In Venezuela, the farewell of the old year and the welcoming of the new year are a huge ritual. There are many traditions and superstitions around this date, which may vary from family to family. However, all of them are done always with the intention of auguring a new year filled with love, happiness, prosperity and health.
On the night of December 31st, apart from eating the delicious specialties of the season and sharing time with our loved ones; yet many people like to give a magical touch to this celebration. Many wear brand new clothes to ensure abundance in their lives. Wear yellow underwear to attract money and good luck in business. We all eat twelve grapes during the cannon shot*, to make twelve wishes of any kind. Spread essence of tangerine and cinnamon all over the house to keep away the bad energies and attract the good ones. Share green lentils with the neighbors to ensure prosperity in the new year. Write a list of resolutions – at least to remind ourselves that we can always be better beings. Also keep money in the wallet and take a bag full of clothes to go for a quick run around the house… this is to augur that many pleasant trips will be made in the new year!!!.
So while in China we wanted to invite our friends and colleagues to celebrate with us these fun traditions. I personally, chose the music with a selection of songs that included enough and popular gaitas zulianas*. Some Latin rhythms to dance during the evening, and of course the classic end–of–year-song “El Año Viejo“ by Crescencio Salcedo and popularized by Tony Camargo; “Faltan Cinco pa’ las Doce“ by Néstor Zavarce and “Año Nuevo“ by the Venezuelan band Billo’s Caracas Boys.
I did my best to make the Venezuelan Ham Bread with the few ingredients I found; and a chicken salad that was perfect. Our friends collaborated with delicious beans, salads, stew, meat, home made snacks and drinks. We had culinary styles from various countries; including as a dessert, a tasty rice pudding with raisins. A delight of British origin.
That night we adapt the tradition of the “Spirit of Christmas” which is actually made on December 21st. First, we all write letters with all the bad things we wanted to eliminate from our lives. When they were ready, we collected them, sprinkled them with sugar saying at the same time, a few words to sweeten them. Then, we lighted fire on them; shouting in unison ‘out – out of our lives, go away, out, out!!”.
A while later, it was time to write the second letter. In this one, we could express all the desires we have for humanity, for our planet, for our family and friends and at last, for ourselves. We wrote positive things without limits!. When we were done we said some words and every one was invited to keep his or her letter to eventually read it during the year, check if the wishes were fulfilled and bring it for the 2015 celebration to finish the ritual.
After many toasts and a succulent dinner, we danced some Latin beats. We all played and sung in a harmonious environment.
Before few minutes to finish the year 2014, a Venezuelan song was heard “Faltan cinco pa’ las doce ‘ by Néstor Zavarce. This theme is obligatory in this Venezuelan day; but for the moment of eating grapes and the end–of–year count, I did not find any modern recording to show exactly how we do it in my country. Only an edition of the radio station YVKE Mundial, where they were welcoming the year 1988. But unfortunately no sound of bells nor cannon shot for the countdown could be heard. However it didn’t matter! I did count instead of the bell sound, we ate the grapes one by one and we made in silence our personal wishes. Then came the fraternal hug, wishing each other a happy new year, peace, health and prosperity…
After that and almost immediately, we all went out running around the building with our luggages and our hopes. It was totally fun! We pretended to have gone traveling to awesome places.
When we came back, we went to wish “happy New Year” to our neighbors and welcome the 2015 with more toast and Fireworks!.
From China, we wish you a Happy and Prosperous New Year, full of pleasant surprises and fulfilled goals!!!
References for the Reader:
* Twelve grapes of cannon shot: twelve seconds before the 12 pm, with each bell sound (which means every second) we eat a grape. With every grape, we make a wish. In total, 12 wishes that should come true in a lapse time of a year.
* Cannon shot: This is the sound of the canon that announces that the old year has gone and the new year has begun. Formerly, January 1st was announced by the main cannon of the military barrack. This sound used to invade the former Caracas, announcing the arrival of a new year to their citizens. Nowadays, for a Venezuelan, “cannon shot” means “old year”.
* Gaitas Zulianas: traditional music from Zulia State in Venezuela. This music is mainly played in the month of December.
Does your country have traditions on this date?