by Sydney Barber
The words “New Year’s Eve” conjure up images of lavish parties, the clinking of champagne glasses and resolutions that may or may not be broken the next day. In America, a common New Year’s Eve tradition is watching the crystal ball descend from One Times Square, either in person—where close to one million people gather—or on TV in the comfort of one’s own home. Though these are typical American traditions, the rest of the world celebrates the new year in many diverse ways.
When thinking of New Year’s Eve, we often conjure up images of lavish parties, the clinking of champagne glasses and resolutions that may or may not be broken the next day. In America, a common New Year’s Eve tradition is watching the crystal ball descend from One Times Square, either in person—where close to one million people gather—or on TV in the comfort of one’s own home. Though these are typical American traditions, the rest of the world celebrates the new year in many other ways.
Many countries celebrate the new year similarly to that of America, yet honor their own holiday traditions. Senior Connie Wolff is of German descent and moved to the U.S. from Germany with her family in 2008. Wolff said, “On New Year’s [Eve], we celebrate similar to the way people do in the U.S., but we drink Sekt, a German sparkling wine, and say ‘Hab in guten Rutch’ which translates to ‘Have a good slide into the New Year.’”
In Switzerland, people ring in midnight by gathering with close friends and family, but with a unique Swiss touch. Senior Celeste Loffredo’s mother, Caroline Loffredo, from Switzerland said: “We toast with champagne at 12 pour le reveillon. We also eat onion soup, soupe a l’oignon, or we have festive dinners with foie gras, champagne and we wear masks.”
In other countries, New Year’s traditions are rooted in their rich religious history. Senior Allie Safanov is of Russian descent and is a first-generation American. She said since religion was suppressed in the former Soviet Union, Russians celebrated Christmas traditions on New Year’s Day, commonly called Novy God. According to Safanov, Novy God is celebrated with a Christmas tree, traditional Russian food, and a version of Santa Claus known as Ded Moroz or ‘Grandfather Frost,’ who leaves a sack of presents on the front porch at midnight. These Novy God traditions have continued for Safanov’s family in America. “On New Year’s Day, we always gather in our living room in our PJs and exchange gifts and eat Russian pancakes [called] blini,” she said.
In South Korea, the New Year is rung in on the same day as the Chinese New Year (this year, that is Feb. 8). But the traditions between these two countries vary. South Korea’s New Year’s is mainly a day to pay respect to the elders in one’s family. According to senior Jess Whang, a first-generation American, women dress up in a traditional Korean dress called a hanbok and, as a family, bow to their elders. Other traditions on this day include giving children envelopes of money and playing a board game called Yut, which is played with four sticks. Whang recalled a New Year’s celebration back when she was six: “I felt like all I did was bow and by the end of the day I had over $1,000. Then I remember all the adults playing the Yut game, which I called ‘Sticks.’ They were screaming and laughing. While they played, I ran back and forth serving them drinks and snacks.”
The New Year is often met with such heightened anticipation and expectations about the future. We often think of it as a new beginning or as a fresh start. But beyond all this talk of “new,” our celebrations are rooted in tradition, proving that New Year’s is not just a celebration of where we are going, but also where we came from.