Have you ever wondered how people in other countries celebrate New Year’s Eve? Kids love learning about different traditions and will enjoy hearing these interesting facts about some of the countries in Missionary Kid Stories. (The following information is not in the book.)
In Brazil, people celebrate Réveillon (New Year’s Eve) in Rio de Janeiro with huge fireworks shows, especially on Copacabana beach. Millions of people dress in white and crowd the beaches to watch the fireworks. Many people run into the ocean and jump seven waves. They also send flowers and gifts out onto the water to the goddess of water, Lemanjá. It is said that she will answer the wishes of those who send gifts to her on this night.
In the Philippines, people celebrate the Media Noche (Spanish for midnight) or Bisperas ng Bagong Taon (Tagalog) by having a midnight meal, lighting fireworks, and making a lot of noise to drive away the evil spirits. Some dress in polka-dots and eat round fruits (like purple grapes) to celebrate. They believe that this will give them prosperity in the coming year. Long noodles and eggs are eaten because these symbolize long life and new life, respectively. At the exact moment of midnight, Filipino children jump into the air because they believe that it will make them taller.
“La Saint-Sylvestre” or “Le Réveillon du Nouve An” is celebrated in France. Large cities have large fireworks displays, but some people just organize dance parties or get together with friends for an evening of food and fun. Good seafood and meats are prepared for a meal. At the stroke of midnight, people kiss under the mistletoe and throw confetti and blow whistles.
In Indonesia, large cities like Bandung have some main streets closed off with many people, food trucks, and performances. People also participate in isighosah (mass prayer) lead by religious leaders. Local people will wish you “Selamat tahun baru!”, or Happy New Year in Indonesian. For Hindu people in Indonesia, the Hindu New Year is celebrated sometime in March or April.
Mexico also has many traditions to celebrate the “Año Nuevo”. Many people thoroughly clean their house before the dinner celebration that evening. Midnight mass is attended by many. At midnight, people ring bells, eat grapes, and kiss and greet each other for good luck and prosperity in the new year. Many people wear new clothes that evening, and some even wear red or yellow underwear (for love and wealth). Candles may be lit on a plate surrounded by lentils, beans, corn, rice, and cinnamon. As the candles burn out, the contents of the plate are buried to ensure lots of food being available in the coming year.
The country of Zimbabwe in Africa is a very diverse country with many cultures, but almost everyone celebrates the New Year. Large cities like Harare have big organized celebrations. Families get together to eat a traditional meal. Tourists from all over go to Victoria Falls for the huge Vic Falls Carnival, a huge celebration with lots of entertainment.
And lest you think that these are silly traditions that only people in other countries have, don’t forget about millions of people in the southern United States that have their own tradition. On New Year’s Day, they eat a dish some call Hoppin John. This dish is made with black-eyed peas, onions, rice, bacon or hog jowl, and salt. Many also eat it with greens on the side. They believe that this will give them good luck and prosperity in the new year.
As you talk about these traditions with your kids, remind them that even though traditions are fun, we need to trust in the only source of “good luck” and prosperity – God, our heavenly Father. There is no harm in wearing white clothes or eating black-eyes peas, as long as we know that these things cannot bring us peace, wealth or good luck.
Psalm 37: 4 says “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”