The count down has begun, New Year's Eve is just around the corner. For many it is time of reflection and planning. For others it is slightly a depressing holiday, while others see it as a time of drunken debauchery. For me, it means TRAVEL!
I was raised with the notion that you shouldn't spend New Years in the city you live, if you can help it. I couldn't actually venture out of my hometown until I was in college. I spent most of my New Year's Eves with my family or friends and their families until I was 18. And from that point on, I tried my best NEVER to be at home to bring in the new year.
The idea is that luck will find you in the new year if you are out somewhere new on an adventure. And believe me, you can learn a lot about a place and people on New Years. The place I have spent the majority of my New Years since turning 18 is Mexico.
Mexico is a land steeped in tradition and superstition. And New Years is a perfect holiday to see all this magic. Of course, like most places there is champagne and fireworks...or should I say sidra and cohetes. However, there is also a myriad of fun little traditions and superstitions you can participate in. The most common of these traditions is eating 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight. Each grape representing a wish you make for each month of the upcoming year. You try to eat all the grapes before the clock strikes 12:01. Trust me, it is harder than it seems. One, thinking of a wish for each grape, and them stuffing them all in your mouth! But it still is always great fun.
Other of the more silly or zany traditions include wearing red underwear to bring love to the new year or yellow ones to bring money. Or if you are like me, you do a combination of both! Many take a suitcase and run down the street a block or two and run back in hopes of bringing travel in the upcoming year. Then, you can find more intricate practices involving foreign notes, fruits, and all sorts of talismans. I love all these traditions and most countries have their own crazy wonderful set.
I spent New Year's Eve in India in 2013. I was there studying yoga, so there was no crazy party, but there were plenty of fireworks and my roommate and I had a surprising flood in our kitchen. The clock stroke midnight and the pipe just burst. It was a crazy sight to see. A New Year's baptismal of sorts. We definitely made up for our little hiccup the next day. We were given free milk by the local Krishna temple as we awaited our taxi to Bylakuppe, a Tibetan buddhist settlement not far from the city of Mysore where we were staying. That day was one of the best New Year's Days of my memory. We walked around monasteries and soaked up the atmosphere as the Dalai Lama happened to be visiting too. Definitely an auspicioius and surprising day.
Then there is Germany, where New Year's Eve is called Silvester. And traditions include fireworks, champagne and marzipan pigs. These pigs are referred to as Glucksschwein, which bring good luck for the New Year. One of the more fun traditions involves lead pellets called Bleigießen. You melt the pellet in a spoon over a candle and when you throw it into the water it forms a new shape. Each shape tells you what your future holds for the new year. A fun activity to say the least. And don't forget the Sauerkraut!!!!!
Here in Japan, New Year's is a big deal. As a very hard working society, it is pretty much the only time you everything is completely closed. So if you are looking to do a whole lot during a New Years trip to Japan, you would be wrong. This is the time for visiting family and going to temples. You also should make and eat mochi, eat noodles, make a wish on your daruma doll, and go watch the first sunrise of the year.
This year I am not sure which combination of all these traditions I will be doing, but I am sure it will be a hybrid of all my favorites, and maybe a new one or two. Every New Years I have spent away from home has brought me more adventures into my life, and yet a chance to see someplace new the following year. I don't think I will be giving up on my own little personal tradition of traveling on New Year's any time soon, and I hope that maybe you will join me. Go out and try something new for the New Year!!!!