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New Year's traditions vary

By Ed Brock

Like turkey, which was popular before Christmas, Ari Northington at Angel's Southern Cookin' expects to sell a lot of black-eyed peas and greens on New Year's Eve.

"That's usually for prosperity and good luck," said Northington, who with her husband owns the restaurant on Tara Boulevard near Jonesboro.

Pork is a popular meat to go with the traditional New Year's meal, Northington said.

"But people have gotten away from that."

They're seeking healthier options, she added.

New Year's traditions vary from culture to culture and even family to family. The family of 36-year-old April Weems of Riverdale do no ironing, straightening their hair or cleaning on New Year's Day.

"We get all that done before midnight (on New Year's Eve)," Weems said. "That just a tradition that started with my mother."

Some people ring in the new year at parties.

"This is the first year that I'm going to a party. I wanted to do something different," said Lauren Smith of Fulton County.

Others, like Northington, go to church, though she usually is home in time for a champagne toast.

Roslyn McDonald of Houston, Texas, in Clayton County for a visit on Thursday said they stay in church for the passing of the midnight hour between years.

"We all say a prayer and bring the year in with friends and family," McDonald said.

And then there's the tradition of singing "Auld Lang Syne."

The old Scottish song was first published in 1796 by the poet Robert Burns but was made popular in America by band leader Guy Lombardo who played the song at a New Year's Eve Party at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York in 1929 and from there the tradition continued.

Denise Cartwright, 31, of Jonesboro spends New Year's Eve with her family, but she doesn't sing "Auld Lang Syne."

She doesn't know the words.

At least, "not all of them," she said.

Other popular American New Year's traditions are the dropping of the New Year ball at Times Square in New York and the Rose Bowl and Tournament of Roses parade in Pasadena, Calif. But different countries have other traditions, and other traditional foods.

In Hogmanay, Scotland, the "birthplace of 'Auld Lang Syne'" according to FactMonster, they have "first-footing" just after midnight of New Year's Eve. Neighbors visit each other bringing gifts of coal for fire or shortbread, and it's considered very good luck for a tall, dark, handsome man to be the first visitor of the year.

In Japan, New Year, or "oshogatsu," is the biggest celebration of the year. Japanese people "forget the year" at "bonenkai" parties and children receive cash presents called "otoshidama." Buddhist monks ring the temple bell 108 times to expel 108 human weaknesses and everybody cleans and scrubs their house.

As for food, many people eat noodles at their local Buddhist temple at midnight and "omochi," a sticky rice cake, during New Year's Day.

In Spain the tradition is to eat twelve grapes at the stroke of midnight to signify the last 12 months of the year.

New Year's Day is also the Festival of St. Basil in Greece, and they eat "vassilopitta," a cake with a silver or gold coin baked into it for luck.

The Dutch burn bonfires of Christmas trees and shoot fireworks, the latter being a common tradition in America as well. That tradition is believed to come from ancient times when the noise of the fireworks was believed to chase away evil spirits.

Also, the tradition of making New Year's resolutions is believed to date back to the Babylonians.