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The Funny Side of the Mountain

A Humourist's view of life in Spain. As a comedy writer, rural Spain is often a great source of inspiration. These are just some of my random scribblings.

New Year Shenanigans
03 January 2020 @ 10:08

As the New Year unfolded, I got to wondering about some of the strange things we do to celebrate. Things like singing unintelligible Scottish folk songs which celebrate reunions while wishing everybody farewell or telling ourselves lies about losing weight and staying sober for the whole of January.

In Spain, the New Year is celebrated by eating twelve grapes. One between each strike of the clock. Supposedly this is an ancient tradition to bring good luck to each of the coming months. In reality, it has only been going about a hundred years and was more than likely started by the wine industry in order to offload their end-of-year excess harvest.

Not to be outdone, the lentil growers promote a tradition of eating lentil soup on New Year’s Day. Apparently, each of the tiny round lentils represents a coin and eating the soup of “coins” is believed to bring you wealth in the coming year. Even the underwear manufacturers have got into the act. As anybody who has ever visited a Spanish Street Market will attest, underwear is a very important part of Spanish commerce, therefore, it will come as no surprise therefore to discover that there is an ancient New Year tradition associated with these garments. In order to ensure love in the coming year, it is essential that one is wearing red underwear as the year starts. Course, one can’t get away by just raiding last year’s underwear drawer as there is a clause to this tradition which states that this only works if the red underwear has been given as a gift. Nice touch!

With envious eyes, other Spanish producers marvel at these marketing triumphs and wonder how they too can introduce some ancient customs of their own. The chorizo makers guild have revived an ancient tradition that says that the first person entering your house after midnight must be carrying a chorizo sausage. Desperate to keep up in the ancient tradition race, the olive oil industry insist that pouring a bottle of olive oil over one’s shoes makes the year run smoothly, the Nougat and Confectioners Consortium discovered a lost book of the Bible which says eating half a cubit of nougat before midnight ensures you have plenty of energy to greet the coming year and the Beer Makers Collective say that each litre of beer drunk in the first hour of the New Year represents a new opportunity to meet new best friends. The garlic growers are still struggling to gain acceptance of their newly discovered ancient tradition that eating a raw bulb of garlic at midnight ensures that the first person you kiss will be your forever partner.

All of this has led the Society of Ambulance Drivers to create their own tradition of seeing how many people they can cram into the back of an ambulance at half-past midnight.

Fireworks are a more international tradition and one about which the Spanish are particularly enthusiastic. The tradition has it that to ensure a year of good luck, it is essential to let off vast amounts of fireworks and bangers in order to scare away any lingering evil spirits before the New Year starts. The Spanish of course relish any excuse to get busy with the fireworks. We have fireworks at breakfast time to forewarn everybody of the coming fusillades and then they continue at random times throughout the day, culminating in a flurry of all remaining fireworks simultaneously going off at midnight. Those of us with dogs have the added joy of 25 kilos of dog leaping onto our laps every few minutes in order to protect us from the bangs. By the time the final midnight volley arrives, we’re all partially deaf, slightly shell-shocked and covered in dog hair.

Strange traditions of course are not restricted to Spain, and the strangest celebration of New Year’s Day is probably the town of Mobile in Alabama. Here, they lower a 12-foot-tall moon pie down the side of the 34 story RSA BankTrust building at the stroke of midnight, when it is cut and served to the public.

Even the concept of New Year itself isn’t quite as ancient as one might think. Prior to 1753, Britain and its possessions celebrated the New Year on March 25. And in France, in 1793 the new revolutionary government introduced a decimal calendar with ten days per week, ten hours a day and a hundred minute an hour. Oddly, they only managed to keep this going for 12 years. Clearly, the 18th century would have been a tricky time for TV companies to do their traditional global New Year telethons. “We’re waiting for France, they’re still on Dixday and waiting for the clock to strike a hundred.”

And finally, my Life-Hack for 2020

To mean to buy a calendar for 2020? Don’t worry, just go to the kitchen drawer and pull out the one for 1992 instead. It will still work. In fact, you only ever need to keep 14 calendars to never waste money on a new one.

Happy New Year!

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