (rice-cake soup) and enjoy several traditional folk games. Although recently those traditional customs have changed a little bit, many of them still remain in our lives as distinct Korean culture.
What about other countries? New Year means a lot to most countries all over the world. Have you ever wondered what students from other countries do for the New Year? The Postech Times interviewed some foreign exchange students to figure out what they would do if they were in their home countries.
Special Thanks to Cesario De Souza Clai (EEE), Reimo Jahn (CiTE), and Special thanks to Jonathan Castelli (ME). <Editor's comment>
Let’s first see the case of India. There are a variety of religions in India. Therefore, the culture for the New Year varies according to the religion people follow. Since people with different religions follow different calendars, they have their own new year to celebrate. However, on Dec. 31, almost all the religions celebrate the New Year together like people do in Korea. Among those festivals happening all around India that day, one in Goa, called ‘Sunburn Goa’ is one of the most crowded. Famous DJs from all over the world come to heat the atmosphere of the New Year party. A myriad of people gather, eat, dance, and enjoy the music. Other than this, there are also several famous, large-scaled festivals to celebrate the coming year in Delhi, Mumbai, and other cities as well. All the buildings are decorated with lights and many people do a lot of beautiful fireworks. Interviewee also said what family does inside home. All the relatives come together and play games (such as Housie, Tambola, and Bingo), have delicious food together, and dance till midnight. Lastly, after midnight they make wishes for each other.
What about China? Compared to India, China has somewhat more similar cultural customs with Korea probably because of closer distance. In China, people stay up all night to do fireworks, celebrating the New Year’s coming. Some people even spend an entire month’s salary to buy a stockpile of firecrackers. There are two reasons why people do this. First, people believe that the boom sounds from the firework scare away all the misfortune and evil spirits from the previous year so that they can get a fresh start. Also, people make their New Year’s wish looking at those glittering lights in the sky.
Due to the enormous size of China, foods people eat for the New Year differ according to region. However, the most common one that people enjoy, regardless of their location, is noodles and dumplings, especially dim sum. As they eat noodles, they wish for a long life. They also wish for wealth by putting coins into dishes. (Coins are for not eating, of course.)
In Brazil, there is a clothes-based tradition. There is a superstition that each color has a certain meaning. The most predominant color is white, as it means peace. Usually underneath the white clothes, people wear different colored underwear. Green means good health. Yellow pertains to money. Red is to attract passion and romance. Purple stands for inspiration. With these combinations, the color of people’s clothes represents their wish for the New Year.
There is also some tradition related to food. It is suggested to eat fish and pork on that day, as they are foods that represent moving forward. For example, fish keep on going upstream. People commonly consume lentils and rice on the day to confer blessings, good luck, fortune, and prosperity in one’s life. Eating pomegranates supposedly brings money, and nuts prosperity. A food to avoid is chicken. Its streaking motion with its feet indicates the reminiscence towards the past. It is suggested that one should look ahead toward the New Year, instead of halting in the past.
Another kind of tradition in Brazil is to jump over 7 different waves, and for each wave, one makes a different wish for the New Year. The most famous places to celebrate the New Year are Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.
One popular tradition in Germany is to drink the Feuerzangen-Bowle. This can be translated into Flaming Fire Tongs Punch. This is a hot German New Year’s punch made with red wine and rum. More specifically, it is rum-soaked sugarloaf set on fire. The sugarloaf then drips into mulled wine.
Another traditional activity is the “Bleigiessen,” which means lead pouring. Lead shaped like tea leaves is melted in a tablespoon and is then poured into a bucket of water. Foam arises to the top of the water. By attempting to interpret and understand what the foam patterns indicate, it shows what one should predict for the coming year. For example, if the lead forms a ball, it means that luck will roll one’s way. A shape of an anchor could possibly mean that help is needed.
When families or friends are gathered, one proclaims one’s New Year’s resolution. Even though the resolution may not be enacted, each person proclaims his/her New Year’s intentions just to show that he/she has some kind of plan.
In Germany, movie specials such as “Dinner for One” & “Der Sylvester-Punsch” are on air. These programs are only shown at the end of the year.
French superstition has is that the mistletoe brings prosperity and chance. It is said that if a couple kisses underneath the mistletoe, they will be married in a year.
Some New Year’s delights are champagne (sparkling wine) or Foie Gras. Foie Gras is also known as flavored duck or goose. In French traditions, it is said special dinner such as le Reveillon de Saint-Sylvestre brings prosperity and good luck to all of those who attend the feast. People offer their best wishes, and share their New Year’s resolutions. Jonathan Castelli (France, ME) noted that he can remember his grandmother lighting some small lanterns on the windows to bring fortune.
There are five examples of other kinds of cultures, and there would be a lot more different countries with their own distinctive culture around the earth. If you are bored with your own traditional ways of celebrating the New Year, what about trying something new in other countries? It would also be nice to see the sunrise in foreign countries.