New Years Celebrations
The seventh day of the Chinese New Year, traditionally known as Rénrì (人日, the common man’s birthday), is the day when everyone grows one year older. In some overseas Chinese communities in Southeast Asia, such as Malaysia and Singapore, it is also the day when tossed raw fish salad, yusheng, is eaten for continued wealth and prosperity.
This day is filled with omens about human fate. For example, any person or animal born on this day is considered doubly blessed and destined for prosperity. So, consider taking out a divination tool today and seeing what fate holds for you.
In Chinese mythology, Nüwa (女媧) is the goddess who created the world. She created the animals on different days, and human beings on the seventh day after the creation of the world. The order of creation is as follows:
- First of zhengyue: Chicken
- Second of zhengyue: Dog
- Third of zhengyue: Boar
- Fourth of zhengyue: Sheep
- Fifth of zhengyue: Cow
- Sixth of zhengyue: Horse
- Seventh of zhengyue: Human.
Hence, Chinese tradition has set the first day of zhengyue as the “birthday” of the chicken, the second day of zhengyue as the “birthday” of the dog, etc. And the seventh day of zhengyue is viewed as the common “birthday” of all human beings.
To generate Nüwa’s luck or organizational skills in your life, make and carry a clay Nüwa charm. Get some modeling clay from a toy store (if possible, choose a color that suits your goal, like green for money). If you can’t get clay, bubblegum will work, too. Shape this into a symbol of your goal, saying:
From Nüwa blessings poured,
Luck and order be restored.
Renri is the day, when all common men are growing a year older and the day is celebrated with certain foods according to the origin of the people. The ingredients of the dishes have a symbolic meaning and they should enhance health.
To honour Nüwa’s creation of animals either vegetable dishes will be eaten or a raw fish and vegetable salad called yusheng. Yusheng literally means “raw fish” but since “fish (鱼)” is commonly conflated with its homophone “abundance (余)”, Yúshēng (鱼生) is interpreted as a homonym for Yúshēng (余升) meaning an increase in abundance. Therefore, yusheng is considered a symbol of abundance, prosperity and vigor.
Almost no Chinese celebrate on this day. Some people just eat potatoes with angel hair noodle. The long noodle stands for longevity. In the past, seven vegetables which can repel the evil spirits and sickness away were eaten. They are as follows:
- Celery, Shepherd’s Purse Spinach, Green Onion, Garlic, Mugwort and Colewort
Ancient Chinese had a tradition of wearing head ornaments called rensheng (人勝), which were made of ribbon or gold and represented humans. People also climbed mountains and composed poems. Emperors after the Tang dynasty granted ribbon rensheng to their subjects and held festivities with them. If there were good weather on Renri, it was considered that people will have a year of peace and prosperity.
Fireworks and huapao (花炮) are lit, so Renri celebrates the “birthday” of fire as well.
Since the first days of zhengyue are considered “birthdays” of different animals, Chinese people avoid killing the animals on their respective birthdays and punishing prisoners on Renri.
Nowadays in zhengyue, Renri is celebrated as part of the Chinese New Year. Chinese people prepare lucky food in the new year, where the “seven vegetable soup” (七菜羹), “seven vegetable congee” (七菜粥) and “jidi congee” (及第粥) are specially prepared for Renri. Malaysian and Singaporean Chinese use the “seven-coloured raw fish” (七彩魚生) instead of the “seven vegetable soup”.
In Japan, Renri is called Jinjitsu (人日). It is one of the five seasonal festivals (五節句). It is celebrated on January 7. It is also known as Nanakusa no sekku (七草の節句), “the feast of seven herbs”, from the custom of eating seven-herb kayu (七草粥) to ensure good health for the coming year.
The celebration of the feast in Japan was moved from the seventh day of the first lunar month to the seventh day of January during the Meiji period, when Japan adopted the Gregorian calendar.
In ancient Egypt, the saving of mankind was commemorated every year on the feast day of Hathor/Sekhmet (Jan 7). Everyone drank beer stained with pomegranate juice and worshiped
“the Mistress and lady of the tomb,
destroyer of rebellion,
mighty one of enchantments“
A statue of Sekhmet was dressed in red facing west, while Bast was dressed in green and faced east. Bast was sometimes considered to be Sekhmet´s counterpart (or twin depending on the legend), and in the festival of Hathor they embodied the duality central to Egyptian mythology. Sekhmet represented Upper Egypt while Bast represented Lower Egypt.
A branch of the plum-tree placed over the door at New Year’s is very luck bringing, as the tree is so beautiful and fruitful.
The orange is placed over the door in Japan on New Year’s day so that the family shall continue perpetually, and generation after generation shall follow each other like the buds, flowers, and fruit.
Cook cabbage on New Year’s day and you will have good luck all the year.
Decorated apples stuck on three skewers are exchanged for luck on New Year’s day in Great Britain.
It is lucky to have the last glass from the last bottle of wine on New Year’s.
At Bromyard, England, at midnight, December 31st, a rush is made to the nearest well or spring of water, and he who gets the first drink of it, “the cream of the well,” will have fine luck all the coming year.
The last glass of wine or spirits drained on New Year’s eve is called the “Lucky Glass,” and whoever is fortunate enough to get it, will be successful during the coming year.
In Japan oranges are hung up on New Year’s day as a charm to insure the long life of the family.
Just before midnight on New Year’s eve, the Chinese put on new or clean garments so as to enter the new year purely, and thus gain good fortune to themselves.
On New Year’s eve at Biggar, Lanarkshire, a large bonfire of thornbush is lit and kept burning all night, and the boys jump over it for luck during the year.
A present of money given in China at the end of the old year is an auspicious omen for the new year.
Money presents from members of a household to each other are strung on a red string as a symbol of joy.
New Year’s night quiet and clear indicates a prosperous year.
The Chinese think New Year’s day is the luckiest of the year.
If you leave a glass of wine standing between eleven and twelve on New Year’s night, and it runs over, the vintage will be good that year.
The Chinese say that if a man sits up for ten years in succession and sees the New Year come in, that he will have a very long life.
It is lucky to rise early on New Year’s morning.
If a person receives money on New Year’s day, it is a good omen, for they say that he or she will continue to do so all the year.
If the first carol singer who comes to the door on New Year’s morning, is brought in at the front door, taken all through the house, and let out at the back door, it will bring luck to the house for a year.
The Europeans as well as the Japanese hang the “lucky bag,” a square of white paper tied with a red and white string, over their gates on New Year’s day for luck.
If you put a coin into the spout of a pump on New Year’s eve, and bring it into the house the instant the clock has struck twelve, you will have a prosperous year.
The Germans have a superstition that if you serve “Hopping John” (peas and rice boiled together) at dinner on New Year’s day, you will be lucky all the year.
In China a small white cock is killed on New Year’s day, to bring good luck for the coming year.
It brings good luck to place a piece of money on the window on New Year’s eve.
A triangular cake, filled with mince meat, was formerly baked, and bits of it fed on New Year’s day to the cattle in Coventry, England, for good luck.
It is said to bring good luck through the year if you place a diamond, or a gold or silver coin, in a glass of water and drink of the water the first drink you take on New Year’s morning.
Feed the birds well on New Year’s morning by placing a sheaf of wheat or barley or some bread outside your house, then good luck will attend you, and good crops and prosperity come to you during the whole year.
To have peas for dinner on New Year’s day is said to bring money all the year.
The inhabitants of Heligoland have a custom on New Year’s eve to perambulate the streets with broken pots and pans which they place before their friends’ doors, and the man who has the largest heap is the luckiest and most popular.
For fishermen to draw blood with hook or gun on New Year’s morning is to insure a plentiful year.
It is considered good luck in England to sand the steps on New Year’s day.
On New Year’s eve the Chinese tie small gourds around the children’s necks as a safe-guard against the small pox. Some Chinese put paper masks on their children on New Year’s eve, believing that the small-pox god will pass them by, and not recognize them.
In Germany it is said that the person who eats millet and herring on New Year’s day, will never be wanting of money during the year. Others eat seven or eight kinds of cake, one of them made of powdered poppy seed mixed with flour and water, in order to insure prosperity during the new year.
In the neighborhood of Gorlitz and in the Ukermark, on New Year’s eve, straw bands are placed under the table and the guests rest their feet upon them; and afterwards they are taken out into the orchard and bound around the trees, so that they will bear well the next year. (German.)
In Turkey, on New Year’s Day, every stranger entering the house must throw salt on the fire for luck.
At midnight on New Year’s eve the Japanese father dressed in his richest attire sword in hand or sabre in his girdle, and with a box of roasted beans in his left hand, goes alone all through the house with his right hand scattering the wonderful beans around, saying: “Avaunt demons! Begone devils! Enter Fortune! Come in Prosperity!” This causes the evil spirits to leave.
The teacher in China who must send poems on New Year’s day to the parents of his pupils, sits on New Year’s eve writing them with a dish of rice and a vase of flowers before him on the table, these offerings to the sun causing him to write better rhymes.
To receive a letter containing good news on New Year’s day, is a sign of good news coming all the year.
“He who is born on New-Year’s morn
Will have his own way as sure as you’re born.”
In one locality in England, bands of straw were put under the feet on New Year’s day while at table. When the meal was finished, one person got under the table and another one sat on his back and drew out the bands of straw. These were taken to the orchard and bound around trees, which were thereby insured to bear a full crop of fruit the next year.
Place a gold coin on the threshold when you lock your door on New Year’s eve and take it off in the morning when the Church bell rings; you will then have money to spend all the year.
On New Year’s day cakes called “Poplady” were eaten for luck. They rudely resembled the human figure with two dried currants or raisins for eyes, and another to represent the mouth; the lower part being formed somewhat like the case of an Egyptian mummy. This cake is no doubt a relic of Egyptian or Roman superstition.
New Year’s night is celebrated in Hungary, the same as in most other countries, by much shouting and boisterousness generally. This is kept up all night, until daylight; to scare bad luck and evil spirits away, they say.
In Madagascar New Year’s is celebrated with much feasting and sacrificial killing of oxen takes place.
Chinese custom requires that every boy who calls on his neighbors or relatives on New Year’s day, should receive a couple of loose-skinned oranges, or he is considered shamefully treated. The name of orange means luck, fortune, and auspiciousness.
On New Year’s eve while the clock is striking twelve, repeat three times: “Good Saint Anne, good Saint Anne, send me a man as fast as you can,” and you will become engaged within a year.
At the beginning of the New Year in Natal, a ceremony is performed by the chief by spurting from his mouth a mixture of the New Year’s fruits in different directions as if upon his enemies. After this ceremony it is lawful for the people to eat the New Year’s fruits. They are only eaten by stealth before.
It was a custom of the Jews to serve up sheep’s head on New Year’s at their chief entertainment, as a mystical representation of the ram offered in sacrifice for Isaac. When a family or company sat down to this repast, each person took a piece of bread and dipping it in honey, said, “May this year be sweet and fruitful.”
In several parts of Belgium it is customary for the people to make waffles on New Year’s day. Around Liege the first waffle is crossformed or cut cross-wise, and placed on the chimney-piece as a New Year’s gift to the crucifix. It is believed that this waffle or cake is blessed; it does not rot and a small piece given to a sick man or beast makes them recover.
An old New Year’s custom which is still observed in some of the northern counties of England, is called “Going about with a vessel cup.” Poor women and girls desirous of obtaining charity take two dolls, representing the Virgin Mother and Infant Jesus, and go about from house to house during the week before New Year’s singing a quaint old carol and at its conclusion presenting for the receipt of alms a small cup, which is known as a “vessel cup.” To turn one of these vessel cup singers unrequited from your door is to forfeit all good health and good fortune for the approaching new year.
In Westmoreland and Cumberland early in the morning of New Year’s the “Taex Populi” assemble carrying stangs (long poles) and baskets. Every inhabitant or stranger who falls into the hands of this ruffian band will be sacrificed to their favorite Saint; a man is mounted on a stang, a woman is basketed, and carried shoulder high to the nearest balance and weighed. None are allowed to follow their accustomed occupations on this day.
In Guria in Asiatic Russia, the New Year is prepared for a month before the time comes; the people pen up poultry, turkeys, ducks and geese; but the chief animal for food is the pig which is fatted up a month before and killed two or three days before New Year’s. Continue reading
There is a lot of lore and superstition surrounding the New Year. What follows is an extensive listing of what NOT to do, and what to avoid at all costs on this most powerful day of the year:
- New Year’s day was one of ill omen to the ancient Egyptians.
- It is unlucky to have clothes hanging on the line when the New Year is born.
- If a person in deep mourning pays you a call on New Year’s day, a member of your family will die before the year is out.
- In Northern Yorkshire, people will not allow anyone to light a candle from the fire on New Year’s day, so afraid are they to “carry fire to fire.”
- The Chinese believe a Buddhist priest to be the first to enter a house on New Year’s morning is even worse than to have a woman first enter it.
- Burn all the visiting cards that have been received throughout the year on the first of January. If you keep them from year to year you will have bad luck.
- If you have not provided yourself with a calendar before the New Year comes in, you will be behindhand in all your undertakings during the year. (Massachusetts.)
- If you eat apples on New Year’s day it will produce abcesses.
- Some people believe that if you put on clean linen on New Year’s day, you will have sores come on your skin.
- On New Year’s day no one must utter the words that indicate death in any form, especially the word “shi” itself, lest the invitation be accepted. (Chinese.)
- The Chinese believe it very bad luck not to pay all of his outstanding accounts on the last day of the year, and begin fresh and straight on New Year’s day.
- If a creditor makes a disturbance in the house of a debtor on New Year’s Day it is considered a most unlucky omen for the future prosperity of the debtor. (China.)
- It is bad luck in China to spend money the first three days of the year, except for candies and refreshments.
- If one sneezes on New Year’s eve while preparing for bed, it is a sign of misfortune during the coming year. (China.)
- It is a sure sign of strife and debates among the learned, and of many robberies to happen during the year, if the new year is ushered in with very red clouds.
- A corpse in the house on New Year’s day is the sign of another death to follow soon.
- The throwing of coal-dust or soot instead of lime before a door on New Year’s day, betokens gloom and bad luck. (Malta.)
- When the wind blows on New Year’s night, it is a sign of pestilence.
- “If you wash clothes on New-Year’s day, you’ll be sure to wash a friend away.”
- It is unlucky to sow on New Year’s day.
- Spend on New Year, spend all the year.
- It is very unlucky to refuse a beggar anything on New Year’s day, or to refuse a request of any kind.
- A sudden noise on New Year’s night foretells the death of an inmate.
- To meet a priest before any other male on New Year’s day, is a sign of death during the year; if a policeman, litigation is sure to follow.
- It is unlucky to have a flat-footed person enter the house first of any one on New Year’s day. (Folk Lore of Northern Countries.)
- It is an omen of ill luck if a redhaired woman enters a house on New Year’s morning.
- If the first man you speak to on New Year’s morning has his hands in his pockets, you will have a hard time getting what money you want during the year.
- Among the Highlanders, if a black and threatening cloud appears on New Year’s eve, it is looked upon as a forerunner of some dire calamity to the country or to the family estate over which it appears to hang.
- French flax is put on the spindle New Year’s eve in many parts of Germany. None must be spun then, as it would be bad for the year’s spinning.
- It is unlucky to have the fire go out on New Year’s day.
- It is unlucky to eat anything green on New Year’s day.
- In Hesna, it is unlucky to eat an apple on New Year’s day.
- In the rural districts of Cornwall, it is unlucky, if a female is the first to enter a house on New Year’s morning.
- In some of the northern countries of Scotland, it is considered unlucky to enter a person’s house on New Year’s day empty.
- In Scotland, nothing that could be washed on the last night of the year was left unclean. Even the walls were whitewashed inside, lest misfortune should fall upon the family.
- To break a white lamp-globe on New Year’s day is a sure sign that you will experience great financial losses during the year.
- To break a colored lamp-globe on New Year’s day is a sign of the death of a near relative during the year.
- The Chinese think it unlucky to allude to any possible misfortune on New Year’s day.
- It is unlucky to take ashes out of the house on New Year’s day.
And last but not least:
In Malta, a superstitious dread still attaches to some one of the family keeping absent at dinner time on New Year’s day. He who doesn’t dine with his family on New Year’s day is expected to die at the end of that same year. It is also said in Malta that he who eats hotch-potch soup on New Year’s day is to gnaw the ham bones all the rest of the year; and that those who eat cabbage on New Year’s day will groan for a whole year.
In Japan, January 1st is the Shichi Fukujin, the Celebration of the Seven Deities of Luck.
Shichi Fukujin is usually translated as “Seven Spirits of Good Fortune,” but literally means “Seven Happiness Beings.” Six are male and one is female (Benten). Each is an important, powerful spirit. They hail from different traditions. Unlike the comparable Seven African Powers, they do not all derive from the same spiritual base. Some are Shinto, some Buddhist; Hotei originally derives from Chinese Taoist traditions, but wherever they came from, all are now significant to Japanese folk religion.
Each of the Shichi Fukujin is venerated independently. Some are also venerated in smaller groupings. (Daikoku and Ebisu are frequently paired.) They are most frequently depicted all together sailing in their treasure ship, the Takarabune. The Seven Spirits provide blessings of health, h appiness, protection, and longevity and everything that is good and desirable in life. If invoked together they are able to provide all blessings.
The Shichi Fukujin are:
- Benton: goddess of love, music, eloquence, fine arts
- Bishamonten: god of happiness and long life
- Daikoku: god of prosperity
- Ebisu: patron of work
- Fukurokujo: god of happiness and long life
- Hotei Osho: god of good fortune
- Jurojin: god of longevity and happy old age
The seven sail into our realm during New Year’s festivities to distribute gifts to the worthy. Place an image of the treasure ship complete with all Shichi Fukujin under your pillow on New Year’s Eve to receive a lucky dream.
Their imagery is ubiquitous in Japan, extending even as far as on children’s undewear. Next time you’re in a Japanese restaurant, look around: it’s likely that you’ll find the Shichi Fukujin in residence. Envision yourself cruising along with them, and beseech their blessings.
Shichi Fukujin sushi is a beautiful roll containing seven smaller rolls.
Iconography: Many prints and sculptures depict the seven sailing on their treasure ship on the Sea of Good Fortune. Individual alter images are also available.
Sacred sites: A pilbramage route in Kamakura, Japan, involves visiting seven shrines, each associated with one of the Shichi Fukujin.
From: Encyclopedia of Spirits
The New Year represents a new beginning in every way. Clearing up unfinished business, of whatever kind, is a good notion, and blowing away the cobwebs from the old year that has passed is no bad thing either. In parts of Scotland this was accomplished by the juniper and water rite.
After sunset on New Year’s Eve, people went out to gather branches of juniper and buckets of fresh water from a well or stream. The branches were then placed by the fire to dry out. In the morning the head of the household took a first drink of the water and then went around the house sprinkling everyone with a few drops.
This done, all doors and windows were closed tight and the branches of dried juniper were set alight and taken through the house until everything was thoroughly fumigated. This almost certainly dates back to a very old rite in which the sacred juniper was burned at fireplaces to ensure the gifts of the New Year were properly celebrated.
We can still do this today, since there are numerous kinds of incense made from juniper, or if we are adventurous enough we can make our own. Taken through the house this leaves a pleasant aroma and gives us a sense of new beginnings.
From The Silver Bough we have this nice little New Year’s Eve folk tradition::
The house received a mini spring-cleaning. Slops and ashes, which are usually removed in the morning, are carried out. Debts must be paid, borrowed articles returned, stockings darned, tears mended, clocks wound up, musical instruments tuned, pictures hung straight; brass and silver must be glittering; fresh linen must be put on the beds. Even in the slummiest houses… brooms and pails, soap, polishing rags and darning-needles emerge from neglected cupboards and drawers, and the bairns receive a thorough scrubbing in honor of the New Year.
New Year’s Eve is traditionally a time for assessing the past twelve months and for looking ahead to the New Year. Numerous customs are still retained in Europe and the United States, including the idea of kindling a new light from the old. This can be achieved in a number of ways, including the following simple ceremony.
At a few minutes to midnight, put out all of your lights except for a single candle or a lantern (it’s important that the light be a living one rather than electric). Send someone outside (traditionally it is someone who has dark hair) with the light, which they must guard and protect from the weather. As the clock strikes twelve have that person knock on the door. Open it and welcome them in with some form of ceremonial greeting, such as:
Welcome to the light of the New Year
And welcome he/she who brings it here.
Go around the house with the candle and relight all the lights you put out. If these can be candles so much the better, but don’t burn the house down In Scotland this custom is known as “First Footing,” and the person who first puts his or her foot across the door is the one who brings fortune to the whole household. Often someone in the house arranges with a friend to come to the house at the exact time carrying a gift – called a handsel in Scotland and consisting of a lump of coal, or a bottle of whiskey – something that will ensure that more gifts come throughout the next twelve months.
Source: The Winter Solstice
First Footing Lore:
Ideally, he should be dark-haired, tall, and good-looking, and it would be even better if he came bearing certain small gifts such as a lump of coal, a silver coin, a bit of bread, a sprig of evergreen, and some salt.
Blonde and redhead first footers bring bad luck, and female first footers should be shooed away before they bring disaster down on the household. Aim a gun at them if you have to, but don’t let them near your door before a man crosses the threshold.
The first footer (sometimes called the “Lucky Bird”) should knock and be let in rather than unceremoniously use a key, even if he is one of the householders.
After greeting those in the house and dropping off whatever small tokens of luck he has brought with him, he should make his way through the house and leave by a different door than the one through which he entered.
No one should leave the premises before the first footer arrives – the first traffic across the threshold must be headed in rather than striking out.
First footers must not be cross-eyed or have flat feet or eyebrows that meet in the middle.
Nothing prevents the cagey householder from stationing a dark-haired man outside the home just before midnight to ensure the speedy arrival of a suitable first footer as soon as the chimes sound.
If one of the partygoers is recruited for this purpose, impress upon him the need to slip out quietly just prior to the witching hour.
To celebrate the New Year fireballs swing in Stonehaven, Scotland.
The ceremony consists of mainly local people of all ages swinging flaming wire cages, around their heads. Each cage is filled with combustible material (each swinger has their own recipe) and has a wire handle two or three feet long, this keeps the flames well away from the swinger, but spectators can be vulnerable! At the end of the ceremony, the fireballs are tossed into the bay.
The event starts at midnight and is watched by thousands. The idea behind the ceremony is to burn off the bad spirits left from the old year so that the spirits of the New Year can come in clean and fresh.
From current research the ceremony would seem to go back from a hundred to a hundred and fifty years, but it could easily be much older.
The ceremony today lasts only around twenty to thirty minutes but in the past it could last an hour or more. Then, some of the swingers would swing their fireball for a few yards and then stop outside a house that was occupied by someone that they knew. They would drop their fireball at the curbside and pop in for their ‘New Year’! After a while they would come out, pick up their ‘ball’ and swing on down to the next house, and so on. As quite a number of the swingers would have had many relatives and friends staying in area it could take some time to get from one end of the street to the other!
In the early years, according to the newspaper reports, it would seem that it was mainly the male youths of the older ‘fisher’ town that were involved in the custom but once into the sixties the newspaper reports are of older men and women being involved as well.