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New Year Traditions and Symbols

New Year Traditions and SymbolsWhen I was growing up in Asia, my mom practiced the following traditions every New Year:

  • collect twelve types of fruit – one type for each month of the year. The fruit had to be somewhat round (circle is a shape of money and prosperity) and should come in two’s (for fertility).
  • fill the larder, at least with basics – rice, salt, and sugar. An empty larder doesn’t bode well for the coming year.

As you can imagine, the prices of fruit and basic food items skyrocketed towards the end of December as people tried to fulfill the yearly tradition.

When I moved to Europe 17 years ago, I was surprised that superstitions and New Year symbolism also abound but quite different. People use different symbols to signify luck and prosperity for the New Year – symbols which I’ve never encountered before.

In shops, customers shopping get calendars and good luck charms in the form of:

  • Gold coin replica
  • Baby boy
  • Pig
  • Four-leaf clover
  • Ladybug
  • Chimney sweep

Gold is definitely the symbol of money and prosperity. The baby boy – Baby New Year – represents newness and youth. The pig stands for prosperity as well as health, whereas the four-leaf clover and the ladybug are symbols of luck. As for the chimney sweep, I can only speculate it has something to do with cleaning up the old year’s dirt to get on with the new.

Sometimes, the symbols are combined together. Last year, for example, I got from the pharmacy around the corner a clover-shaped candle with a plastic ladybug on it. From the baker’s it was a plastic replica of 1 EURO cent with again, a ladybug pasted on one side.

Regardless of cultural differences, it is interesting to see recurring themes for the New Year: youth, luck, and prosperity. After all, these are what New Year is all about, right?


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