Resolutions, Superstitions and Traditions: How We Marked the New Year

By: Niki Fritz

When I was living in Chicago, New Year’s Eve was always one gigantic party-favor-filled, EDM-deafening, cab-less, soul-crushing mess of a night. Not that that was always my experience. There were a few New Year’s Eves I just refused to leave my house or my yoga pants and made my friends come to me. But in general, the city seemed to have this desperate need to do New Year’s Eve “right;” which often meant overpriced bar packages, impractical short clothing choices for January in the Midwest, and lots and lots of promises to “makes this the best year ever!”

While I understand that being 20-something in Chicago is not the universal experience of NYE, it does seem that most people – even if it isn’t twerking at a club at midnight – somehow mark the passing of another year, we all recognize the significance of the passing of time.

First there are the superstitions. My best friend is Ukrainian and her mother had a whole host of superstitions. Before NYE she always made sure that our NYE outfits had the correct color that coordinated with whatever was the color of the upcoming year. She said it brought luck. Interestingly in our department there are a few people whose families have their own superstitions about the new year.

Kelsey Prena’s great grandmother Nan believed you had to hold money in your hand at the turn of the year to be prosperous for the next year. “My mom used to give my siblings and me a couple dollars to hold and would say ‘see, it’s already prosperous for you.’ Lately we’ve been celebrating apart, but we text each other to make sure that we have money ready for the count down,” Kelsey says. Jessica Hand’s family brings prosperity in a similar fashion, tucking dollar bills into a pair of socks for NYE. Glenna Read’s family combines superstitions with traditions. Each New Year her family eats collard greens and black beans (which are supposed to be good luck) with a few extra coins thrown in the food to bring prosperity.

Others have built individual family traditions into their welcoming of the New Year. image001All year long a little bird sits on a piece of paper on Annie Lang’s mantle. Then on New Year’s Eve, the piece of paper comes out and there lies a list of all the New Year’s from Kiev to New York. Annie explains that when she and her husband were younger they started their celebration at 7 pm, welcoming in the London New Year; but, Annie explains, as they have gotten older they rarely make it to the New Year in EST, so they began starting their festivities earlier at 5 pm welcoming in the New Year in Jerusalem and Kiev.

image002

Of course, in addition to all the superstitions and traditions there are always the resolutions. Although many write off resolutions as goals that will be forgotten by Spring, others take the time to try to break a bad habit. Ashley Kraus is attempting to give up artificial sweeteners in her life, which means no more of her beloved coke zeros. Amusingly, Edo Steinberg is trying to limit his coke intake meaning he’s opting for coke zeros. Clearly we all have our own battles to fight.

Personally I’m really into goal making and breaking all year, so for me New Year’s is just one of the many, many times throughout the year I take stock and evaluate what I want to accomplish in the next year (other times being my birthday, the first day of the fall semester and of course flag day). But I do like to dedicate one word each year that I can come back to throughout the year, one word that becomes my focal point for the year to come, or to put it in yogi term’s, a kind mental drishti. This year my word is strength, something I hope to take to my yoga practice as well as something I can translate into mental strength to finish my darn thesis. Although I know on a practical level that there is nothing magical or special about the minutes in between 11:59 pm and 12:00 am on January 1st, the time, the celebration, the traditions, the resolutions, all are meaningful.

Even for those to mock resolutions, who refuse to celebrate NYE, who believe January 1st is just another day, there is still significance in the New Year, if nothing else because we give it significance. We say that at this moment the year is changing, at this moment one thing is done and another is beginning, at this moment the year is new. And while it may be just an arbitrary number that we assign, the marking of time reminds us all that no matter what the constant is change. And I, for one, am going to use change to make something positive and new, even if by 2016 the change of today is a long forgotten moment.

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