31st December

New Year’s Eve:

Most Spanish-speaking countries celebrate by eating a grape with each of the twelve chimes of a clock’s bell during the midnight countdown, while making a wish with each one.

Mexican families decorate homes and parties in colors that represent wishes for the upcoming year: red encourages an overall improvement of lifestyle and love, yellow encourages blessings of improved employment conditions, green for improved financial circumstances, and white for improved health.

Another tradition is to make a list of all the bad or unhappy events over the past 12 months; before midnight, this list is thrown into a fire, symbolizing the removal of negative energy from the new year.

In Austria, instead of singing Auld Lang Syne at midnight, they dance to Strauss’s Blue Danube.

In Belgium children write beautifully decorated ‘New Year’s Day’ letters that they read out to their families wishing them health and happiness in the coming year and promising not to be as naughty as they were last year.

Danish bake a Kransekrage; Greeks eat a Vasilopita.

Finland and Germany melt lead and drop it into cold water to tell fortunes from the shapes. They eat a tiny marzipan pig for good luck.

In Russia New Year’s Eve is very much like Christmas because the Communists banned Christmas (I know, right?). They remember the best bits of the last year and in the last 12 seconds make secret wishes for the next year.

Spanish and Italians wear red underwear for good luck.

Welsh give each other bread and cheese.

In Brazil New Year’s Eve marks the start of the summer holidays!

In Ecuador men dress as women (not kidding).

In Guatemala adults exchange gifts as the Christ Child only brings presents to children on Christmas day.

In Japan people prepare their homes for the toshigami, the god of the new year, with Kadomatsu (a plantpot arrangement of bamboo and pine) and Shimenawa (rice-stalk ropes to cordon off sacred areas).

Pakistanis often accidentally shoot each other as they like to fire their guns into the air to express joy.

Filipinos wear polka-dot clothes and serve circular fruits to attract money, and throw coins in the air at midnight.

Activities:

Make New Year’s Eve cupcakes (add real sparklers for extra excitement; we tried melted white choc mixed with food colouring as I don’t know what candy coating is; you could also try arranging snipped-up strawberry/bubblegum laces in firework patterns) or make a calendar together out of last year’s photos.

Older kids would probably love molybdomancy (divination with molten lead or pewter) because it’s so bloody dangerous, so that’s up to you.

Make confetti wands,

make pipecleaner glasses,

make silent underwater fireworks,make a wishing tree for New Year’s Resolutions,

make a time capsule (we do timed sports/mental challenges, like how fast can you run around the house, and see if we improve the next year),

make countdown bags,

have a party bath,

turn the year into a banner or nail art or set of finger rings or on a fancy party hat,

and drink fancy mocktails.

Also today:

1853 Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins hosts a dinner party inside a life-size model of an Iguanadon he’d made with Sir Richard Owen

Day of Azeri Solidarity

1759 Guinness started brewing Guinness

1879 Thomas Eddison displays the first incandescent lightbulb

1960 the farthing (1/4 penny) ceases to be legal tender in Britain

1869 Henry Matisse born.

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