Let’s make another trip around the sun
I love getting letters and cards by post; most would agree that this has a completely different feel to ecards sent these days. One loving friend who knows this mailed me a card for 2023 that said, ‘Another Trip Around The Sun’.
This phrase actually refers to the time it takes the Earth to travel around our sun. The Earth makes a journey, and each of us also makes a journey of sorts each year. This is a time for looking back and looking forward. Sadly, for many, the looking back involves all that went wrong or not as we liked. So it’s worth recalling these beautiful words from Yeats: We must laugh and we must sing/ We are blessed by everything/ Everything we look upon is blessed.
Some make resolutions, and whether or not they are kept is the subject of many jokes and funny memes like this one that goes: “My resolution is to treat other people exactly how they treat me; some will be happy, others should be scared.”
The world over, people mark this turning of the year in interesting ways. Some of us choose a word that sets the tone and theme for the coming year.
In Brazil, people dressed in white flock to the beaches and light white candles and toss white flowers out into the ocean. The white flowers and floating candles represent offerings to the Queen of the Ocean, hoping she grants their wishes for the year ahead. If the offering floats out to sea, it’s a good sign that the wishes were approved of; if it comes back on the wave however, it is a sign that the Queen of the Ocean is not pleased with how one has been in the past year.
In Spain, it’s considered good luck to eat a dozen grapes at midnight. If you manage to eat all twelve within the last sixty seconds of the old year, you can expect prosperity and good fortune in the new year. You can even make a wish for each grape you eat.
In Scotland, New Year’s Eve, known as Hogmanay, has a ritual called ‘first-footing’. According to Scottish folklore, the first person who crosses the threshold of your home on New Year’s Day should be a dark-haired man if you want good luck in the coming year. If you want even better fortune for the year to come, your ‘first-footer’ should come bearing gifts of shortbread, coal, salt, and, of course, whiskey!
In many South American countries, people create stuffed dummies and scarecrows made of old clothes, hay and newspaper. They represent ano viejo, the old year. It’s considered good luck to burn these ano viejo dummies at midnight, symbolising a break with the past and making room for good fortune in the new year. In Bandra where I grew up, groups of young boys would create similar ‘old men’, and waylay you with a jangling box of coins a few days before, for a small contribution which went towards their celebration around the bonfire when the effigy was burnt.
A New Year’s tradition in Denmark involves smashing old plates and dishes and leaving them on other people’s doorsteps. Your luck in the year to come depends on how many broken plates are left on your doorstep by well-wishers; the more smashed-up plates you find at your door the next day, the more friends and fortune you can expect to come your way. My Persian husband introduced me to a ritual called ‘Khaneh Takanee’, which literally means ‘shaking the house’. It involves a thorough and exhausting deep cleaning of your place before welcoming in the new year. An apt wish from Neil Gaiman says, “I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world.”