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Happy New Year 2020 – Some countries toast the New Year with lentils, grapes, and colored underwear

Written by Contributor. Posted in Featured

Published on January 01, 2020 with No Comments

by Steve Euvino

What do lentils, grapes, red underwear, and a fourth-century pope named Sylvester have in common? They’re all connected to celebrations around the world of New Year’s Eve and Day.

Around the globe, countries may break open a few bottles of the bubbly, but some have their own unique ways of welcoming the New Year and bidding farewell to 2019.

Canadians, our neighbors to the north, whoop it up, for the most part, by people gathering at homes or restaurants and bars, drinking champagne, dancing, and socializing until the countdown to midnight.

However, heading south of the border, Mexicans love their lentils. You can either leave lentils outside your door on Dec. 31, eat lentil soup right before or after midnight, or put a handful in your pocket or purse. Several cultures associate lentils with abundance and good fortune.

Mexicans also like to wear red underwear, to bring love in the coming year. They also eat 12 grapes and make 12 wishes in 60 seconds. In addition to watching fireworks, Mexicans make a list of everything bad in their lives, then burn that list to ensure the bad vibes won’t return.

Elsewhere in Latin America, Panama may be small but it’s big when the New Year arrives. Panamanians also eat grapes, but they also count the seeds they spit out, then use that number for their lottery number. Having money in your hand will ensure you have money throughout the coming year, while wearing yellow undies will bring good luck.

Panama folks also burn a “stuffed man,” or muñeco, at midnight. These life-sized effigies, an old Panama tradition, are stuffed with firecrackers, then lit and beaten at the stroke of midnight. According to folklore, burning and beating these effigies destroy the sins and evils of the past year, making way for good fortune during the coming months. Some people attach strings to the muñecos so that the dolls can sit on the front porch, while people make the dolls “wave” to passersby.

Italians are among those who mark Dec. 31 as La Festa di San Silvestro. Food plays a major role in Italian festivities, as families and friends gather for huge feasts. Tradition calls for the serving of lentils, as they symbolize good fortune in the New Year.

In Poland, New Year’s Eve is known as Sylwester, because it is the Catholic feast day of St. Sylvester. Poles party hearty with food and drink. New Year’s Day festivities include hayrides into a forest where a bonfire is set and revelers enjoy sausage, bigos, and vodka. Also known as hunter’s stew, bigos is a Polish dish of chopped meat with sauerkraut and shredded cabbage, served hot with vegetables and wine.

So who was this St. Sylvester and what did he do nearly 1,700 years ago? St. Sylvester I, who died Dec. 31, 335, was the 33rd Catholic pope. Little is known of him, except that he baptized the Emperor Constantine and supposedly cured him of leprosy. Sylvester’s pontificate, covering 314-335, marked the beginning of the Christian Roman Empire.

Of course, not every nation celebrates New Year’s Day, or at least not on the same day. New Year’s is not a national holiday in Israel, as the Jewish New Year, or Rosh HaShana, takes precedence and is celebrated in September or October. Nevertheless, celebrating New Year’s “Sylvester parties” takes place in bars and clubs throughout the country.

An Islamic country, Saudi Arabia celebrates the first day of the Hijri-Islamic calendar on a family level. Muslims observe the first day of the Islamic year on the first day of the month of Muharram, which in the coming year is Aug. 19-20, 2020.

The Chinese New Year, celebrated by 20 percent of the world’s population, is marked by lion dances, Mongolian dragon dances, fireworks, family and friend gatherings, and giving red envelopes. The color red denotes good luck or fortune, happiness, and abundance.

The Chinese calendar begins Saturday, Jan. 25, marking the start of the year of the rat.

Top New Year’s Resolutions

59% Exercise More

54% Eat Healthier

51% Save Money

48% Lose Weight

38% Reduce Stress

New Year’s facts, traditions and more

83% of Americans spend less than $200 on New Year’s Eve celebrations

24% of Americans plan to celebrate New Year’s Eve at home

45% of Americans plan to celebrate New Year’s Eve with family

15% of Americans plan to attend a public event or go to parties

$16.40 average hourly rate for a babysitter on New Year’s Eve (20% more than any other time of the year)

3% of Americans don’t plan to celebrate New Year’s Eve

12% of Americans fall asleep before midnight on New Year’s Eve

61% of Americans say a prayer on New Year’s Eve

44% of Americans make a New Year’s resolution

31% of Americans who made resolutions didn’t stick to them

Source: WalletHub

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