29 December 2009

The Seasons: Bringing In A New Year

By Jennifer Linforth

Not a single season can turn without first turning over a new year. With 2010 fast upon us, why not have some fun visiting New Years traditions around the globe?

New Years Eve in Austria is known as Sylvesterbend, or the Eve of Saint Sylvester. Homes, taverns, and inns are decorated with garlands of evergreen and a punch of cinnamon, sugar, and red wine is traditionally served. Dinner is usually a suckling pig to symbolize good luck, and dozens of tiny marzipan pigs decorate the tables. Four leaf clovers are popular and often a dessert of peppermint ice cream fashioned into a clover is served. To ward off the evil spirits of the previous year, mortars are fired, and during midnight masses trumpets may be blown from church towers. The now famous Strauss concert is performed by the Vienna Philharmonic and watched by millions worldwide.

In neighboring Germany, folks would often drop molten lead into cold water in an attempt to predict the future. Dinner plates were rarely cleared as bits of food were left upon them until after midnight to ensure a well-stock larder in the new year. Carp was a popular food as it symbolized wealth.

Traveling to Denmark? Don't forget your dishes--pile broken ones at the door of your friends. Eat boiled cod, stewed kale and cured pork. End your meal with a famous ring cake of marzipan consumed at midnight.

In Ireland girls head to bed with sprigs of mistletoe, holly, or ivy leaves under their pillows to summon dreams of their future husbands. A simple chant of "Oh ivy green and holly red, tell me, tell me whom I shall wed" was often recited. An odd custom was to take a large loaf of Christmas bread outside and hammer it against closed doors and windows to drive out misfortune and let in happiness.

Happy New Year!