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Travel Picks: Top 10 New Year favorites
December 21, 2012 / 12:20 PM / in 5 years

Travel Picks: Top 10 New Year favorites

BOSTON, Dec 21 (Reuters) - New Year is a time for fresh
starts, hopes, dreams and saying goodbye to the old year. At
this time of festive camaraderie and reflection, online travel
adviser Cheapflights (www.cheapflights.com) offers its Top 10
favorite New Year traditions from across the globe. Reuters has
not endorsed this list:
1.  Germany & Finland
    How about a spot of fortune telling to ring in the New Year?
    Molybdomancy is an ancient technique of divination that
involves interpreting the shapes made by dropping molten lead
into cold water.
    On New Year's Eve in Germany and Finland, family and friends
come together for a spot of lead pouring - Bleigießen in German
and uudenvuodentina in Finnish - and make predictions for the
coming year.
    It isn't an exact science and there are no firm rules on
what the shapes actually represent. A bubbly surface can mean
money is coming your way; a broken shape misfortune. Ships refer
to traveling; a ball means luck; a monkey says beware of false
friends; and a hedgehog means someone is jealous of you. But
don't get too worried if you receive a bad fortune - the
predictions are just for fun.
2.  Mexico
    In Mexico, families celebrate New Year's (Vispera de Año
Nuevo) with a mix of religion, tradition, superstition and
special festive foods.
    Families decorate their homes in colors that represent
wishes for the upcoming year: red for love, yellow for work and
green for money. For even more wishes, Mexicans eat a grape
(preferably seedless) with each of the 12 clock chimes at the
stroke of midnight, while making a wish with each grape.
    To start the year with a clean slate, another tradition
involves writing a list of all the bad and unhappy events that
happened over the year, then before midnight the list is thrown
into a fire and the negative feelings of the past year are gone.
    In keeping with the country's Catholic traditions, Mexican
sweet bread (Rosca de Reyes) is baked with a coin or charm
hidden in the dough. When the bread is served, whoever gets the
slice with the coin or charm is said to be blessed with good
luck for the New Year.
3.  Wales
    Calennig, the Welsh name for New Year, means New Year
celebration or gift and since ancient times the tradition in
Wales has been to give gifts and money to friends, family and
neighbors. Today, it is customary to give bread and cheese on
New Year's morning, with children receiving skewered apples
covered with raisins and fruit. In some parts of Wales, people
must visit all their relatives by midday to collect their
Calennig. That's a lot of bread and cheese!
4.  Japan
    The Japanese New Year (Oshogatsu) is marked with a range of
cultural and religious traditions from eating special family
meals and making temple visits to sending postcards. Since 1873
Oshogatsu has been celebrated on January 1, but traditionally it
followed the Chinese lunar calendar. misoka (New Year's Eve)
welcomes Toshigami, the New Year's god, and across the country
people celebrate with concerts, countdowns and fireworks as well
as more traditional activities. 
    It is customary to send handwritten New Year's Day postcards
(nengajo) to friends and family and the post office guarantees
any cards sent in time will arrive on January 1. 
    Food plays a big part in New Year's celebrations. People eat
a special selection of dishes called osechi-ryori, including of
boiled seaweed (konbu), fish cakes (kamaboko), mashed sweet
potato with chestnut (kurikinton), simmered burdock root
(kinpira gob), and sweetened black soybeans (kuromame). 
    Around 11 pm, people gather at home for one last time in the
old year and eat a bowl of noodles-long noodles are associated
with crossing over from one year to the next.
    On the stroke of midnight, Buddhist Temples across the
country ring their bells exactly 108 times. One of the most
breathtaking celebrations takes place at the Zojoji Temple in
Tokyo where thousands of people gather to release silver helium
balloons carrying New Year's wishes into the midnight sky.
    After the clocks strike 12, many families visit a shrine or
temple for Hatsumode (first shrine visit of the year).
    On New Year's Day, the Japanese give money to children in a
tradition known as otoshidama. Money is handed in small
decorated envelopes called pochibukuro. The amount of money
given depends on the age of the child, but it is not uncommon
for kids to get more than ¥10,000 (US$120).
5.  Philippines
    In the Philippines, New Year's Eve (Bisperas ng Bagong Taon)
is a public holiday and people usually celebrate in the company
of family and close friends. Traditionally, most households host
or attend a Media Noche (dinner party).
    Most Filipinos follow a set of traditions that includes
wearing clothes with dots (in the belief that circles attract
money and fortune) and bright colors to show enthusiasm for the
coming year.
    Throwing coins at the stroke of midnight is said to increase
wealth as does serving circular shaped fruits and shaking of
coins inside a metal can while walking around the house.
    Things really get loud as people make noises by blowing on
cardboard or plastic horns (torotot) banging pots and pans,
playing music, or lighting fireworks to scare away bad spirits.
6.  Scotland
    Hogmanay is the Scots word for the last day of the year and
has become one of the world's most recognized New Year's
celebrations.
    The roots of Hogmanay date back to the celebration of the
winter solstice, incorporating elements of the Gaelic
celebration of Samhain.
    There are many customs, local and national, linked with
Hogmanay. The most widespread is the practice of 'first-footing'
which starts immediately after midnight. First-footing involves
being the first person to cross the threshold of a friend or
neighbor's home and giving symbolic gifts such as salt, coal,
shortbread, whisky, and black bun (a rich fruit cake) to bring
luck to the householder. This goes on throughout the early hours
of the morning and into the next day, and can last well into
mid-January.
    But it's not just about ancient traditions in Scotland. On
New Year's Day a new custom has begun to take hold - the Loony
Dook. Since 1987, the brave (and the mad) have taken the plunge
into the icy cold River Forth in Queensferry, Edinburgh for a
refreshing start to the year. A sure fire way to get rid of a
hangover, the event attracts thousands of Loonies, spectators
and swimmers alike.
7.  Ecuador
    One of Ecuador's quirkiest traditions sees men putting on
their finest frocks and dressing up as women to represent the
"widow" of the year that has passed.
    However, the focus of the country's celebrations comes in a
much more fiery form.
    At midnight, families and communities come together to light
fireworks and burn Monigotes - papier-mâché effigies - of
politicians, public figures and popular culture icons.
    The puppets range from small, simple, homemade offerings to
giant, detailed, professionally made creations.
    The puppets are filled with sawdust or newspaper and, in
some cases, firecrackers. Burning the Monigotes represents
getting rid of the bad feelings, events and spirits of the past
year.
8.  Greece
    While Christmas in Greece is a relatively solemn occasion,
New Year's Day is filled with celebrations and gift giving.
January 1 is the name day of Aghios Vassilis (St. Basil), the
Greek Santa Claus, and many customs are based upon his arrival.
    On the morning of New Year's Eve, children go door to door
and ask permission to sing kalanta (carols) to bring good wishes
to their neighbors, announce the coming of Aghios Vassilis and
bless the house.
    Later in the evening, families gather for a meal of roast
lamb or pork and an extra place is set at the table for Aghios
Vassilis.
    An onion is hung on the front door (alongside a pomegranate
that has been hanging since Christmas) as a symbol of rebirth
and growth.
    Around midnight the household lights are switched off and
the family goes outside. One lucky person is given the
pomegranate and smashes it against the door as the clock strikes
midnight.
    As the New Year rolls over, Greek families all over the
world cut into a cake - the Vassilopita - bearing the name of
Aghios Vassilis. Each Vassilopita is baked with a coin or
medallion hidden inside and whoever gets it will be rewarded
with good fortune in the New Year.
9.  Italy
    As you might expect, New Year's celebrations in Italy start
with eating a whole heap of delicious foods.
    The evening begins with the traditional dish, "cotechino e
lenticchie." Cotechino is a savory pork sausage that contains
"lo zampone," the actual hoof of the pig, and is a symbol of
abundance. Lenticchie (lentils) are believed to bring good luck
and prosperity in the coming year to those who eat them on New
Year's Eve and represent the money that you will earn in the
coming year. So the more you eat, the more you!
    If you're looking for love, or a bit of help in the
fertility department, red underwear is the way to go on New
Year's Eve. To complete the ritual, these red delicates must be
thrown out on January 1.
    Sadly, several of Italy's more wild New Year traditions are
rarely seen today.
    In the past, people would throw old personal effects out
their windows (it doesn't hurt to be wary of open windows on New
Year's just in case) and smash plates, glasses, vases and other
pottery against the ground to drive away bad spirits.
10.  Chile
    The citizens of Chile have developed a range of traditions
to bring them luck and help make their wishes come true in the
New Year.
    Several sure-fire ways of scoring yourself some good fortune
involve food and drink. Eating lentils and downing a dozen
grapes - one for each month of the year - on New Year's Eve will
ensure prosperity in the coming year as will drinking a glass of
champagne with a gold ring inside.
    Sticking a "luca" (1,000 Chilean peso ($2.10) bill) in your
shoe before midnight will see it multiply in the coming year
and, if you're feeling generous and want to spread the good will
around, give your friends, family and neighbors ribbon-wrapped
sprigs of wheat at midnight.
    But it's not all about money.
    Wear yellow undies for romance, wear them inside out for a
well-stocked closet and wheel your luggage around the block if
you're dreaming of travel.
($1 = 475.1500 Chilean pesos)

 (Editing by Paul Casciato)

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