• By Vanessa Seitz

Midway News and Views

Midway News The Frozen Rails 5k and 10k Start the new year right with the Frozen Rails 5K & 10K in Midway on Wednesday, Jan. 1, at 2 p.m. The race will start and finish at the corner of Winter and Main streets near Midway City Hall. Sign up at runsignup.com or on the day of the race. Partial proceeds will benefit the Midway Ministerial Association.

Midway Views New Year’s Eve Traditions around the world Planning a New Year’s Eve party, whilst having dinner at Heirloom the other night, we found ourselves turning to the topic of traditions and different foods we eat to celebrate the new year, and why. But why do we eat black eyed peas, watch the ball drop, sing Auld Lang Syne and where do all those traditions and superstitions come from? It could be that rituals and traditions act as a buffer against anxiety and uncertainty (and all that Christmas over spending and overindulgence)! The New Year’s rituals and foods maybe ease that anxiety by making the world more predictable – as in if we eat the grapes, black-eyed peas and pork, maybe wear white clothing and red underwear and smash a plate, that the next year will be better than the last and we can hold on to that hope at New Year for the coming year.

New Year’s food

Noodles Noodles are eaten in several cultures at New Year. In Japan, the Toshikoshi Soba noodle (loosely translated as “year crossing noodle”) is a long noodle to symbolize crossing from one year to the next. They are also easy to eat, symbolizing letting go of the past year’s regrets, before starting the new year. Fish and meat In Canada, on New Year’s Eve many fishermen go ice-fishing with friends. They fish in the open or in purpose-built fishing shacks with an ice hole. The fish are then eaten to celebrate the bounty on New Year’s Day. In some countries, like Brazil, they avoid eating chicken in the first few minutes of the new year. This is because chickens scratch the earth backwards, so eating chicken would mean going backwards in life, rather than forward, according to the Rio Times. Instead, at New Year, people eat foods that move forward, such as fish in Denmark and pork in Italy. So, similarly in many cultures they have roast pork, wild boar or rabbit stew for dinner on New Year’s Day, but not lobster or crab (as they move backwards and sideways!) which can lead to setbacks in the coming year.

Fruit Twelve grapes are eaten in Spain as the clock strikes midnight at New Year. Each grape represents good luck for each month of the coming year. In the Philippines, they celebrate by serving 12 round fruits, like oranges, melon, apples and grapefruit. The round shape symbolizes coins (prosperity and wealth) – one fruit for each month of the year ahead. In Brazil, they eat seven pomegranate seeds (seven being a lucky number) to bring prosperity. Brazilians who live on the coast also have a tradition of jumping over seven waves in the ocean and making seven wishes. And in ancient Greek mythology, the pomegranate symbolizes fertility, life and abundance, so at New Year in Greece, they smash a pomegranate against the door of their house for good luck.

Beans and rice Lentils are eaten in Italy and other countries at New Year symbolizing luck and prosperity because they are shaped like a coin. In America, people in the south often eat black-eyed peas, collard greens and cornbread because they resemble coins, dollar bills and shiny gold, respectively. Eating black-eyed peas for luck in American is said to date back to the Civil War, according to tripsavvy.com. During the harsh winter, the Confederate soldiers survived largely on black-eyed peas, promoting this basic bean into a symbol of fortune and prosperity in the American South. For the best chance of luck every day in the year ahead, traditions say you need to eat at least 365 black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day.

Bread In Ireland, there is a tradition of banging bread against the walls on New Year’s Eve to chase away bad luck and evil spirits (irelandcalling.com). The Greeks bake and eat vasilopita, a sweet yeast bread at midnight. The bread is made in honor of St. Basil. A coin is baked into the bread and the tradition is that the person who gets the coin will have a year ahead of good fortune (papaspost.com). In the Netherlands, they eat oliebol or “oil ball” with a glass of champagne. The tradition of these treats is less delicious, that eating oliebollen was done to ward off a cruel pagan goddess named Perchta. This treat adapted over the years and in America, the closest treat is the doughnut. Oliebollen is made with a doughy batter, deep fried in hot oil and later dusted with sugar. Sometimes currants, candied peel, raisins or cinnamon are added (pastemagazine.com).

New Year traditions

Noise A lot of New Year traditions revolve around noise. In Italy and many countries, churches ring their bells. Buddhist temples in Japan ring their bells 107 times on New Year’s Eve and once when the clock strikes midnight. This tradition is meant to both dispel the 108 evil desires in each and every person and cleanse the previous year of past sins (tokyocreative.com). First footing This is a Scottish tradition, a part of Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve day) when the first person to cross the threshold after midnight will predict the next year’s fortune. They would bring gifts like a lump of coal, salt, shortbread and whisky for luck and prosperity. The most desirable person would be a dark-haired man, as this dates back to Scotland in the Viking days when a blonde stranger at your door meant trouble (Slate.com).

New Year resolutions Making resolutions at New Year dates back to 2,600 B.C. with the Babylonians, as a way of reflecting on the past and planning ahead for the coming year. Back then, they made their resolutions in March, during the 12-day long Akitu festival (LiveScience.com). The resolutions involved making an oath to the king and were taken very seriously. In Roman times, they also made an oath of loyalty to the emperor in March, when the Roman New Year started. And it is a Methodist church tradition dating back to 1720 of holding renewal services on Dec. 31 to look back at the past year and renew their commitment to God. To ward off bad luck in Denmark, they smash old plates and glasses to symbolize getting rid of the old and making room for a fresh start. In Italy, they throw pots, pans and clothes out of the window to let go of the past (telegraph.co.uk).

Colors In Brazil, it is thought to be lucky to wear special colored underwear on New Year’s Eve. Red for love in the New Year, yellow underwear to bring money and white underwear for a fresh start. And they wear white clothing to ward off bad spirits.

Singing Auld Lang Syne “Auld Lang Syne” is a Scottish poem written by Robert Burns dating back to 1788, according to Scotland.org. The literal translation of Auld Lang Syne is “old long times” or “once upon a time.” It is often played at British and Scottish funerals and became a New Year’s tradition in America after 1929, when the Guy Lombardo orchestra played it at a hotel in New York (LiveScience.com). In my homeland of England, it is often sung as the bells ring at New Year.

The ball drop in Times Square At the stroke of midnight, revelers in Times Square will watch the giant ball drop in New York City. This comes from a sailors’ tradition of “time balls” whereby they set their timepieces (PBS.org). The first ball dropped in Times Square in 1907. It was made of wood and iron, decorated with 100 25-watt light bulbs and used as an alternative after fireworks were banned in New York because of the risk of fire (PBS.org). Since that first ball, there have been seven replacements. The current ball weighs 6 tons, is 12 feet in diameter and is decorated with 2,688 Waterford crystal triangles and 32,256 LED lights.

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