What are the new year traditions in your country? Not in the sense of what do you do to celebrate the New Year, but what do you do on the chimes of midnight?
In the former Soviet Republic of Azerbaikursk, on the first stroke of midnight, it is traditional for men to jump up and down on one leg and hit each other over the head with a brick, whilst the women roll on the ground feigning childbirth to mark the “birth” of the new year. Actually this is an absolute lie, but it seems more interesting than what the rest of us do.
Out here in France, THE PLACE to be is on the Champs Elysées, clutching a bottle of champagne. At midnight, you uncork the Champers, drink it in vast gulps and then proceed to copiously kiss everyone around you on both cheeks whilst screaming “Bonne Année” at the top of your voice. You could probably do the same at the foot of the Eiffel tower or on the steps of Montmarte. Come to think of it, you could probably do the same in Times Square, Trafalgar Square, on the steps of the Sidney Opera House – any large and symbolic public place. Afterwards of course, there will be the firework display. Even in my corner of smalltown France, we are not immune to this New Year globalization. At midnight, we too will be with friends on a large downtown square, clutching our champagne and on the stroke of midnight … of course there will be a firework display afterwards.
The difference probably comes therefore in the way we celebrate the passing of the old year. In France, Christmas is reserved for the family and New Year is reserved for friends. Standard New Year practise would be to go to a restaurant, then on to a disco, uncork the champagne at midnight, kiss everyone (male and female) on both cheeks, dance until dawn and then round off the night with a … piping hot bowl of onion soup (after which there isn’t much kissing)
And I suppose you’ll be doing pretty much the same, but without the onion soup.
Those curious new years I have spent – once at the Puerto del Sol in Madrid – my lady friend of the time thrust twelve grapes into my hand – with each stroke of midnight, we were supposed to eat a grape. That’s fine if they are seedless, but when they are of the large and well-seeded variety. Come the tweltfth stroke midnight, you have a mouth full of grape flesh and seeds. Before any serious kissing gts done, you have to digest the grapes, spit out the seeds or just discreetly spit out the whole lot (which I’m sure brings bad luck.)
Back in my pre-ex-pat days (ie when I was a full time Brit instead of a full time ex-pat), New Year’s Eve was simple – you’d just go down the pub with mates. As midnight approached, you’d try to strategically place yourself near to some good looking girl, and come midnight and after the singing of Auld Lang syne, you’d slap a wet, drunken beer-stinking kiss on her cheek (whilst every other bloke in the pub was trying to do the same); Last orders half past midnight, chucking out time just before one and then you’d walk to the bus stop, hoping that the Kebab shop would still be open for a portion of chips. The one good thing about New Year’s Eve – walking to the bus stop, all the people that might normally beat you up just for looking at them, or rob you for a few pounds – they would just walk up to you and scream “Happy f*****g New Year you B*****d” in your face.
The lasting memory of late teenage and early adult New Year celebrations are the number of people pissing everywhere. This is New Year’s Eve, the few public toilets are closed and we’ve all had too much too drink. The kerb is lined with men urinating in the gutter, shop doorways become public toilets and the more drunken members of this great male fraternity have taken up the highest and strangest positions for a pee – someone hanging off a lamp post and spraying the crowd below, a bloke of the roof of a car, someone else has climbed up a tree … All those meaningless but friendly new year conversations I have had with fellow male members of the species as we stand pissing anywhere and everywhere on New Year’s Eve. A few pints of urine pissed in bodily communion, and you are “friends for life.”
Of course, I am more civilized now. I drink less and drive my family and friends downtown for the firework display in my Volvo (Oh how sad we become) – But I’d still like an edgey and traditional New Year.
As kids, New Year was a tile to mark our Scottish heritage. Mum would buy a tin of shortbread and we would all stay up to watch some ersatz Scottish New Year festivity on the TV. Minor Scottish celebrities with kilts flying, A whisky-looking fluid in their glass (normally tea) and plenty of Hogmanay songs – the whole programme just one hour and probably recorded in the middle of August. So I miss these New Year’s too as I miss the tradition of the “First Foot” – In Scotland, the first person over your doorstep in the New Year must be a tall, dark man who will generally bring you luck – he brings a piece of New Year cake and a lump of coal – may you have food and warmth for the ensuing year.
I’ve tried to install the “first foot” tradition in France, but to no avail, however, I have now got all my French mates singing “Auld Lang Syne” (Correct spelling????)
I wanted a last New Year word but words fail me.
As for the best New Year IU have spent – in 1994. Nothing planned, we just all got together and new year happened.
The worst New Year
The year we had planned everything with posh food from a caterer and good wine – a disaster.
Never plan for New year. It just happens and will always happen no matter what you do.
Happy New Year folks.
Ps – If you are in or near Azerbaikursk, don’t forget to bring a brick.
PPS – If you are a totally ugly bastard, I do hope that you at least get the chance to kiss a nice girl.
PPS – to all Scottish readers: “Long may your lum reek.”