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New Year's Eve… Around The World

Posted by Cindy Clarke on 12/31/2014
Posted in: Tauck’s Travelogue
Tags: Vienna, Holiday, tradition, New Years Eve

fireworks 3It seems that as soon as you’ve made your holiday list and checked it twice, it’s time to make those New Year’s resolutions again. The annual ritual to mark the changing of the years with new wishes has become a tradition for so many of us – one that got its start long ago.

The ancient Babylonians made promises to their gods at the start of each year that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debts. The Romans began each year by making promises for self-improvement to the god Janus, for whom the month of January is named, and in medieval times, knights would take the "peacock vow" – by placing their hands on a live or roasted peacock or pheasant – during the last feast of the Christmas season each year to reaffirm their commitment to the ideals of chivalry.

New Year’s Eve traditions around the world have been noisy for centuries, too. In Asia guns and firecrackers were traditionally used to frighten demons and the forces of darkness, banishing them from the New Year. American colonists shot pistols in the air; Italians let church bells peal; and the Swiss beat drums or rang cowbells and still do. Today fireworks light up the sky with a bang from Australia to the Americas as midnight celebrations chime in.

Food and drink, culturally diverse, are integral parts of the New Year’s tradition too. Uncorking champagne is a standard favourite of the festivities in the U.S. Wassail, the Gaelic term for good health, is served in England, with a spiced “hot pot” version enjoyed in Scotland. In Holland, toasts of good tidings are made with hot-spiced wine.

new years food 2Originating in the Civil War when a stash of black-eyed peas saved the residents of war-ravaged Vicksburg, Mississippi from sure starvation, Hoppin’ John, a traditional dish made with black-eyed peas or cowpeas, gets the New Year off to a lucky start in the southern states of America. Ring-shaped cakes, like the donuts that are eaten in Hungary, Poland, and the Netherlands, and Holland’s puffy, fruit-stuffed ollie bollen, symbolize coming full circle in good fortune, as do the honey-drenched balls of fried dough dusted with powdered sugar called chiacchiere they eat in Italy.

In some cultures, special treats are baked into New Year’s cakes giving the recipient a run of good luck for the entire year. In Greece, a special round cake called vasilopita is baked with a coin hidden inside. Sweden and Norway hide a lucky almond in rice pudding. And Mexico’s ring-shaped fruitcake, rosca de reyes, often hides several treats for lucky diners.

Eating rice in India and Pakistan promises prosperity as does downing twelve grapes, one for each stroke of the clock, at midnight in Spain, Portugal, Cuba and Ecuador – Peru eats thirteen grapes, with one extra for good measure! Cod, a popular feast food since the Middle Ages, swims into New Year’s culinary feasts in marzipan pig 2Denmark and Italy. Dried herring is consumed at midnight in Poland and Germany. The Swedes celebrate with a smorgasbord of different fish dishes, and in Japan, certain fish are eaten for separate wishes: herring roe for fertility, shrimp for long life and dried sardines – once used to fertilize rice fields – for a good harvest. Due to its rich fat content, pork signifies wealth and prosperity and symbolizes progress in other cultures. Roast suckling pig is served on New Year’s Day in Cuba, Spain, Portugal, Hungary and Austria; mini marzipan pigs are also used to decorate Alpine tables. Pig’s feet are on the menu in Sweden; roast pork and sausages star in German feasts; and pork is regularly served in Italy and the United States as well.

Starting the New Year off on the right foot includes adhering to customs hundreds of years old. In Scotland, the custom of “first-footing” – the visiting of friends and family immediately after midnight to welcome in the New Year – is an important part of their Hogmanay (New Year’s) celebration. In Belgium, Saint Sylvester Eve is a time for family parties; in China, the front doors to every house are painted in red to symbolize happiness and good fortune. The custom of gift giving on January 1 came in the form of gilded nuts or coins in ancient Rome. Eggs, a symbol of fertility, were exchanged by the Persians. Early Egyptians traded earthenware flasks and in Scotland, coal, shortbread and silverware are exchanged for good luck.

And in cities and towns everywhere that magical New Year’s Eve kiss with the person you hope to keep kissing is a favourite age-old belief that still prevails today, along with those resolutions I now find myself making.

In addition to eating less, exercising more, and other every-year promises I tend to make each year, I resolve to: spend more time with my family and friends, learn something new, enjoy life fully, and savor more experiences, all of which I can do by travelling more… with Tauck!

Vienna EventMake it a tradition to ring in the New Year with Tauck – join us on our once-in-a-lifetime Tauck Event in Vienna in 2015, savoring cultural experiences in royal palaces you’ll long remember.

Spend more time with your family on Tauck Bridges family holidays… specially crafted so that families of every generation can see, do, learn, discover and share the memories of a lifetime together.

Learn something new. Tauck’s Culturious trips are for small groups of active travellers who want to immerse, culturally and completely, in places you’ve dreamed of exploring like Tuscany, Cinque Terre, Provence, and more.

Enjoy life fully. Toss your cares overboard and chart a course for adventure on Tauck’s Small Ship Cruises where all your needs are anticipated and taken care of for you, and enjoy life in the Mediterranean, Greek Isles, Latin America and more aboard a private yacht.

Savor your experiences. There’s nothing like an award-winning Tauck European River Cruise to wow you with in-depth discoveries of storied riverside cities and towns where days are filled with insider sightseeing on shore and nights feature regional traditions aboard your luxury floating hotel.
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