While still reeling from the results of my research into odd Christmas traditions around the world, such the Japanese eating Kentucky Fried Chicken, and a special culinary treat in Greenland called
1. Just a few countries to the right of Greenland, professional divers in Siberia will be planting a tree at the bottom of Lake Baikal, the world's oldest and deepest freshwater lake, in order to ring in the new year.
2. What do Oaxaca, Mexico and Denmark have in common? They both smash crockery to celebrate the new year. In Denmark, you round up all of your old dishes and smash them against your neighbor's door as a sign of affection. Oaxacans parade down lantern-lit streets and smash their plates by the Cathedral, signifying the year's end.
3. I have firsthand experience with the Lebanese New Year's custom of being the first to bellow, in Arabic, "Happy New Year - give me some money!" to a loved one. Throughout their lives, my husband and his family have tried to outwit each other on January 1st with early morning phone calls, although it's all for show since no money is ever actually extorted.
4. The Lebanese can't really compete with what takes place in Scotland every New Year's - the Stonehaven Fireballs Ceremony. According to the association's webpage, "It 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!" Witnessed by thousands, the event is meant to burn off bad spirits from the previous year in order to start with a clean slate in the new one.
5. The Polar Bear swim, where you hurl your body into an icy pool of water, was first recorded in 1904 in Boston, and remains popular in Canada and the Netherlands. Not to be outdone, Front Range folks have the opportunity to participate every New Year's Day at Evergreen Lake (see video below). The event is a fund raiser for Drive Smart and the Evergreen Park & Recreation District Special Needs Program. (Those with heart conditions are advised to just laugh at the participants from the sidelines.)
Looking for a new year's themed book? Try White Teeth, Zadie Smith's globetrotting debut novel of the immigrant experience in London, or, A Long Way Down, by Nick Hornby, where four people who intend to jump meet on the same rooftop on New Years' Eve, and all decide to postpone their suicides.