Ringing in the New Year with Yellow Underwear

I read a fun article recently about Latin America’s New Years traditions.  To cover all your bases, it seems like you should do the following:

1. If you are a Chilena, make sure to wear your best yellow underpants (seriously).  Apparently the color is supposed to represent the sun, “which is viewed as the basis of life, prosperity and abundance on earth.”

I’m no expert, but I don’t think yellow is a very popular color of underpants in the US.  No worries though if you are in Chile–check out this awesome stand of yellow panties:

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Now there are variations to the yellow color.  The article notes that ladies often wear red in order to attract love in the new year.  Also, “a group of Bolivians also tried to encourage wearing green underwear as a sign of hope.”  This is a curious statement.  I wonder who this group is, what their motives are (are they producers of green underpants?), and whether they were ultimately successful.  And lastly (and also strangely),  “it has become customary to wear coloured underwear inside out” in Peru.

2. Eat 12 grapes as fast as you can and try to make it to the new year by not choking to death.  This comes from Spain but has been widely adopted in LA.  According to the article “while eating grapes on New Year’s is popular all over Latin America, making wishes is characteristically Venezuelan.”

3.  Wash down those grapes with a big spoonful of lentils.  This apparently “ensures the year to come is filled with prosperity and abundance.”  And really, what goes better with grapes than lentils?

4.  Now, grab your luggage and run around the block (again, seriously).  I’m not sure how many countries actually do this as a ritual but according to the article it is supposed to “ensure safe and abundant travels in the New Year.”  And I guess if you don’t have any luggage to run with, you are unlikely to be traveling very far anyway?

5. Light something on fire.  More specifically, a rag doll representing the old, crappy year you just finished.  In some regions you can also burn other memorabilia like photos to “let go” of the last year and start fresh.  The person in the photo below apparently had a lot to “let go” of.  Looks like he or she is scaring the neighbors.

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I’m sorry to say that I didn’t do any of the above rituals but I’m still hoping 2014 will work out ok for me.

Update:  The WSJ published a list today of the top 4 weirdest New Year traditions.  Strangely, Chile takes the #1 slot but not for the yellow underpants.

1. Chile: visiting dead relatives in a graveyard.  This doesn’t seem that strange to me.

2. Romania: trying to talk to animals.  I talk to my dog all the time, not just on New Year’s day.  I guess the strange part would be if they started talking back.

3. Ireland: banging bread on the wall to scare off malevolent spirits. Maybe the spirits are sensitive to gluten.

4. Hillbrow, South Africa:  chucking furniture out your window.  How can this only be #4 on the list?  ‘

The WSJ has some great quotes in the piece. Here are some of my favorites:

a. Let’s start with the funny sub-title: “Hazardous Habit Collides With Drive to Gentrify Johannesburg’s Crime-Ridden Core.”  I guess that would be at odds with gentrification.

b. “The 36-year-old technician said he once put aside used items, such as a rusty stove, an old TV set or worn-out clothes to throw off his balcony on Dec. 31. But rising rents make furniture-tossing unaffordable as well as illegal.”  What’s New Year’s Eve without throwing a stove off your balcony?  A bad way to start the new Year is what it is.

c. “Several years ago, a small refrigerator struck someone on the head and body.”  That pretty much covers the whole person, no?  head and body?

d. “Police told residents—many of whom are immigrants from other parts of Africa—that hurling furniture off balconies could hurt family members or neighbors.” The idea that you would have to tell anyone this is pretty funny, but the article makes it sound like it’s the fact that the residents are immigrants which makes this lecture necessary.  I guess the immigrants aren’t hip to the laws of gravity that afflict South Africa alone.

alright, I guess that’s enough snark to start off the new year.  now back to work…

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