In a few days it will be New Year’s Eve. When I was a kid in ’50s and ’60s California the tradition on New Year’s Eve was to go outside and honk the horn on your car. All over the neighborhood, high and low, you’d hear the car horns blaring. No guns, no fireworks. Just car horns honking! I distinctly remember trotting out in my bare feet and honking the horn on my mom’s 1960 Ford Thunderbird.
As I got older and attended parties on the last day in December there were cute metal noisemakers, decorated with clowns or pretty girls. Twisting and twirling, they rang in the new year.
I always thought this cacophony was simply celebrating a new year coming. Not so fast Spunky! There’s a lot more to the noise making than that.
In cultures all over the world raucous noisemaking at midnight is said to scare away any malevolent spirits that might have evil designs on a household in the year to come. Traditional noisemakers run the gamut of pot lids, pans and wooden spoons, horns, bells and whistles.
In olden Thailand, primitive guns were fired to frighten off demons.
In China, firecrackers routed the forces of darkness.
In the early American colonies, the sounds of musket shots rang through the air.
Today, Italians let their church bells peal, while the Swiss beat drums.
It’s not only noise that will keep the evil spirits at bay. In Japan many open the front door then the back door to let the evil spirits in then quickly usher them out. Many will be happy to know that there are certain foods that can help the new year be perhaps better than the last. Eating any ring shaped treat (such as a donut) symbolizes “coming full circle” and leads to good fortune.
Eating 12 green grapes at midnight will give you 12 months of happiness. Rice promises prosperity. Apples dipped in honey will bring good health, and dollops of whipped cream, dropped on the floor (and not cleaned up immediately) symbolize the richness of the year to come.
So on New Year’s Eve, donut in hand, make enough noise to keep bad spirits at bay, and don’t step in the whipped cream! Do these things and I’m sure you’ll enjoy a happy, safe and prosperous New Year.
Oh, and don’t forget the champagne!
Carol Fenn, December 2016