While this New Year’s Eve will certainly be different than last year’s, it is still the turning of a page. Beyond the famed fireworks of Sydney or the ball drop in New York, there are traditions around the world that can be instructive or fun in choosing how to close out this year in preparation for the new year.
Oosouji means “the big cleaning.” It is essential to start the new year on a clean slate, so across Japan each household removes their clutter accumulated over this past year, reorders, reorganizes, and cleans their home from top to bottom, to begin the new year with a fresh start. The same is true in business, where employees participate in cleansing their work environment before the year’s end, clearing out old inventory and readying their shelves and work spaces for an auspicious new beginning. In addition to cleaning one’s home and work environment, it is necessary to cleanse one’s spirit, discard all the impure thoughts and feelings that have festered during the year, and begin anew with clear heart and mind.
Joya No Kane is a Buddhist tradition in which each temple’s monks alternate in ringing their bell 108 times between 11:00pm and midnight, because of their belief that there are 108 different types of discardable negative emotions. Each clang of the bell is a clarion call to rid ourselves of those impurities and herald a new chapter with purity of mind and spirit.
What about special foods to eat on New Year’s Eve?
With 12 green grapes on hand, ready yourself for T-minus 12-seconds, and then gobble down all 12 grapes before midnight strikes. In doing so, 12 months of good fortune is assured. But, if you cannot finish all 12 in the allotted 12 seconds, you run the risk of bad luck. It’s the chance you have to take.
Place three potatoes—one peeled, one unpeeled, and one half peeled—under your bed. When the clock strikes midnight, reach under your bed for your fateful potato. The first one you touch will foretell how you year will unfold. A peeled potato represents financial problems; an unpeeled potato represents abundance; and a half-peeled potato is somewhere in the middle.
Assemble twelve round fruits. Each one represents one month of the year. Their round shape is supposed to symbolize a coin. Serving these fruits on New Year’s Eve for your guests will ensure a fruitful and prosperous year.
Write down your New Year’s wishes. Then burn the paper on which you wrote them, and sprinkle the ashes into your glass of champagne (any sparkling wine will do). Upon toasting to the new year, imbibe the ashes and effervescence of your wishes. “Za nо́–vij good!”
Whatever traditions you follow or create, let’s hope it’s a great one to launch a promising new year!
Adam Waxman is an award winning travel journalist focusing on food, wine and well being. As well as an actor in film, television and formerly, the Stratford Festival, he is the Publisher of DINE and Destinations magazine.