As we begin a New Year, I can’t think of a better place for this blog entry to come from than our New York Paladin branch located in the heart of midtown Manhattan, and I would be remiss if I did not cover the topic of New Year’s resolutions.
The celebration of the New Year is the oldest of all holidays. It was first observed in ancient Babylon about 4000 years ago. The tradition of the New Year’s Resolutions goes all the way back to 153 B.C. when Janus, a mythical king of early Rome, was placed at the head of the calendar. With two faces, Janus could look back on past events and forward to the future. Janus became the ancient symbol for resolutions and many Romans looked for forgiveness from their enemies and also exchanged gifts before the beginning of each year.
With New Year’s upon us, here’s a look at some of the good luck rituals from around the world. They are believed to bring good fortune and prosperity in the coming year.
AUSTRIA - The suckling pig is the symbol for good luck for the New Year. It’s served on a table decorated with tiny edible pigs. Dessert often consists of green peppermint ice cream in the shape of a four-leaf clover.
ENGLAND - The British place their fortunes for the coming year in the hands of their first guest. They believe the first visitor of each year should be male and bearing gifts. Traditional gifts are coal for the fire, a loaf for the table and a drink for the master. For good luck, the guest should enter through the front door and leave through the back. Guests who are empty-handed or unwanted are not allowed to enter first.
WALES - At the first toll of midnight, the back door is opened and then shut to release the old year and lock out all of its bad luck. Then at the twelfth stroke of the clock, the front door is opened and the New Year is welcomed with all of its luck.
SICILY - An old Sicilian tradition says good luck will come to those who eat lasagna on New Year’s Day, but woe if you dine on macaroni, for any other noodle will bring bad luck.
SPAIN - In Spain, when the clock strikes midnight, the Spanish eat 12 grapes, one with every toll, to bring good luck for the 12 months ahead.
PERU - The Peruvian New Year’s custom is a spin on the Spanish tradition of eating 12 grapes at the turn of the year. But in Peru, a 13th grape must be eaten to assure good luck.
GREECE - A special New Year’s bread is baked with a coin buried in the dough. The first slice is for the Christ child, the second for the father of the household and the third slice is for the house. If the third slice holds the coin, spring will come early that year.
JAPAN - The Japanese decorate their homes in tribute to lucky gods. One tradition, kadomatsu, consists of a pine branch symbolizing longevity, a bamboo stalk symbolizing prosperity, and a plum blossom showing nobility.
CHINA - For the Chinese New Year, every front door is adorned with a fresh coat of red paint, red being a symbol of good luck and happiness. Although the whole family prepares a feast for the New Year, all knives are put away for 24 hours to keep anyone from cutting themselves, which is thought to cut the family’s good luck for the next year.
UNITED STATES - The kiss shared at the stroke of midnight in the United States is derived from masked balls that have been common throughout history. As tradition has it, the masks symbolize evil spirits from the old year and the kiss is the purification into the New Year.
NORWAY - Norwegians make rice pudding on New Year’s and hide one whole almond within. Guaranteed wealth goes to the person whose serving holds the lucky almond.
No matter what your traditions are for ringing in the New Year, as you look back on past events and forward to new opportunities, everyone at Paladin wishes you happiness, health and prosperity.