Peruvian New Year's Traditions and Superstitions
I'm absolutely amazed with the sheer number of New Year's traditions and superstitions that seem to be practiced in Peru. This New Year's Eve, any number of Peruvians can be found ushering in 2008 by engaging in some of these kooky behaviors, mostly intended to bring luck:
- Eating twelve grapes under the table at midnight, saying the name of each month as they are consumed rapidly. Slipping up or dropping a grape forecasts bad luck for that particular month. A thirteenth grape must be eaten to assure good luck.
- Placing three potatoes under their chair or sofa—one peeled, on partially peeled, and one with its skin. At midnight, a potato is chosen (without looking), which will forecast what type of financial year they will have. The potato with no skin means no money, partially skinned means a regular year, and a potato with a full skin means lots of money.
- Running around the block with an empty suitcase, briefcase, or backpack to travel, or have good luck traveling in the year to come.
- Writing down five wishes and dipping it in a glass of champagne.
- Running around the block backwards.
- Running up and down flights of stairs.
- Throwing a handful of lentils onto the curb.
- Throwing twelve coins or cents over their shoulder and onto the curb or street. This represents throwing out the poverty of the previous year. It is lucky to pick up twelve coins (not your own) on New Year's Day.
- Distributing rice around the house, which is intended to bring money, luck, and possibly fertility.
- Placing coins inside their shoes, and then wearing them. This is supposed to get you a raise or more money in the New Year.
- Dropping gold (jewelry) into a glass of champagne, then drinking from the glass.
- Making sure that all the men cross the threshold into the home first, from the street. If a woman does this first it will be a bad year.
- Lighting fireworks or shooting firearms into the air.
- Placing beans into their pockets at midnight, and wishing for money whilst doing so.
- Leaving the door open for a while to welcome in the New Year into their house.
- Visiting shamans in Northern Peru who promise to ward off all the evil spirits with some sort of chamomile bath. Folks get completely naked and then the shaman sprays water on them—from out of his mouth.
- Participating in a tradition known as baño de flores (a bath of flowers). Depending on what they are wishing for, they fill a basin with water and flowers of a certain color (roses for love, for example) and will bathe using this combination of water and flowers.
- Dressing up a large doll or effigy (sometimes stuffed with fireworks) with old clothes and burning it on the street. This signifies getting rid of the old, and making a new start.
- Lighting colored candles.
- Wearing new clothes—typically underwear. This typically goes hand-in-hand with wearing specific colors that represent something you desire in the upcoming year: Yellow for luck and happiness, green for money, red for love, and white for health or fertility.
An Explosion of Yellow
Thailand does yellow/gold year-round, but Lima, Peru comes alive with the color for New Year's Eve. Everyone and everything is absolutely saturated in it. Wearing yellow underwear is a particularly strong tradition, and I've even been given a new pair of yellow boxers to wear this evening (with a " Stripper ♂ " repeating around the waistline).
These are some photos (and a video) I took this evening, while out shopping for ingredients to make a large batch of pisco sour tonight:
Happy New Year's Eve and 2008, all!