Out with the old, in with the new. Even though 2017 was wonderful and if I reflect on it, filled with many heiter moments, I am glad to start the next year with new goals and new beginnings. How are you preparing yourself for 2018? Have you made a plan, do you believe in New Year’s resolutions? I’ve looked into different traditions linked with the occasion and tried to find out how people deal with welcoming another year.
In some European countries such as Austria and Germany the use of incense plays an important role on New Year’s Eve (alongside the other 11 Days of Christmas). According to old myths, spirits make an appearance in the mortal world on those days. By filling each room of the house with incense smoke, families believe they are protecting themselves from the spirits and ensuring everyone’s well-being and prosperity are kept as they are. The smoke of incense helps the spirits to return to the other side. Some also say that the tradition is a way to let all hopes and wishes for the upcoming year rise to the sky and thus, to god.
The origins of Hogmanay, New Year’s Eve in Scotland, date back to the Vikings and their winter solstice celebrations. My husband, who grew up in Perthshire, describes the night as the biggest event in the Scottish annual calendar. There are different customs that mark the night but two of the most popular ones are the singing of ‘Auld Lang Syne’ (a poem by Scotsman Richard Burns) and the practice of first-footing that starts immediately after midnight. First-footing is a tradition that celebrates the first person (usually a dark-haired and tall man) who enters the house in the New Year and by doing so, brings luck to the family. By offering gifts such as salt, shortbread, whisky, a fruit cake and coal the family show gratitude to the first-footer.
In Spain people eat twelve grapes and make twelve wishes for each hour before the New Year, in Ecuador they try to make their wish for a holiday come true by walking round the block with an empty suitcase, whereas farmers in Romania believe to get lucky by practicing animal whispering. Fireworks, candlelight processions or handing out good luck charms in the shapes of piglets, horseshoes and shamrocks, the list is endless and I love the diversity of all the different traditions. If you take a closer look though, you notice very quickly that they have something in common. Hope, optimism and the belief that things can get better are key to all of them. There is a strong sense that wishes are here to be fulfilled. Everyone deserves happiness, and that is exactly what we should keep in mind when we go into 2018. I know, it is easy to forget those positive thoughts and the hopeful feelings you associate with the change of a year but I believe that if we tried to remember them more often, even in the months after January, things can look different and perhaps even more heiter (cheerful).
I wish every single one of you & your families a very happy New Year. May it be exciting, creative, full of love, joy and the right dose of heiterkeit.