Ah, the traditional American New Year’s: wear a sparkly paper hat, drink champagne and set off fireworks (does anyone think this is a good idea?), then wake up tomorrow afternoon with a brutal hangover, make a resolution never to drink again, and break it at brunch. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But just for a little perspective, here’s a look at what the rest of the world is doing while we’re singing Auld Lang Syne and scrambling to find someone to kiss at midnight.
In Japan, New Year’s is serious business. In the last week of the year, Japanese people clean their houses top to bottom to rid them of evil spirits. They pay up all their debts and settle their disagreements so everyone starts with a clean slate on January 1. At midnight, Buddhist temples ring 108 bells, one for each of the troubles that trap us in the cycle of suffering and reincarnation. That’s even more problems than Jay-Z has.
In Scotland, your fortunes for the new year rest on one man’s shoulders. In a tradition called “First Footing,” Scots make sure that the first person to cross their threshold after midnight is a tall, handsome man with dark hair – blonds, gingers and women are bad luck. He should also bring certain symbolic gifts, like salt, bread, coal, and, of course, whisky, to guarantee the homeowner’s welfare in the coming year.
Ecuadorean men have a somewhat different way of ensuring prosperity: dressing in drag to represent the “widow” of the past year. They also build papier-mâché figures of famous people (politicians, athletes, actors) and burn them to drive off evil spirits. It’s unclear why effigies work better than regular bonfires, but hell, it sounds like fun.
The Danes don’t cross-dress or burn things; they chase off evil spirits by making noise. Just like Americans, they set off firecrackers, but they also throw old dishes at their friends’ front doors to keep the spirits away in the new year. We only wish this was acceptable a.) in America and b.) year-round, as it would make washing dishes a thing of the past.
Much like a certain Utah-based religious group, Brazilians believe in magic underwear: red skivvies bring you love in the coming year, while yellow unmentionables bring wealth. New Year’s Eve in Brazil might be the only time when you can say, “What color panties are you wearing?” without being a perv.
If you decide to stick with an American New Year, that’s fine too. But don’t forget your Blowfish, or you’ll be stuck with one of these weird hangover cures on January 1.