CELEBRATION Some really wacky things people did around the world to herald the New Year in…
In Paris, apart from lighting fireworks, thousands indulged in quirkier New Year's rituals like melting lead, leaping off chairs or gobbling grapes. In Finland, people poured molten lead into cold water to divine the year ahead from the shape the metal set in. If the blob represents a ship, it is said to foretell travel; if it's a ball, good luck.
In Denmark, people stood on chairs and jumped off in unison as the clock struck midnight, literally leaping into the New Year. The Danes also threw plates at their friends' homes during the night — the more shards outside your door in the morning the more popular you are said to be.
The Dutch built massive bonfires with their Christmas trees and ate special sugary donuts that are believed to bring them good fortune.
Spaniards, in turn, gobbled a dozen grapes before the stroke of midnight, each fruit representing a month that will either be sweet or sour. In Italy, men dived into the muddy waters of the Tiber River from the Cavour bridge, as part of a New Year tradition that dates back to 1946. Meanwhile, the Irish apparently got out bread and hammered it against the walls. The bread ensures plenty of food for the next year and banging on the walls drives out evil spirits.
In the Philippines, revellers wore polka dots for good luck, while in some countries of South America, people donned brightly coloured underwear to attract fortune — red for love and yellow for financial success. In Cape Town, thousands of performers in brightly coloured outfits and ornately painted faces paraded through the city playing Ghoema music (comic songs often accompanied by brass or banjo). The carnival dates back to when slaves in the Cape Colony were given the day after New Year off. And if the ancient Romans, who gave us the solar calendar, had been around, what would they have been doing? Something very similar to what we do, it seems.
“It was a day of public celebration. Ancient Romans spent the day playing, eating and drinking,” says French historian John Scheid of the College de France.