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6 New Year Traditions from Around the World

American New Year traditions include the ball drop in Times Square, the Tournament of Roses Parade, fireworks, year-end lists, New Year's resolutions, a toast and/or a kiss at midnight, Auld Lang Syne, and predictions for the year ahead. Here are some other customs you might not be as familiar with.

1. Año Viejo

In Ecuador, December 31st is time to ceremonially burn an effigy named Año Viejos, or Years Old. The dummies are made of old clothes and sticks or sawdust for stuffing, and often made to look like someone who has made a negative impact during the year, such as a politician. See pictures of many different Años Viejos here.

2. First-Footer

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Scotland marks Hogmanay on December 31st, although the celebration lasts several days, with customs varying by locality. One of the customs associated with the new year is that of the first-footer, or the first person to visit your home after midnight on New Year's Day. It is good luck if your first-footer is a tall handsome man with dark hair, preferably bringing a small gift. Remnants of this custom are found in America, too -I have a relative who gets very upset if the first person who calls her in the new year is a woman.

More traditions from all over, after the jump.

3. Twelve Grapes

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New Year's Eve is called Nochevieja, or the Old Night in Spain. The tradition is to eat twelve grapes at midnight, as the twelve chimes ring in the new year. Try stuffing twelve grapes in your mouth in twelve seconds, and you'll see how funny this can be! The twelve grapes are also eaten at midnight in other countries that have a Spanish influence. In Spain, wearing red underwear for the new year brings good luck; in other countries, the underwear should be yellow. No doubt, clothing vendors cater to these traditions.

4. Olie Bollen

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In the Netherlands, New Year's Eve is a relaxed family holiday until midnight, then it's party time in the streets with fireworks and revelry! The Dutch serve doughnuts or fritters called Olie Bollen, traditionally served for breakfast or snacks on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. Make your own Olie Bollen with this recipe.

5. Black-Eyed Peas and Hog Jowls

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In the American South, you must eat a meal of pork (originally hog jowl), black-eyed peas, and greens on New Year's Day to ensure a good year ahead. Hog jowl symbolizes health (believe it or not), black-eyed peas represent good luck, and greens (originally cabbage, but mustard or collard greens are used also) symbolize money. Local variations include ham hocks, ham, or bacon for hog jowl, saurkraut, cabbage rolls, Hoppin' John, or other soups or casseroles that contain these items.

6. Dinner for One

In Germany and Scandinavia, TV stations broadcast Dinner For One, a British comedy sketch about a woman celebrating her 90th birthday. The sketch has nothing to do with the New Year holiday, but has become such a tradition that it landed in The Guiness Book of World Records as the most repeated TV show ever! In the routine, Miss Sophie has outlived her friends, so her butler plays the part of each at the birthday dinner, which means he must drink multiple toasts. The most popular 18 minute version with a German introduction can be found at Google Video. YouTube has a 10 minute version of the same sketch, seen here.

What traditions do you observe for the New Year holiday?

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How Do You Stress the Word: THANKSgiving or ThanksGIVing?
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Here’s something else to stress about for Thanksgiving: where to put the stress in the word Thanksgiving.

If you’re from California, Iowa, or Delaware, you probably say ThanksGIVing, with the primary stress on the second syllable. If you’re from Georgia, Tennessee, or the Texas Panhandle, you probably say THANKSgiving, with the primary stress on the first syllable.

This north-south divide on syllable stress is found for other words like umbrella, guitar, insurance, and pecan. However, those words are borrowed from other languages (Italian, Spanish, French). Sometimes, in the borrowing process, competing stress patterns settle into regional differences. Just as some borrowed words get first syllable stress in the South and second syllable stress in the North, French words like garage and ballet get first syllable stress in the UK and second syllable stress in the U.S.

Thanksgiving, however, is an English word through and through. And if it behaved like a normal English word, it would have stress on the first syllable. Consider other words with the same noun-gerund structure just like it: SEAfaring, BAbysitting, HANDwriting, BULLfighting, BIRDwatching, HOMEcoming, ALMSgiving. The stress is always up front, on the noun. Why, in Thanksgiving alone, would stress shift to the GIVE?

The shift to the ThanksGIVing pronunciation is a bit of a mystery. Linguist John McWhorter has suggested that the loss of the stress on thanks has to do with a change in our concept of the holiday, that we “don’t truly think about Thanksgiving as being about thankfulness anymore.” This kind of thing can happen when a word takes on a new, more abstract sense. When we use outgoing for mail that is literally going out, we are likely to stress the OUT. When we use it as a description of someone’s personality ("She's so outgoing!"), the stress might show up on the GO. Stress can shift with meaning.

But the stress shift might not be solely connected to the entrenchment of our turkey-eating rituals. The thanksGIVing stress pattern seems to have pre-dated the institution of the American holiday, according to an analysis of the meter of English poems by Mark Liberman at Language Log. ThanksGIVing has been around at least since the 17th century. However you say it, there is precedent to back you up. And room enough to focus on both the thanks and the giving.

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Watch Boris Karloff's 1966 Coffee Commercial
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TAKWest, Youtube

Horror legend Boris Karloff is famous for playing mummies, mad scientists, and of course, Frankenstein’s creation. In 1930, Karloff cemented the modern image of the monster—with its rectangular forehead, bolted neck, and enormous boots (allegedly weighing in at 11 pounds each)—in the minds of audiences.

But the horror icon, who was born 130 years ago today, also had a sense of humor. The actor appeared in numerous comedies, and even famously played a Boris Karloff look-alike (who’s offended when he’s mistaken for Karloff) in the original Broadway production of Arsenic and Old Lace

In the ’60s, Karloff also put his comedic chops to work in a commercial for Butter-Nut Coffee. The strange commercial, set in a spooky mansion, plays out like a movie scene, in which Karloff and the viewer are co-stars. Subtitles on the bottom of the screen feed the viewer lines, and Karloff responds accordingly. 

Watch the commercial below to see the British star selling coffee—and read your lines aloud to feel like you’re “acting” alongside Karloff. 

[h/t: Retroist]

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