A Happy New Year from the world over

Christmas lights at Orchard Road, Singapore
Christmas lights at Orchard Road, Singapore

Moose milk, the Viennese Waltz, grape pips, a dish of fufu, red envelopes, snowball fights, St Nicholas – members of Sheffield’s multicultural community recall New Year customs in different parts of the world.


Cristina Sesma (originally from Tudela) and Lucia Lorente-Arnau (originally from Valencia)

IT may not surprise you that the Spanish celebrate New Year’s Eve with a big party. The uniqueness of the Spanish welcoming of the New Year is that you have to eat 12 grapes at midnight for good luck.

That is, one for every chime of the famous clock in the Puerta del Sol in Madrid. This tradition started only 100 years ago and has extended to the rest of Spain.

As children, before seedless grapes existed, we remember how exciting it was to prepare the 12 grapes by taking the pips out. This was to speed up the process of gulping grapes as quickly as possible a few minutes before midnight.

As we were not in Madrid we would then sit down in front of the television to watch the clock turn midnight and toast to the New Year with a glass of cava. This was seen as the beginning of the party and most people would then go out to wish everyone a happy New Year.

So, if you ever come to our house in Sheffield for a New Year’s party, don’t be surprise to be welcomed with a bag of 12 grapes!


Wilda Goyetche, artist

IF I still lived in rural Nova Scotia, we would probably continue our practice of hosting a potluck party.

Neighbours and friends would come with their signature dishes such as game pies, lasagne, homemade preserves from summer’s harvest and ‘moose milk’ (rum and eggnog).

After the midnight countdown and kisses, someone would probably fire off a shotgun (outdoors!).

The next day we might follow a Canadian tradition and attend a levée, which is a public reception typically hosted by the Lieutenant Governors of each province, or branches of the Royal Canadian Legion.


Johannes Ertl, Sheffield United footballer

I COME from the south-east of Austria, the second city of Graz. In the centre we have a beautiful hill with a castle on top and from there is a fantastic view to watch the fireworks that are let off on the stroke of midnight, although sometimes it gets too foggy to see.

The first thing everyone does is to dance the waltz. You can turn on the radio or the TV where the Vienna Philharmonic will be playing.

Everywhere there is the rhythm of the waltz in all the bars and restaurants in the city and you find someone to dance with.

If you are single it gives you a huge opportunity to grab someone and find a girlfriend.

If you have a better half then dancing with them will bring good luck for the next year.

You would be in enormous trouble if you chose to dance with someone else, I think.

Around 12.30 there is another custom where some people give out little presents, good luck charms like a four-leafed clover or a horseshoe.

We have a match at home on New Year’s Eve and then at Carlisle on January 2.

I think me and my girlfriend, who is Bosnian, will watch the fireworks going off across Sheffield.

We love it here, especially the views of the seven hills and the Peak District.

The Austrian league has a break of three weeks which gives you time to join in. When I first came over four years ago I was surprised by the playing schedule but I have got to love it.

It’s almost like a pilgrimage for fans to go to games on Boxing Day and at New Year and for me it is a great experience playing in front of huge crowds, I really enjoy the special atmosphere.

As for not being able to eat and drink so much, it’s part of my profession. And it’s a job I love and I know that after my playing career is over I can spend a lot of years celebrating Christmas and New Year.


Faruk Günay, owner of Lokanta Turkish meze bar and restaurant, Broomhill

NEW Year’s Eve is celebrated with good food and good company in Turkey; it is an evening for conversation, for both catching up and looking forward.

Hotels are popular New Year’s Eve venues offering luxurious dinner and entertainment packages finishing with fireworks.

The funny thing is that New Year in Turkey looks more like Christmas every year. Modern Turkey is a Muslim country but believes St Nicholas of Myra, on its south coast, to be the original Father Christmas.

We love St Nicholas but with no Christmas celebration his image is everywhere for New Year!

Helped along by international media, tourism and shopping centres, we now celebrate New Year with decorated trees, baubles, lights and presents. We even have roast turkey!

However many times we explain Christmas, many people still insist we have the day wrong! Here in Sheffield we are happy to celebrate both.


Dale Le Fevre, co-operative play teacher

To try to speak about how Americans bring in the New Year, and how it might vary from what happens in Britain, seems a ludicrous task.

Since, like Britain, there are so many different people, cultures, and regional differences in the US, I find I can only describe how I have brought in the New Year.

Celebrating the New Year changed for me over the years. These changes may have been both a product of the times and of my age.

For much of my young adulthood in Chicago, Illinois, it meant going to a party and drinking too much and acting silly, often on a skiing holiday in the Rockies.

It also used to mean that for some reason, women seemed to be more receptive to overtures of an intimate nature, usually to the point of initiating the idea.

I’m puzzled as to why that was true – perhaps if they hadn’t had intimate connections for some time and they were tryng to end the year with a resolution to change that.

In more recent years the New Year’s gatherings, both here and in the US, the drinking and extracurricular activity have been greatly reduced.

The last few years locally have been spent dancing 5 Rhythms with friends and lighting Chinese lanterns and watching them float off into the sky.


Gorima Basu, artist and teacher

ALTHOUGH happily settled in the UK, the sights and sounds, the hustle and bustle and every vignette of my homeland reverberates in my mind, rendering me with a kind of celestial bliss, every time I perceive anything similar happening in the city where I now live.

An occasion like New Year does always bring forth those reminiscences, a romantic association of which leaves me always with an ambiguous tingling in my heart.

We all celebrate and welcome the English New Year, both in the UK and in India, because it ushers hope after a year perhaps when one has to shed tears for losing a loved one.

Exotic cuisine is always a part of any celebration we have, and so is it on New Year’s Eve. My father, who was an excellent cook although he used to do so very rarely, used to prepare the dinner.

As family we used to stay awake till midnight, chatting, playing games and watching delightful programmes on television and as the clock would strike 12, we used to open all the doors and windows, as if we are welcoming the ethereal spirit of New Year much like the blithe spirit of Shelley’s skylark!

Thus New Year would step in and enter into our life and we embrace another year of hope and happiness.


Maxwell Ayamba, Project Manager of Sheffield Black & Ethnic Minority Environmental Network

Christmas and New Year in Ghana signifies a time for giving and sharing. There is an all-night church service where people arrive around seven or eight o’clock and stay to usher in the New Year – the children and the adults.

New Year is in some ways more important than Christmas and churches are packed. People believe they must pray for forgiveness for all the sins of the previous year before midnight and they can enter the next year under God’s guidance.

After that everyone goes home to bed and then the next day there is a big feast. The traditional festive food for Ghana is varied such as jollof rice, mutton or chicken stew or soups and fufu among others.

Food is prepared in abundance and served to neighbours and anybody who wishes to eat. After that it is distributed to the less fortunate – beggars and the homeless and to orphanages.

Some celebrations by youth groups may take place on the streets of Ghana with young people dancing to music.

That was one of the differences I noticed when I first arrived in the UK as a student.

I was by myself and that first Christmas and New Year I went out and found there was no-one about. Everyone was indoors so it can be a lonely place for a newcomer.

After the church service families return home, During the Christmas period children’s parties, employees’ end of year parties, and youth group parties are celebrated in the hotels, beaches, parks, schools and community centers through to Boxing Day.


Sheauran Tan, Project Curator (World Cultures), Museums Sheffield

THE way my family celebrates new year may not be the same for everybody else in Singapore – and it’s Chinese New Year which will be coming up in January.

My parents don’t really celebrate Gregorian New Year because it is a ‘western’ concept to them. They treat it as a holiday, stay at home to rest and watch telly!

As for me, I will go out with mates on New Year’s Eve to party (always a major party on the strees of Singapore somewhere) and count down to Gregorian New Year together.

We will stay up late walking along Orchard Road (main shopping district) having drinks and food (yes, cafes and restaurants are open because it’s a 24-7 city where you are always able to find food and things to do) till the wee hours before passing out in bed all tired.

Chinese New Year preparations usually start two weeks before when the house would be cleaned and food and drink stocked up.

Parents would go to the bank to get new stacks of money notes (it would seem inappropriate to use old and creased notes) and put them into red envelopes. The whole house will be decorated with red prints of well wishes and decorations.

Traditionally on Chinese New Year’s Eve, our family will have a reunion dinner with my dad’s side of family.

Food generally will have to comprise of meat, vegetable, soup and yusheng which is basically raw fish salad and is meant to bring good luck and prosperity for the New Year.

This is the only time of the year I get to see all my uncles, aunties and cousins from my paternal side of the family.

On the first day of Chinese New Year, the whole family will visit relatives to wish them a Happy Chinese New Year.

The younger and unmarried ones will offer a pair of oranges to the elders and in return, they receive money in red envelopes.

This is the only time we get to spend social and quality time with relatives and friends just chilling, eating and chatting.

After visits have been made to all relatives, generally on the third day, I would visit my friends’ families to wish them a Happy New Year as well.

I would usually go out for a meal and movie with my group of friends.

As most of us are not married, we still get red envelopes and always compare who has collected the most money for the year!


Inga Treimane, bank worker in Riga for 13 years now a cleaner in Sheffield

FOR the last few years we have had a lot of snow at this time of year and it has been hard walking around. But it has meant people have enjoyed snowball fights on New Year’s Eve.

Crowds gather in Daugava in the centre of Riga to watch the fireworks and we all toast the New Year in with champagne.


Wazhama Nooris, student with a five-year-old son

THE new year in Afghanistan is different from new year in Europe. Ours is the first day of spring so all the plains are green and the flowers have come out and the people try to enjoy that good time to start a happy year that will end happy.

That’s the same everywhere in the country but different cities celebrate in different ways. Also in our country the Shi’ite people and the Sunnite people celebrate in a different way.

The last Wednesday of the year the people go outside at night and set off fireworks. Also, The first day of year is a public holiday and days before or even one week before people do a very big clean-up in their house.

A Shi’ite custom is to mix seven dried fruits with water and leave it for two weeks to become a juice. We also make a thing which we call it Aft Seean which means seven things which we can eat whose name starts with an S in Dari (Farsi) such as seer (garlic), searkeh (vinegar), seeb (apple), senjed (wild olive) and so on.

Sumanu is a kind of dish they cook only for New Year and made from wheat seeds planted a few weeks before. Not only the Shi’ite people do these things but some Sunnis do too.

On the first day of the year people wear new dress and cook some nice food such as kebabs to go for a picnic. In my city, Herat, there are many parks inside the city but most people prefer to go outside to the mountain places.

After that people used to go and picnic on the first Wednesday of the year and then some people go every Friday until the 13th day. On that day people take sabzeh (the grass they planted) to the river and wish themselves a nice year and for God to look after them. Others just go for pleasure.

Anyway, there are some people who like to go for picnic every Friday.

There’s a place called Mazar Sharif where people celebrate the new year in a very nice way. Many people travel there because it is believed that the grave of Hazrat Ali, who was a leader in Islam, is there. On the first day of the year the flag is raised at the Hazrat Ali grave and many people go there or watch on TV.

Most of those who go suffer from ill health or other problems and pray and wish God will make them well. The flag remains until the 13th day.